Rumphius, Botanist of Earthquake and Tsunami Stories

PUBLISHED,- The sound of hundreds of people’s footsteps could be heard as they simultaneously got out of the train that had stopped at Bogor station. A pair of hundreds of feet that continues to explore the City that used to be called Buitenzorg in the Dutch era. One of the buildings on the side of the road seemed to have a strong magnetic force that made this pair of legs approach him. When viewed from the outside, this building is very simple, so quiet, there are only fallen leaves in the front yard area. On the front of the building there is a large gate with the name “MUNASAIN” written on it, this name is an abbreviation of the National Museum of Natural History of Indonesia.

Feet explore every inch of the museum collection. Then this foot stopped for a long time right in front of a large book entitled “Herbarium Amboinense”. From the looks of it this book is very long-lived. Right beside the ledger were large, bold letters that read “RUMPHIUS”. This pair of eyes then read a series of words that describe the figure in the writing. The trip down the hall seemed to feel like he was treading the life story of the botanist who inhabited the land of Ambon.

Rumphius has the real name Georg Eberhard Rumpf, but he is better known by his Latin name, namely Georgius Everhardus Rumphius, or commonly called Rumphius. He was born in Wölfersheim, Germany, in 1627 to a German father and a Dutch mother.

Young Rumphius received a good education, so at the age of 18 he was recruited by the Venetian Republic. After that, he joined the ship in Holland, but it turned out that he and his shipmates were tricked. They were contracted to West Indische-Compagnie (WIC) to go to Pernambuco, an area in northeastern Brazil. But fate never took him there.

At the age of a quarter of a century, he entered the Dutch military service, the Vereenigde Oost Indische Compagnie (VOC) or the East India Trade Union. In 1652, he met his destiny to be sent to the Dutch colonial capital of Batavia (Jakarta). This man of mixed German-Dutch blood sailed for six months to Java as a soldier. After his activities in Java, soon Rumphius was assigned to Ambon City, where the Dutch trading post was located. No one thought that he would stay long in Ambon and make history there.

This VOC soldier really enjoyed his youth in Ambon. Until one day there was an Ambonese girl of Chinese descent named Susanna who introduced her to orchids. Like a beautiful blooming orchid, the love story between Rumphius and Susanna continues to grow up the aisle.

The natural wealth of the Ambon region is so beautiful, it makes Rumphius so fond of studying the botany that is there. He was also released from military duty and served as a buyer (Koopman). In between his duties, he conducted various studies on botany and zoology and wrote various books. But in fact, only one of Rumphius’ writings was published when he was alive. The article published was a report entitled “Waerachtigh Verheal van der Schierlijke Aerdbevingne” which means “The True Story of the Great Earthquake”.

This Dutch botanist experienced a very big event in his life. On February 17, 1674, the sky at that time looked so bright, Rumphius, Susanna, and their daughter took a walk to witness the Chinese New Year celebrations in Ambon City. At that time Susanna and her daughter stopped at a shop, while Rumphius was waiting for them outside. Suddenly they felt a powerful earthquake shaking around the area where they were standing. All buildings and houses that were standing strong were instantly destroyed. This earthquake killed Rumphius’ wife and daughter.

Sadness fooled Rumphius, but he remained strong until he was able to complete important records regarding the earthquake. With a sense of loss, Rumphius wrote a report containing a sad story and the impact of the disaster that occurred with the help of other writers.

In his report it was written, on February 17, 1674, Saturday night, around half past seven, under a beautiful moon and calm weather, our entire Province – namely Leytimor, Hitu, Nusatelo, Seram, Buro, Manipa, Amblau, Kelang, Bonoa , Honimoa, Nusalaut, Oma and other nearby places, these areas experienced shocks so terrible that most people believed that Judgment Day had arrived.

The bells at Victoria Castle in Leytimor rang by themselves, and people standing around talking to one another, fell on each other or rolled over as the earth rose and fell like the Sea. The water rose to a height of 4 to 5 feet, and some deep wells filled up so quickly that one could draw water by hand, while the next moment the well was empty again. The east coast of the Waytomme River split and the water gushed, 18 to 20 feet high, throwing blue muddy sand.

Everyone ran to higher ground for safety, where they met the Governor and a large company. He led the assembly in prayer under a clear sky. The violent shaking continued throughout the night, so that no one was given peace for half an hour. Most of the shocks came from the earth as if a huge block hit the soles of our feet, and for those who wanted to listen more closely, one could clearly hear water running underground.

The remaining stone buildings had been so badly damaged that their owners no longer dared to live in them. And people fled from their homes and spent the night under a clear and dark sky or in small huts.

The damage suffered by this beach is told from place to place. This disaster caused the deaths of more than 2,243 People, which included 31 Europeans, for a total of 2,322 victims. This data concludes the Rumphius report.

Rumphius’ life was so hard, maybe even Dilan couldn’t bear it. When he loved researching various botanicals from Ambon, his eyesight had to be snatched away by glaucoma. Then he had to lose his wife and children due to the earthquake. The manuscript containing his writings had to be let go of being engulfed in flames when there was a big fire that hit Ambon on January 11, 1670. Misfortune seemed to always come and go in Rumphius’ life. Amazingly, in the midst of suffering, Rumphius made history as the first narrator of the story of the earthquake and tsunami that had ever occurred in this country. (LS)