Grave of Alfred Wallace's Rival, Bernstein, Found on Ternate Island

By George Beccaloni (March 2020).

Heinrich Agathon Bernstein (1828 - 1865) was an important German naturalist and explorer who collected animal specimens in the Moluccas from 1860 until his death on Batanta island in 1865. It was widely assumed that he was buried there, but last year (March 2019) I revealed that thanks to a tip-off from my colleague Paul Whincup, I had discovered that his body had been taken to Ternate island (his base) by his servants and buried in the European cemetery there. See my detailed post about this HERE. At the end of my article I wrote "Sadly no sign of Bernstein's monument has yet been found in the old European cemetery in Ternate (most of the grave monuments have been damaged or destroyed and the cemetery is full of refuse), but perhaps part of it will eventually be found."

Amazingly a few months later, Rinto Taib (Head of History and Cultural Heritage of the City of Ternate) managed to find what is probably the remains of the grave. It is in a sad state as you will see from the photographs below, but the main elements of it survive i.e. the columns in the corners and remains of the metal railing around it. I visited the grave with Rinto in February 2020 and he interviewed an elderly lady who lives nearby, who told him that she remembered balls being on the columns a long time ago. However, it is the location of the grave relative to the volcano (Mt Gamalama) and the pyramidal grave marker seen to its left in the illustration below, which really seems to clinch the site as being the correct one. The illustration shows the volcano behind the grave and the pyramid to its left, so given that the European cemetery was east of the volcano, the volcano was therefore to the west of the grave and the pyramid was to its south-west. This is exactly the same position of the grave that Rinto found relative to the volcano and the pyramid. This is perhaps not 100% conclusive, but given all the evidence it seems very likely that Rinto has identified the correct site. Perhaps an archaeological excavation of the grave would truly clinch the matter. Note that the illustration of the grave is almost certainly stylised and the columns are thinner and taller in the illustration than they are in reality.

Illustration of Bernstein's grave from Rosenberg, C. B. H. von. 1875. Reistochten naar de Geelvinkbaai op Nieuw-Guinea in de jaren 1869 en 1870. The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff.

The probable site of Bernstein's grave, looking south. Copyright G. Beccaloni. Note that the corrugated iron fence and the grave to the east prevent the site from being photographed from the same viewpoint as in the illustration above. 

The probable site of Bernstein's grave, looking west towards Mt Gamalama. Copyright G. Beccaloni.

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