Near a tent serving as a makeshift laboratory, Australian herpetologist Paul Oliver records the call of a frog out and about at the start of the rainy season. Daily downpours nourish the Foja Mountains' diverse life but create difficult conditions for scientists, who must trudge miles on steep, muddy trails to research sites.
Brother Henk is remaining remarkably calm about the loss of his clothes. Only hours ago a helicopter dropped him into an opening in the rain forest a mile high in the Foja Mountains on the island of New Guinea, one of the remotest and most difficult to reach places on Earth. The sound of the chopper blades had barely faded when he discovered that his duffel bag was nowhere to be found and what he was wearing—a bucket hat; pink, short-sleeved shirt; jeans; and rubber boots—composed his entire wardrobe for the next three weeks.
Yet Henk van Mastrigt is very happy. Holding his red net, he stalks across a muddy bog, lunging at and occasionally catching one of the jewel-bright butterflies that dart by. "Come down, come close, don't be afraid," he calls to them in his Dutch accent. He stops to urinate on the mud, knowing butterflies will be attracted to minerals in the puddle.
Brother Henk catches a medium-size butterfly. With blunt-ended tweezers he spreads its wings, which are deep black with J-shaped markings in gleaming white. "Oh, this is great, great, great!" he says, a huge smile on his white-bearded face. "Surely a new species to science."