The history of Papua New Guinea prior to the arrival of European colonists in the 19th century is only starting to be pieced together. The task is daunting. The highly fragmented indigenous cultures left no written records and the marks they made on the landscape have almost been completely erased, their houses, fields and artefacts have been swallowed by the tropical environment. The incredible capacity the vegetation has for swallowing history is clear when you look for the scars of World War II. Although you still don't have to search far, whole bases have been completely engulfed by jungle. If you don't know precisely where to look, you can walk straight past bunkers, railways and bomb craters that are less than 50 years old. Little wonder there are few relics of the hunger/gatherers who are now believed to have settled on the island at least 50,000 years ago.
The First Arrivals
It is believed that human reached Papua New Guinea (PNG) and then Australia by island-hopping across the Indonesian archipelago from Asia, perhaps more than 50,000 years ago. The migration was probably made easier by a fall in the sea level caused by an ice age. At no time was Papua new Guinea completely joined to island 'South-East Asia but it was joined to Australia, probably until about 6000 years ago.  As a result PNG shares many species of plants and animals (including marsupials) with Australia, but not with Indonesia. The Wallace Line, named after a 19th-century naturalist, marks the deep water between Bali and Lombok, and Kalimantan and Sulawesi (in Indonesia) that formed a natural barrier to animals and humans. In order to reach PNG, people had to cross open water on canoes or rafts.

Papua New Guinea Dancers

There have been several waves of people from Asia, and this may be reflected in the distribution of the Austronesian and non-Austronesian languages. The Austronesian languages are scattered along the coast and are spoken throughout Polynesia and Micronesia. The majority of Papua New Guineans speak non-Austronesian languages and, it is believed, arrived before the Austronesian language speakers. As the world's climate warmed, the sea level rose isolating PNG and submerging the original coastal settlements. Parts of the Huon Peninsula have subsequently risen due to volcanic activity. Evidence of early coastal settlements has been exposed - 40,000-years-old stone axes have been found. People reached the Highlands about 30,000 years ago and most of the valleys were settled over the next 20,000 years. Trade between the Highlands and the coast has been going on for at least 10,000 years.

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Kuk (or Kup) Swam in the Wahgi Valley (Western Highlands province) has evidence of human habitation going back 20,000 years, but even more significantly there is evidence of gardening beginning 9000 years ago. This makes Papua New Guineans among the first farmers in the world. The main foods grown at the stage are likely to have been sago, coconuts, breadfruit, local bananas and yams, sugar cane (which originated in PNG), nuts and edible leaves. Elsewhere in the world, the development of agriculture and villages resulted in the growth of larger political units, such as cities and states. 'this didn't happen in PNG, perhaps because the basic food crops couldn't be stored for very long. Farming was a full-time activity and creating wealth by building up a supply of food wasn't an option. Nor was it possible to live off stored food while conquering your neighbours - or building cathedrals, for that matter. 

Papua New Guinea lady in traditional costume

It is still uncertain when the pig and more productive starch crops (Asian yams, taros and bananas) were introduced but it is known that pigs arrived at least 10,000 years ago. domesticated pigs - which continue to be incredibly important, ritually and economically, in contemporary society - and these new crops were probably brought to PNG by a later group of colonists from Asia. Surprisingly, the South Papuan coast seems to have been mainly settled in the last 3000 years, although that's another date that keeps receding with new finds. The prehistory of the islands had always been assumed to be shorter than that of the mainland, but new evidence shows that New Ireland and Buka (North Solomons) were inhabited around 30,000 years, and the first-settlement date for Manus has now been pushed back to 10,000 years ago. It's probable that Polynesia was settled by people from these islands, perhaps as little as 1000 years ago. Because of this relatively recent colonisation the linguistic and cultural links are closer - for instance, the word for two in Motu (spoken in the Port Moresby area), Fijian and Maori is rua.

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Potatoes and Axes
The first European impact on Papua New Guinea was indirect but far reaching. The sweet potato was taken from south America to South-East Asia by the Portuguese and Spaniards in the 16th century and it is believed Malay traders then brought it to Irian Jaya, from where it was traded to the Highlands. Its high yield and tolerance for poor and cold soils allowed the colonisation of higher altitudes, the domestication of many more pigs, and a major increase in population. These changes must have produced radical changes in the cultures of the Highlands.

The next development preceding the permanent arrival of Europeans was the arrival of steel axes which were also traded from the coast up into the Highlands. The introduction of these more efficient axes reduced the workload of men (making axes, garden clearing, canoe making, etc.), increased bride price payments and, because of the increased leisure time, encouraged war - all of which boosted the status and importance of big men.  

European Contact
Papua New Guinea's history of real European contact goes back little more than a century, although the island of New Guinea was known to the European colonial powers long before they came to stay. The first definite European sighting of the island took place in 1512 when two Portuguese explorers sailed by. The first landing was also Portuguese: Jorge de Meneses landed on the Vogelkop Peninsula, the 'dragon's head' at the north-west corner of the island. He named it 'Ilhas dod Papuas' and got his name in the history books as the European discoverer of New Guinea. In the following centuries various Europeans sailed past the main island and its smaller associated islands, but the spreading tentacles of European colonialism had far richer prizes to grapple with. New Guinea was a big, daunting place, it had no visible wealth to exploit, but it most definitely did have some rather unfriendly inhabitants. It was left pretty much alone.

Papua New Guinea hut, 1904

Only the Dutch made any move to assert European authority over the island and that was mainly to keep other countries from getting a toehold on the eastern end of their fabulously profitable Dutch East Indies Empire (Indonesia today). They put their claim in by a roundabout method. Indonesian and Malay traders had for some time carried on a limited trade with coastal tribes for valuable items like bird-of-paradise feathers. So the Dutch simply announced that they recognised the Sultan of Tidor's sovereignty over New Guinea. Since in turn, they held power over the island of Tidor, New Guinea was therefore indirectly theirs - without expending any personal effort. That neat little ploy, first put into action in 1660, was sufficient for over 100 years, but during the last century firmer action became necessary.

Papua New Guinea man in traditional costume, 1904

The British East India Company had a look at parts of western New Guinea back in 1793 and even made a tentative claim on the island, but in 1824 Britain and the Netherlands agreed that Holland's claim to the western half should stand. In 1828 the Dutch made an official statement of their claim to sovereignty and backed it up by establishing a token settlement on the Vogelkop. Nothing much happened for 50 or so years after that, although the coastline was gradually charted and Australia, now evolving from a penal colony towards independence, started to make noises about those foreigners claiming bits of land which were rightfully theirs. A whole series of British 'claims' followed, every time since British ship sailed by somebody would hop ashore, run the flag up the nearest tree and claim the whole place on behalf of good Queen Victoria. The good queen's government would then repudiate the claim and the next captain to sail by would go through the whole stunt again.

In 1883 the Queensland premier sent the Thursday Island police magistrate up to lay yet another unsuccessful claim, , but the next year Britain finally got around to doing something about their unwanted would-be possession. At the time the British population consisted of a handful of missionaries and a solitary trader. There was still very little happening over on the Dutch side of the island, but on the north coast of the eastern half, a third colonial power - Germany - was taking a definite interest. When British announced, in September 1834, that they intended to lay claim to a chunk of New Guinea, the Germans quickly raised the flag on the north coast. A highly arbitrary line was then drawn between German and British New Guinea. At that time no European had ventured inland from the coast and it was nearly 50 years later, when the Germans had long departed, that it was discovered that the line went straight through the most densely populated part of the island.

New Guinea was now divided into three sections - a Dutch half to keep everybody else away from the Dutch East Indies, a British quarter to keep the Germans (and anybody else) away from Australia, and a German quarter because it looked like it could be a very good investment. The Germans were soon proved wrong for the next 15 years the mosquitoes were the only things to profit from the German New Guinea Kompagnie's presence on the north coast. In 1899 the Germans threw in the towel, shifted to the happier climes of the Bismarck Archipelago and quickly started to make those fat profits they had wanted all along. Over in the Dutch half nothing was happening at all an d the British were trying to bring law and order to their bit.

Papua New Guinea market, 1911

In 1888 Sir William MacGregor became the administrative of British New Guinea and set out to explore his possession and set up a native police force to spread the benefits of British government. He instituted the policy of 'government by patrol' which continued right through the Australian period. In 1906 British New Guinea became Papua and administration was taken over by newly in dependent Australia. From 1907 Papua was the personal baby of Sir Hubert Murray who administered it until his death in 1940. 
European Exploration
Exploration was one of the most interesting phases of the early European development of PNG. This was almost the last place to be discovered by Europeans and the explorers were only too happy to put their daring deeds down on  paper. Gavin Souter's book The Last Unknown is one of the best descriptions of these travels. At first, exploration consisted of short trips in from the coast, often by parties of early mission workers. Later the major rivers were used to travel further into the forbidding inland region. The next phase - well into the 20th century - was trips upriver on one side, over the central mountains and down a suitable river to the other coast. Crossing the tangled central mountains often proved to be the killer in these attempts.

It is interesting to note that more than one early explorer commented on how the curiosity and even awe with which they were met on a first trip turned to outright antagonism on a second. It was more than likely that a lot of this was due to the extr5eme trigger-happiness of some visitors. The final death count from the exploration of New Guinea undoubtedly showed that the head hunters had more to fear from the European explorers than vice versa. From the time of the Australian takeover of British New Guinea, government by-patrol was the key to both exploration and control. Patrol officers were not only the first Europeans into previously 'uncontacted' areas but were also responsible for making the government's province felt on a more or less regular basis.

Papua New Guinea natives and turtle.

The last great phase of exploration took place in the 1930s and was notable for the first organised use of support aircraft. This last period included the discovery of the vast Highlands region. By 1939 even the final unknown area, towards the Dutch New Guinea boarder, had been at least cursorily explored. Since the war there have been more exploratory patrols and the country is now completely mapped, although previously 'uncontacted' peoples have been found recently and it is possible that there are more Highland clans yet to discover the outside world

Cargo Cults

The recurrent outbreak of 'cargo cultism' in New Guinea are a magnetic attraction for assorted academics. The arrival of the first Europeans in New Guinea must have had much the same impact that a flying saucer landing would have on us. Like something from the film Close Encounters of the Third Kind, local history is divided up into the days of pro-contact and 'post-contact'. To many people the strange ways and mysterious powers of the Europeans could only be described by supernatural means. In religious systems where it is necessary to invoke the help of spirits to ensure, say, a good yam harvest, it is logical that the same principles be applied if you want manufactured goods. Some of the cult leaders can be regarded as early nationalists and in several cases the cults developed into important political movements.

Cult leaders theorized that the Europeans had acquired their machines and wealth from some spirit world and that there was no reason they too could not acquire similar 'cargo'. Some went further and insisted that the Europeans had intercepted cargo that was really intended for the New Guineans, sent to them by their ancestors in the spirit world. One cultist even suggested that the whites had torn the first page out of all their Bibles - the page that revealed that God was actually a Papuan.

If the right rituals were followed, said the cult leaders, the goods would be redirected to their rightful owners. Accordingly, docks were prepared, or even crude 'airstrips' were laid out, for when the cargo arrived. Other leaders felt that if they mimic European ways they would soon have European goods - 'offices' were established in which people moved bits of paper back and forth. But when people started to kill their pigs and destroy their gardens (as a prerequisite for the better days to come) or to demand political rights, the colonial government took a firm stand. Some leaders were imprisoned. However arresting cult leaders simply confirmed the belief that an attempt was being made to keep goods rightfully belong to the New Guineans, so some cultists were taken down to Australia to see with their own eyes that the goods did not arrive from the spirit world.

The first recorded cargo cult outbreak was noted in British New Guinea in 1983. A similar occurrence in Dutch New Guinea dates back to 1867. Cargo cult outbreaks have occurred sporadically ever since. One of the largest took place in the Gulf area just after World War I; it was known as the 'Vailala Madness' and was considerably spurred on by their rival of the first aeroplane in the region - as predicted by one of the cult leaders. The cults took another upswing after World War II when the people witnessed even more stunning examples of Western wealth. Seeing black American troops with access to the goods had a particularly strong impact. A more recent example was the Lyndon Johnson affair on the island of New Hanover. No doubt there will be new events to keep academics happy for some time yet.  

World Wars I And II
Almost as soon as World War
I broke out in Europe, New Guinea went through a major upheaval. Australian troops quickly overran the German headquarters at Rabaul in New Britain and for the next seven years German New Guinea was run by the Australian military. In 1920 the League of Nations officially handed it over to Australia as a mandated territory. It stayed that way right up until World War II and this split government caused more than a little confusion for the Australians. In the south they had Papua, a place where they had to put money in to keep it operating and when the major purpose was to act as a buffer to an unfriendly state which was no longer there. In the north they had New Guinea, run by Germany as a nice little money spinner and continued un much the same way under the Australians. The discovery of gold at Wau and Bulolo, in the New Guinea half, only compounded the difficulties since the northern half became even more economically powerful in comparison to the south.

During World War II all the northern islands and most of the north coast quickly fell to the Japanese. The Japanese steam-rollered their way south and soon Australia only held Port Moresby. The Japanese advance was fast but short-lived and by September 1942, with the Pacific War less than a year old and Port Moresby within sight, they had run out of steam and started their long, slow retreat. It took until 1945 to regain all the mainland from the Japanese, and the islands - New Ireland, New Britain, Bougainville - were not recovered until the final surrender, after the atom bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

The End of Colonialism
There was no intention to go back to the pre-war situation of separate administrations and in any case Port Moresby was the only major town still intact after the war, so the colony now became the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. The territory entered a new period of major economic development with a large influx of expatriates, mainly Australians. When it peaked in 1971 the expatriate population had expanded from the 1940 total of about 6000 to over 50,000. Since then it has fallen to closer to 20,000 and is still declining. The post-war world had an entirely different attitude towards colonialism and Australia was soon pressured to prepare Papua and New Guinea for independence. A visiting UN mission in 1962 stressed that if the people were not pushing for indepndence themselves then it was Australia's responsibility to do the pushing. The previous Australian policy of gradually spreading literacy and education was supplemented by a concentrated effort to produce a small, educated elite to take over the reins of government.

Irian Jaya -- Meanwhile, things were not going nearly so smoothly in the Dutch half of the island. Indonesian resistance to Dutch rule had been simmering, or occasionally flaring up, almost from the moment the Dutch arrived. During World War II the Japanese released the po9litical prisoners held by the Dutch and used them to form the nucleus of a puppet government. When the war ended, Sukano, leader of the pre-war resistance to Dutch rule, immediately declared Indonesia independent and the British forces who arrived in Indonesia to round up the Japanese troops met with stiff Indonesian resistance. Britain quickly got out of that sticky mess, but the Dutch were not so sensible. For the next few years the Dutch East Indies was racked by everything from minor guerilla warfare to all out battles. Eventually Dutch military superiority got the upper hand, but politically the Indonesians out-manoeuvred them and in 1949 the Republic of Indonesia came into existence. 

West Papua (Irian Jaya) - The Baliem Valley

Dutch New Guinea was the final stumbling block to a Dutch-Indonesian agreement. The Indonesian agreement was that it was part of the Dutch East Indies therefore it should be part of Indonesia. The Dutch were determined to hold on to it as a small face-saving gesture, so right through the 1950s it continued as a Dutch colony, while the Dutch searched desperately for something to do with it. Obviously a political union with Papua New Guinea would have been the most sensible thing. At that time, however, the Australians were not considering the prospect of an independent Papua New Guinea and the problem of confronting Indonesia would have become an Australian problem, not a Dutch one, if the colonies were amalgamated. The Dutch decided on a quick push to independence; in the late 1950s they embarked on a crash programme to develop an educated elite and an economic base - a policy that predated by some years similar moves by Australia. The Dutch started to pour money into their colony, and expensive scheme that soon had to be followed by Australia.

Copra making, Papua New Guinea

Unfortunately for the Dutch, things were not going too well in Indonesia. The economy there was falling apart, Sukarno's government was proving to be notoriously unstable and his answer to these serious internal problems was simple - look for an outside enemy to distract attention . Holland proved an ideal target and the effort to 'regain' Dutch New Guinea became a national cause. As Sukarno started to flirt with Russia, the Americans became more and more worried and eventually opted for their long running policy of bolstering up corruption and inefficiency wherever it looks like falling on its face (or into the hands of Communists). The Dutch were politically out-manoeuvred at the UN once again and in 1963 the Indonesians, with support from the USA, took over. Indonesia's economic collapse was rapidly accelerating by the time and it was in no shape to continue the massive investment projects the Dutch had initiated. By the time Sukarno fell from power in 1965, Irian Burat (west hot land), as it was renamed, had suffered an asset stripping operation with shiploads of Dutch equipment being exported and local businesses and plantation collapsing right and left. Relations with Australia were none too good, perhaps Sukarno's habit of referring to Papua New Guinea as Irian Timor (East Irian) and Australia as Irian Selatan (Selatan Irian) didn't help.

After Sukarno's departure, relations rapidly improved; the Indonesian half of the island was renamed Irian Jaya (Ne Irian) and Australians and Indonesians cooperated on accurately mapping the border between the two halves. Part of he Dutch handover agreement was that the people should, after a time, have the right to vote on staying with Indonesia or opting for independence. In 1969 this 'Act of Free Choice' took place. The 'choice' was somewhat restricted by Indonesia's new President Suharto stating that: 'There will be an act of self-determination, of free choice, in West Irian but if they vote against Indonesia or betray or harm the Indonesian people, this would be treason.' When the 1000 'representative' voters made the act of free choice there was not a treasonable voice to be heard.

In Papua New Guinea the progress towards independence was fairly rapid through the '60s. In 1964 a House of Assembly with 64 members was formed; 44 were elected in open competition, 10 were appointed and 10 were elected Australians. Internal self-government came into effect in '73, followed in '75 by full independence. At this time, Papua New Guinea still had a very low rate of literacy and in many parts of the country contact with government officials was still infrequent and bewildering. It is quite probable that the first time many people knew of a central government was when they were said to vote for their parliamentary representative! A country divided by a huge number of mutually incomprehensible language, where intertribal antipathy is common and were the educated elite accounts for such a small percentage of the total population would hardly seem to provide a firm base for democracy. Yet somehow everything had held together and Papua New Guinea works fairly well, especially new-nation standards. Papua New Guineans have generally dealt with the problems of nationhood with a great deal of success.   
The Free Papua Movement
After independence, Papua New Guinea's most immediate problem appeared to be relations with its powerful neighbour Indonesia. Following Indonesia's takeover of Irian Jaya, the indigenous Papuans, who had been sold out so badly by the rest of the world, began to organise a guerilla resistance movement - the Free Papua Movement, which is widely known as the OPM (Organisasi Papua Mendeka). Since the inception, it has fought with varying degrees of success against tremendous odds. Each time violence has flared, Papua New Guinea has found itself squeezed between a practical need for good relations with Indonesia and an obvious sympathy for the racially-related Papuan rebels. In balance, practicality has prevailed and Papua New Guinea had done nothing to assist the rebels - even, on several occasions handing alleged rebels back to the Indonesian authorities.

Indonesia has maintained tight control over news coming from Irian Jaya and since the late '70s the OPM has been dogged by factionalism, so it is difficult to separate fact from fiction in the fragmented accounts of the struggle that reach the press. On a number of occasions the OPM has been declared a spent force, only to reappear, seemingly undaunted. The OPM has attracted scant overseas support, but armed with traditional weapons and small numbers of outdated guns and captured rifles the rebels continue to operate. The border itself is one of those arbitrary straight lines European bureaucrats were so fond of drawing, which have since caused so much misery. Poorly patrolled, until recently badly surveyed, and crossing some of the most isolated and rugged country on the island, it is not likely to hinder the rebels' movements. The Indonesian have claimed they come and go with impunity. 

Over the years the OPM has announced it has killed hundreds of Indonesian soldiers and that many thousands of Papuans have been killed in indiscriminant retaliatory attacks. The Indonesian figures are much lower. There were major clashes in 1978, 1981 and 1983 - a number provoked by Indonesia's ambitious transmigration scheme. Irian Jaya has a total population of around 800,000 Papuans and 220,000 Indonesians and the Indonesian government plans to move in still more, although it is very unlikely that the original target of 800,000 will be met. In 1984 over 100 Melanesian soldiers in the Indonesian Armed forces deserted to the OPM, sparking a major Indonesian operation which in turn drove over 10,000 Papuans into Papua New Guinea. Years later these refugees, and those that have come both before and since, remain a political football. Few have shown any interest in returning to Irian Jaya so the Papua New Guinea government has belatedly decided to resettle them permanently. Since 1985 the flow of refugees that virtually stopped, indicating a quieter level of activity in the part of both the Indonesians and the OPM, and the relations between Indonesia and Papua New Guinea have improved. However, it seems unlikely the real grievances of the Papuan people in Irian Jaya have been met, so the problems of the past are likely to recur.

Law and Order
The most publicised problem that faces Papua New Guinea today is one that can go under the general heading of 'Law & Order'. The worst affected areas are the larger cities (Port Moresby, Lae, Madang and Mt. Hagan) and parts of the Highlands. The problem encompasses everything from traditional tribal wars and modern corruption, to personal violence. When you have talk of rascals and the rascal problem this is what is being referred to - not schoolboy pranks. As you travel around Papua and New Guinea and especially when you speak to white expatriates you will be hard put to keep this problem in perspective. Extreme paranoia is contagious and crime is a favourite topic of conversation. What you must continue to ask yourself is: How does it compare with home (think of the Sunday newspaper in your home city) and how does it relate to the friendliness and hospitality that visitors meet everywhere they go? Although the statistics are unreliable they do not suggest that the law and order situation in Papua New Guinea is worse than in many other developing or, indeed, some Western countries.

The law and order label has a tendency to obscure a complex question that involves a variety of related issues. The kneejerk response is 'more police and tougher sentencing' but this is unlikely to be a full answer - the problem would not have proved to be so intractable if it was. The real issue s that must be looked at are some of the traditional attitudes, the impact of Westernisation, the success or failure of economic development and education, and questions of economic justice, as well as the efficiency and relevance of the political system, police force and judicial system. It is useful to remember that it is very easy to apply inappropriate Western criteria, and what appears to be uncontrolled anarchy is often nothing of the sort. For instance, tribal war is not necessarily regarded by the Highlanders as a breakdown of law and order but as the process by which law and order is re-established. A case that appears to the straightforward assault may well be a community sanctioned punishment. Loosing a store may be in lieu of the traditional division of a big man's house.

Perhaps the greatest problem is that Papua New Guinea is not yet a cohesive state, so rules of behaviour that will be strictly upheld within a community will not necessarily be upheld outside it. A man who would never dream of cheating someone in his village might be proud of robbing someone from a rival tribe and feel similarly free from constraints in a strange city. Clan loyalties also make police week extremely difficult. A village will not necessarily cooperate in the arrest of of one of its members - if the rascal's actions have not affected the village negatively, they will often not be seen as wrong. To avoid police becoming involved in their own clan's disputes they are transferred to other areas where they don't know the terrain or the intricacies of local politics. Police and their families are also vulnerable to the threat of payback attacks - which, of course, are justified, if the policeman had arrested an innocent relative.

In the rush for independence, Australia was forced to concentrate on developing an elite who was capable of running the country, and perhaps inappropriately, the model that was used as the basis for development was Australia. Big men were encouraged to develop cash crops, often permanently (mis)appropriating their follower's lands when they did so. The educated few took well-paid positions in a centralised bureaucratic structure that had been transplanted from Canberra. This had a number of unfortunate side effects. The big men who were encouraged and protected by the Australian administration are now very wealthy and powerful, far outstripping the general populace. although by Asian standards the problem is not acute, in the Highlands there is genuine shortage of land, especially of land that is suitable for this development of coffee. The Port Moresby bureaucracy has continued to grow, creating a prosperous middle class and a city that draws the hopeful, the curious and the ambitious - only to surround them with unattainable goodies and dump them in shanty towns without work.

Although people rarely starve in Papua New Guinea and the village or clan can nearly always meet most simple needs, there is a growing cash economy. People need money to pay tax; to buy second-hand clothes, beer, tobacco, rice and tinned fish; and to send their kids to school. The demand for cash and the limited opportunity most people have to make money obviously creates pressures. There is also a growing number of people who are alienated from their tradition al villages (for instance, a family may be driven away because a member has broken a traditional tabu) and these people are completely dependent on the limited opportunities in the cities. Young men, even those with minimal educational standards, aspire to the status and material wealth that was achieved by the small elite the Australians developed. These ambitious young men, usually unmarried and between about 18 and 30 years old, are drawn to the cities. Once there they take advantage of wantoks (relatives) who, under Melanesian tradition, are responsible for feeding and housing them. Unfortunately sufficient jobs just do not exist, so these bored young 'have-nots' wander the town, play cards and pool, drink beers and...

Whatever the reasons, it is hard to pretend you are governing things well if people insist on impaling their neighbours with spears, the well-off middle class (including both local people and expatriates) are forced to live in razorwire fortresses, economic development is threatened by corruption and disorder, schools are closed because the safety of teachers cannot be guaranteed and people (especially women) cannot walk the streets at night. On several occasions the army has been called in, a state of emergency has been declared and strict controls have been placed on beer sales. The positive effects of these crackdowns have been short term at best. The rascals melt into the bushy, or relocate to terrorise some other community, and are back as soon as the heat is off. The longer term solutions are much more difficult, requiring shifts in public attitudes, and long-term restructuring of the economy, the educational and political systems, the police and judiciary.  The changes required present a serious challenge to the country. The government's own INA/IASER 'Report on Law & Order in Papua New Guinea' (the 1984 Clifford Report) observed:

With 62% of the population under the age of 24 (85% in the towns), and with enormous numbers of them being half-educated, unemployed, under-employed, without any social role and very much frustrated, the danger of forceful (maybe violent) political change is near.


There was a real possibility of Papua New Guinea falling apart when military action by secessionists on Bougainville closed the giant Pangana mine in 1989. The national government withdrew completely from the island, leaving it in the hands of the bougainvi8lle Revolutionary Army (BRA). With such a diverse society, Papua New Guinea struggles to maintain a sense of nationhood at the best of times, and when the BRA began what amounted to a civil war, there were nervous glances around the rest of the country. That threat seems to have diminished, but the problem on Bougainville remain and the island is off-limits.

Papua New Guinea lies barely south of the equator, to the north of Australia. It is the last of the string of islands spilling down from South-East Asia into the Pacific and really forms a transition zone between the two areas. After Papua New Guinea you are into the Pacific proper - expanses of ocean dotted by tiny islands. Papua New Guinea occupies the eastern end of the island of New Guinea. Additionally, there are a collection of islands, some large, around the main land mass. Manus, New Ireland and New Britain are all provinces of Papua New Guinea, as are the eastern islands in Milne Bay and the North Solomon group. To the south, the Torres Straits Islands are part of the Australian state of Queensland. Some of these tiny islands are a mere stone's throw from  the Papua New Guinea coast.

Papua New Guinea's remote and wild character is very closely tied to the dramatic geography. The place is a mass of superlatives - the ravines plunge - name a geographical cliche and Papua New Guinea has it. These spectacular features have much to do with the country's diverse people and its current state of development. When a mighty mountain range or a wide river separates you from your neighbouring tribe, you are unlikely to get to know them very well. The central spine of Papua New Guinea is a high range of mountains with peaks over 4000 metres high. It is unlikely that a permanent road across this daunting natural barrier will be completed until the end of the century although temporary tracks were attempted during World War II. Meanwhile, travel between  the south and north coasts of Papua anew Guinea still means flying - makes you care to walk. Great rivers flow from the mountains down to the sea. The Fly and the Sepik rivers are the two largest: the Sepik flowing into the sea in the north, the Fly in the south. Both are navigable for long distances and both are among the world's mightiest rivers in terms of annual water flow.

In places the central mountains descend right to the sea in a series of diminishing foothills, while in other regions broad expanses of mangrove swamps fringe the coast - gradually extending as more and more material is carried down to the coast by the muddy rivers. In the western region there is an endless expanse of flat grassland, sparsely populated, annually flooded and teeming with wildlife. Papua New Guinea is in the Pacific volcano belt but, apart from a few exceptions along the north coast such as Mt Lamington (Oro Province) which erupted unexpectedly and disastrously in 1951, the live volcanoes are not on the main land mass. There are a number of volcanic islands scattered off the north coast and in Milne Bay plus the active region on the north coast of New Britain. Earthquakes usually mild, are more widespread. One of the most interesting features of the geography of Papua New Guinea is the central Highland valleys. As the early explorers pushed inland the general conclusion was that the central spine of mountains was a tangled, virtually uninhabited wilderness. In the 1930s, however, the Highland valleys were accidentally discovered and the wilderness turned out to be the most fertile and heavily populated region of the country. The best known valleys are around Goroka and Mt Hagan, but thee are other more remote places right across into the Irian Jaya.

Papua New Guinea is endowed with striking coral reefs making it a paradise for scuba divers. There are reefs around much of the mainland coast and, more particularly, amongst the islands of the Bismarck Sea and Milne Bay areas. The major offshore islands - New Ireland, New Britain and Bougainville - are almost as mountainous as the mainland with many peaks rising to over 2000 metres.

The climate is generally hot, humid and wet year round, but there are some exceptions. "There are wet and dry seasons, but in practice, in most places, the wet just means it is more likely to rain, the dry that it's less likely. The exception is Port Moresby where the dry is definitely dry - the configuration of the mountains around Port Moresby account for this two-season characteristic. In most places the wet season is roughly from December to March, the dry season from May to October. During the two transition months (April and November), it cannot make up its mind which way to go and tends to be unpleasantly still and sticky. There are many variations on this pattern, the most notable being Lae and Alotau, where May to October is the wet season. Some places, such as New Britain and New Ireland, have sharply differing rainfall patterns in different areas.

Rainfall, which is generally heavy, nonetheless varies enormously. In dry, often dusty Port Moresby the annual rainfall is about 1000 mm (40 inches) and, like places in northern Australia, it is short and sharp and is then followed by long dry months. Other places can vary from a little over 2000 mm (80 inches) in Rabaul or Goroka, to over 4500 mm (175 inches) in Lae. In extreme rainfall areas, such as West anew Britain or the northern areas of the gulf and Western provinces, the annual rainfall can average over six metres a year. Temperatures on the coast are reasonably stable year round - hovering around 25 degrees C to 30 degrees C, but the humidity and winds can vary widely. As you move inland and up, the temperatures drop fairly dramatically. In the Highlands, the daytime temperatures often climb to the high 20 degrees Cs but at night it can get quite cold. During the dry season, when there is little cloud cover to contain the heat, Highland mornings can be very chilly. If you keep moving up into the mountains you will find it colder still. Although snow is rare, it can occur on the tops of the highest mountain and ice will often form on cold nights.   


The island of New Britain, the largest of Papua New Guinea's offshore islands, offers a strange contrast between its two province. east New Britain (ENB) Province ends in the densely populated Gazelle Peninsula where there has been lengthy contact with Europeans and, due to the high fertility of the volcanic soil, the people are among the most affluent in the country. The southern part of the province, around Pomio, is much less developed. In complete contrast, the other end of the island, West New Britain (WNB) Province, is comparatively sparsely populated, little developed and did not come into serious contact with Europeans until the 1960s. For most visitors, New Britain will man Rabaul - the beautiful harbour city on the Gazelle Peninsula with its dramatic, sometimes too dramatic, cluster of volcanoes.

It is now believed that people have lived on the Papua New islands for at least 30,000 years, and there is evidence of trading on New Britain 12,000 years ago. The Tolai people, now the major ethnic group in ENB, originally came from New Ireland. They took the Gazelle Peninsula from the Baining, Sulka and Taulil people a few centuries before the European arrived. although the Tolai have a distinct language, they share many customs and physical characteristics with the New Irelanders. The Tolai were a warlike people and there were frequent inter-clan battled. Early explorers from Europe spent much more time around the northern islands than they did around the mainland. William Dampier, the swashbuckling English pirate-adventure-explorer, was the first to land in the area. He arrived early in the year 1700 and named the island New Britain when he sailed around the east coast. of New Britain and New Ireland. although he proved New Britain was an island, separated from the New Guinea mainland by Dampier Strait, it was not until 1767 that Phillip Carteret discovered that Dampier's St George's Bay was really St George's Channel when he sailed through it, proving New Ireland was actually a separate island.

A hundred years passed with only occasional contact although many whalers and other sailors passed through St George's channel and sometimes passed for water or to stock up with provisions. Then, in the 1870s, traders started to arrive, often in search of copra. In 1875 the legendary Methodist missionary Dr George Brown showed up and with six Fijians, set up the first mission station in the Duke of York Islands, which are in St George's Channel. Brown could hardly be faulted for lack of energy; apart from working flat out on converting the heathen he also found time to be a keen amateur volcanologist, a linguist, a scientist, an anthropologist and managed to a fair bit of local exploring. While his reception was not the best and only one of the Fijian assistants served the first turbulent years, Brown more than merely survived, and felt as a respected, even loved man. In 1878 a Mrs Emma Forsyth arrived from Samoa, started a trading business at Mioko in the Duke of York Islands and took the first steps towards her remarkable fame and fortune . In 1882 Captain Simpson sailed in on HMS Blanche and named the harbour where the town of Rabaul now stands after himself and the bay after his ship. Two years later the Germans, thoroughly beaten by malaria and the climate on the north New Guinea coast, moved their headquarters to Kokopo on New Britain, naming it Herbertshohe.

In 1910 the German s moved round the bay of Rabaul's present site. The name means mangrove in the local dialect, for the town site was in the middle of a mangrove swamp. The Germans did not have long to enjoy what soon became a very beautiful town, when World War I arrived, Australia invaded New Britain in order to take the German radio station at Bita Puka. The first six Australians to die in the war lost their lives in this action, along with one German  and 30 Papua New Guinea soldiers. A larger contingent of Australians also died when their submarine mysteriously disappeared off the coast during the attack. For the rest of the war, things carried on much as before. Since Australia was in no position to take over the efficiently run and highly profitable German copra plantation, the Germans were allowed to keep on operating under close military supervision. At the end of the war however, the unfortunate planters all had their plantations expropriated and the planters were shipped back to Germany. They were compensated, in part of the war reparations agreement, in German marks, which soon became totally worthless to the host of hyper-inflation suffered by Germany in the early 1920s.

One doubly unfortunate individual made his way back to New Britain, started again from scratch and once more built up a thriving plantation. Unfortunately, he neglected to take out Australian citizenship and in World War II his property was expropriated again. Between the wars, Rabaul continued on in busy and profitable way as the capital of Australian New Guinea, until nature decided to shake it up a little. ENB is the most volcanically active area of the country and nowhere is this more evident than in Rabaul. Blanche Bay Rabaul's beautiful harbour, is simply the flooded crater of an enormous volcano that is over 3km wide. The cataclysmic eruption that formed what is now the harbour took place aeons ago, but the Rabaul area has had many more recent upheavals - as the string of volcanic cones around the rim of the super crater indicates. Sputterings and earthquakes are an everyday occurrence in ENB and it takes more than a little shake to upset the citizens of Rabaul. In 1971 a major quake was followed by a tidal wave that temporarily swamped the city centre, but the last disastrous upheaval took place in 1937.

There was plenty of warning: minor quakes became increasingly frequent and sea water boiled and dead fish floated to the surface around Vulcan, a low lying island in the harbour that had appeared after an 1878 eruption. When Vulcan suddenly erupted, 500 Tolais who had assembled on the island for a festival were killed. Eruptions continued all night; 27 hours later when they finally ceased, the low, flat island was a massive mountain joined to the mainland. The harbour was coated in yellow pumice stone and everything was covered in a film of ash and dust, brought down by a violent thunderstorm that accompanied the eruptions. But that was not all. Matupit started to fume and then erupted for three days. Months later, when the town had been restored, Maupit continued to rumble and cough. Government minds soon turned to thoughts of transferring the New Guinea capital to a safer site. The mainland had barely been touched when Australia took over German New Guinea, but now it was much more widely explored and the gold rush in Wau and Bulolo had prompted development. Accordingly, the decision was taken to transfer the headquarters to Lae. The move had barely commenced when World War II arrived in Rabaul. Its impact was even more dramatic than hat of the volcanoes.  

After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor it was obvious that Rabaul would soon be in danger, women and children were evacuated by the end of December 1941, but there were still about 400 Australian civilians in the town when a huge bombing raid on 22 January heralded the coming invasion. The following day a small contingent of Australian troops was completely crushed by a Japanese assault. Those who managed to escape found themselves cut off in the jungle and isolated from the New Guinea mainland where, in any case, the Japanese had already captured Lae and Salamaua. IN an amazing feat of endurance, patrol officers based in New Britain (including the legendary J K McCarthy who retells the operation in his book Patrol Into Yesterday) shepherded the surviving troops along the inhospitable, roadless coast to the southern tip of the island where a flotilla of private boats undertook a mini Dunkirk and rescued 400 of the 700 men who had survived.

The civilians left behind in Rabaul were not so fortunate - not a single one was ever heard from again. It was later established that they were loaded onto a prison ship, the Montevideo Maru, and drowned when the ship was torpedoed by an American submarine off the Philippines while it was on its way to Japan. The Japanese intended to use Rabaul as a major supply base for their steady march south, but the tables were soon tuned. With their defeat at Guadalcanal in the Solomons, at Milne Bay, and Buna on the New Guinea mainland, and with their naval power shattered in the Battle of the Coral Sea, they were soon on the defensive and Rabaul was made into an impregnable fortress. They dug 500 km of tunnels into the hills, a honeycomb of interconnecting passages used for storage, hospitals, anti-aircraft guns, bunkers, gun emplacements and barracks. At the peak of the war 97,000 Japanese troops and thousands of POW's were stationed on the Gazelle Peninsula. They had even imported 800 Japanese and Korean prostitutes. The harbour was laced with mines and the roads were camouflaged with trees. and the Allies never came.

MacArthur had learnt the less on of Guadalcanal and Buna where the bitter fighting had led to enormous casualties on both sides. Never again did the Japanese and Allied forces meet head-on, buses like Rabaul were simply by-passed. The Japanese air force was unable to compete effectively with Allied air power and over 30,000 tons of bombs rained down upon the Peninsula keeping the remaining Japanese forces underground and important. When the war ended they were still there, trapped in a bastion that may well have been invulnerable, but was never put to the test. Rabaul soon bounced back, although the evidence of the war is still readily seen. The hills are riddled with tunnels (although many are sealed up for safety's sake), remnants of barges, aircraft, guns, cranes and other military equipment litter the area and the harbour bottom is carpeted with sunken shipping. Even today you hear stories of people finding Japanese tunnels and arms caches.

The transfer of the capital of New Guinea from Rabaul to Lae did not have the negative impact that had been feared, partly because after the war Papua and New Guinea were administered as one territory from Port Moresby. The Tolai people have a relatively high level of education and economic wellbeing, but their bounteous peninsula is heavily populated so there are considerable land pressures. Those problem are compounded by the large percentage of land that was bought from the Tolais by the Germans and is still owned by Europeans. After the war, as concepts of self-government developed, land become a major issue and discontent rose to a fever pitch. Many Tolais wanted all land bought from them in the German days, when they were considerably less sophisticated in their dealings with the west, to be returned. A political organisation, known as the Mataungan Association, sprang up with the aim of subverting the Australian-managed local councils and self-government programmes. The Tolais wanted self-government, but on their own terms, they successfully boycotted the first pre-independence elevation and then demanded their own Mataungan leaders be given power. The problem has not gone away, but it is not currently a central issue. 

Rabaul's volcanoes have not, however, been so cooperative. In 1983 Rabaul seemed to be heating up for a repeat of the 1937 eruption and by early 1984 the town was ready for an instant evacuation. At one point women and children were sent away and aircraft were actually standing by. The threatened eruption failed to eventuate, but the situation highlighted, once again, the town's precarious position.

New Britain is a long, narrow, mountainous island. It is nearly 600 km from end to end but at its widest point it is only 80 km across. The central mountain range runs from one end of the country to the other. The interior is harsh and ragged, split by gorges and fast-flowing rivers and blanketed in thick rainforest. The highest mountain is ?The Father (Mr Uluwan) an active volcano rising to over 2300 metres. The north-eastern end of the island terminates in the heavily populated, highly fertile and dramatically volcanic Gazelle Peninsula, with the three peaks known as The Mother (Kombiu), North Daughter and South Daughter. New Britain lies across the direction of the monsoon winds so the rainy season comes at opposite times of the year on the north and south coast. From December to April the mountain barri3r brings the heavy ran down on the north coast, while in June to October it's the south coast that has the rain. Rainfall varies widely around the island, at Pomio on the south coast it averages 6500 mm a year (over 20 feet of rain!) while in relatively dry Rabaul it is only 2000 mm annually, with May to October the driest months. Pomio once had over a metre of rain in one week.
The island is divided into two provinces: East New Britain (ENB) with its capital at Rabaul, and West New Britain (WNB) with its capital at Kimbe.
The Tolai people are the major ethnic group in ENB and number about 80,000, although it is believed they arrived from New Ireland only a few centuries before the Europeans. The Baining, Sulka and Taulil people, who predated the Tolais' invasion, fled into the mountains. There are probably four or five thousand Baining people left, living mainly in the Baining Mountains south of Rabaul. They still perform their spectacular fire dances, costumed in huge, Disney-like masks. If you are lucky enough to be in Rabaul when a fire dance is on, usually at Gaulim, it is an experience not to be missed. Ask the tourist office, or phone Ulatawa Plantation (52 1294), where there are sometimes fire dances. Their main income comes, sadly, from selling their land, usually at ridiculously low prices. As elsewhere in Papua New Guinea, aid organisations are trying to set up community-based logging and sawmilling operations. This will help the Baining people financially and also discourage the sale of their land and hopefully, prevent its devastation by  foreign logging companies.

The Mokolkols, a group of nomads who even after World War II continued to make murderous raids on coastal villages, were far fewer in number. It was not until 1950 that the government finally managed to capture a handful of these people, even though they lived within 100 km of Rabaul! After a spell in the big city, the captives led government officers back to the rest of their clan - there were only 30 in all. When the first missionaries arrived, the Tolai were still a pretty wild bunch and inter-clan warfare was common. They are a matrilineal society (not to be confused with matiarchal), which means that a child belongs to its mother's clan, not father's. A clan's property is looked after by the senior male, but the land is inherited by one of the man's sister's sons, and his own sons inherit land held by his wife's brother. The Tolai don't live in villages as such. Rather, family groups live in hamlets and when the children marry they usually have to start their own settlement nearby.

Authority was wielded by big men who won their prestige through wealth or military prowess and a male secret society played an important role in village life, organising ceremonies and maintaining customary laws. Ceremonies featured leaf-draped, anonymous figures topped by masks - the tumbuan and dukduk. A lawbreaker who found a tumbuan at his front door would mend his ways, or else! They are still  taken qui8te seriously, and a tumbuan is still not a pleasant thing to find at your door. There are definite tumbuan and dukduk 'seasons', from about East to October. If you are lucky enough to see a ceremony you will agree that 'comparing a sing-sing to a tumbuan dance is like comparing musical comedy to grand opera'. The Duke of York Islands are 'home' of many tumbuan and dukduk. 

Shell money, or tumbu, retains its cultural significance for the Tolai and is still displayed at traditional ceremonies. It is distributed at kututambu ceremonies. Little shells, similar in shape to cowries, that are obtained from WNB, Manus and the North Solomons are strong on lengths of cane and bound together in great rolls called loloi. You can sill see people using tambu to make small purchases at Rabaul market. It takes a dozen shells to equal KO.10. Kuanua, the Tolai language, is spoken by two-thirds of the people in ENB. Kuanua for 'good afternoon' is ravien; for 'good evening' it's marum. although there will always be someone around who speaks English, Pidgin will come in handy in rural areas. If things get to the stage where you are counting on your fingers, note that many village people do it 'backwards' - showing five fingers means zero, showing four means one, etc. 

Bananas are a staple food for village people. A powerful banana spirit was once a staple drink, but now there is a fine of K10000 for making it. At one time, Rabaul had a very large Chinese community but many Chinse left after independence and Rabaul's Chinatown is a shadow of its former self. There are also many Papua New Guineans from the less effluent Highlands and Sepik regions, who have been imported to do the boring, unskilled work on the copra plantations that the Tolai are not interested in.

Land Area -- 15,500 sq km
Population -- 185,000
Capital -- Rabaul
Population -- 15,000

Lying at the rim of a huge, flooded volcanic caldera, the provincial capital vies with Madang for the title of most beautiful town in Papua New Guinea - or even the Pacific. It may not have Madang's beautiful waterways and parks, but it does have dramatic volcanoes towering over it on all sides and the beautiful Simpson Harbour. Laid out in grid style, the streets are wide and clean and just about everything is within walking distance. People are very friendly. There is probably more to do and see around Rabaul than any other town in Papua New Guinea. You can climb volcanoes, inspect war relics and dive some of the best coral and wrecks in Papua New Guinea. There is also a better chance of hotels and restaurants than you will find in almost any other town. Despite all this and a relatively large population, Rabaul is a sleepy town - the local TV news is a tape of the previous day's Port Moresby news!

Unfortunately, Rabaul is threatened by Matupit volcano, right at the town's edge, beside the airport. Since a scare in 1984, however, there has been no major activity or threat. The situation is closely monitored, so do not hesitate to visit - the locals are quite blase about the occasional guria (tremor). The country around Rabaul is lush and very beautiful, although it's hardly virgin jungle. Most of that was wiped out in the 1937 eruption and the growth you see today is mainly Tolai 'gardens', usually cocoa shaded by palms.

The Harbour and Surrounds
The harbour is magnificent and it still services the rusting tramp freighters which wander along the coastlines of New Britain, New Ireland, the Solomons and among all the islands in between. The market should not be missed. In the little park, towards the market and the Mango Avenue, by the town and Gazelle area maps, stands the grinding wheel from Port Breton. In 1879 a crazy French Marquis and real estate speculator despatched native shiploads of would-be colonizers and farmers to Port Breton on New Ireland. The mill stone no doubt gave credence to their hopeless dreams of broad acres of wheat. Across from the Rabaul Community Hostel on the waterfront there is a memorial in the Rabaul prisoners who died on the Montevideo Maru.
Land Area -- 9500 sq km
Population -- 90,000
Capital -- Kavieng

New Ireland is the long, narrow island north of New Britain. It's a beautiful and friendly place but little known and rarely visited, yet it has one of the longest records of contact with European civilisation. European explorers sailed through St George's Channel, which separates New Ireland from new Britain, from the early 1600s, and St George's Bay, near the south-east tip, was a popular watering spot for early sailing ships in the region. Later, the Germans developed lucrative copra plantations and the first extensive road network in Papua New Guinea. Perhaps the nicest thing about New Ireland is that it is safe - or no more dangerous than the rest of the world. There are infrequent incidents of lawlessness (the locals blame people from outlying islands) but you would have to be very unlucky to be caught up in one. In rural areas you will have no trouble meeting people and once you do, your safety is all but guaranteed. In Kavieng, the big smoke, be a bit careful at night, especially pay nights. It is claimed that there are no poisonous snakes on New Ireland.

new Ireland Province also includes a number of offshore islands. The major island is New Hanover, also known as Lavongai, off the north-west end. Well offshore from the east coast are the Tabar, Lihir, Tanga and Feni island groups. Further to the north-west is the large island of Mussau in the St Matthias Group and the smaller islands of Emirau and Tench. The name New Ireland translates into pidgin as Niu Ailan - which translates back into English as New Island.

Archaeological finds near Namatanai suggest that New Ireland was inhabited 30,000 years ago. At the same time as they chanced upon the Admiralty Islands in 1516-7, the Dutch explorers Schouten and Le Maire 'discovered' New Ireland, although they did not know it was an island. Later, in 1700, the flamboyant British buccaneer explorer William Dampier, sailed through the Dampier Straits between New Britain and the mainland and named St George's Bay between New Ireland and New Britain - thinking they were both one island. It was nearly 70 years before Carteret sailed into Dampier's St George's Bay and discovered it was really a channel and New Ireland was separate to New Britain.

It was in 1877 when the first missionaries arrived, always an important milestone in Papua New Guinea. The Reverend George Brown, stationed in the duke of York Islands between New Britain and New Ireland, arrived at Kalili during that year, crossed over to the east coast and after some suitably hair-raising adventures, moved back to safer climes. Not long after, the amazing Marquis de Ray saga took place near the south-east corner of the island. Despite its inauspicious beginnings, New Ireland soon became one of the many profitable parts of the German colony of New Guinea. Under the iron-handed German administrator Bacon Boluminski, a string of copra plantation were developed along the east coast and a road system, which was long the envy of other parts of the country, was constructed.

Boluminski died of heatstroke before the Australian takeover, and although his road (it still bears his name) was gradually extended, in other respects the island simply marked time. When World War II spread to the Pacific, New Ireland fell almost immediately and Kavieng was subsequently developed into a major Japanese base, although never a rival to Rabaul. Most of the Australians in Kavieng managed to escape but those who chose to stay behind as coast-watchers were probably captured as the Japanese extended their control over the island. Like Rabaul, the Japanese held the island right until the final surrender and, again like Rabaul, although the Allies made no attempt to retake New Ireland they inflicted enormous damage. Kavieng, the main Japanese base, was comprehensively flattened, and the Boluminski Highway and its adjoining plantation were severely damaged - the Japanese used it to move supplies down the coat and across to Rabaul. Extensive redevelopment since the war has restored the productive copra plantations along the highway and coffee, rubber and timber industries have also developed. Kavieng is also an important fishing port and has a major, Japanese-developed, tuna fishing base.
Note that the north-east coast is generally called the east coast, and the south-west the west. Anything south of Namatanai is known as the south. New Ireland is long, narrow and mountainous. For most of its length the island is only six to 10 km wide with a high spine falling straight to the sea on much of the west coast and bordered by a narrow, but fertile, coastal strip on the east coast. It is along this strip that the efficient New Ireland copra producers are based. The highest peak in the Schleimitz Ranges is just under 1500 metres. In the centre of the island is the high, cool Lelet Plateau. The island bulges out at the south-eastern end and the mountains of the Hans Meyher Ranges and the Vernon Ranges are somewhat higher; the tallest peak reaches 2399 metres. Despite the narrow channel that separates this part of New Ireland from New Britain there is no comparable volcanic activity in New Ireland.
The people of New Ireland are Melanesian, with some cultural affinities with the peoples of New Britain. About 20 different languages are spoken, two of which don't belong to the Austronesian family. In rural areas there will usually be someone who speaks English, but many people speak only pidgin. Dance is an important part of New Ireland culture, with around 50 different styles. Many villages, especially on the west coast, have a hous-boi (a fairly offensive colonial-era name, but it's the one commonly used), which something like a men's club. In some villages female guests are welcome to enter but it is best to ask first. Sometimes there is no actual house, just an area defined by a stone wall, but there will usually be a forked branch, through which you must step to enter. 
Population 5000

Kavieng is a somnolent little town - the very image of a Somerset Maughan south sea island port. There is nothing much to do here, but it is a very nice place to do nothing much. The town has sea on three sides so there are often cool breezes. Rain falls all year, but May to November are the driest months.

Land Area 2100 sq km
Poulation 27,000

Manus is the most isolated and least visited province in Papua New Guinea. It consists of a group of islands known as the Admiralty Islands plus a scattering of low-lying atolls. Manus Island, which gives the province its name, is the largest of the Admiralty Islands.

No significant archaeological research has been undertaken on Manus, so it is uncertain when the first settlers arrived and where they came from but they have probably been there for 10,000 years. The islanders were sophisticated mariners and fishers with an extensive trade system. Their large sea-going outrigger canoes were up to 10 metres long, with two or three sails, and their fishing methods included fish traps and kite fishing. Trade linked the islands in the face of their geographic dispersion and the the 26 different languages and dialects spoken in the region. The main social unit was the clan, and warfare between clans and tribes was commonplace. A Spanish sailor, Alvaro de Saavedra, made the European discovery of the island in 1527, but although various Dutch and English explorers came past in the 17th and 18th centuries it was not until the late 19th century that serious contacts were made. Carteret, an Englishman, dubbed the islands the Admiralty group in 1767 and they were annexed, along with the rest of New Guinea, by Germany in 1885. German law and order, however, did not arrive on Manus until 1911. Some Spanish touches remain - the airport is on an island that is still called Los Negros.

Manus is a rugged, relatively infertile island and this, combined with the fierce independence of its inhabitants, encouraged the German and Australian colonizers to leave it pretty much alone. The German did plant coconut plantation on some of the islands, but serious change did not arrive until world War II - and then it was pretty dramatic. The Japanese occupied manus in April 1942. In February, 1944 American and Australian forces recaptured the island, causing a great deal of damage to villages, for the construction of a huge base to counterbalance the Japanese forces at Rabaul. Dock facilities were built around Seeadler Harbour and an airstrip capable of handling heavy bombers was built at Momote.

Untold millions of dollars were lavished on the base and at times as many as 600 Allied ships were anchored in Seeadler Harbour. All in all, a million Americans and Australians passed through. A year after the war ended, the Allies had gone, but not before they had scrapped everything. Not surprisingly, this display of Western technology and profligacy had quite an impact on the local people, an impact that anthropologist Margaret Mead described in her book New Lives for Old. After the war a remarkable movement led by Paliau Moloat, put paid to old Manus. Although it was first treated simply as a cargo cult, it is now recognized as one of Papua New Guinea's first post-war independence movements and as a force for modernisation. The movement brought together the diverse tribes of the islands in unified resistance to the Australian administration and to the old ways. it also had a significant religious component and came to be known as the Paliau Church.

Old cults and rituals were thrown over, villages were rebuilt in imitation of European styles, even local schools and self-government were instituted long before the Australian administration accepted that independence was inevitable. Paliau was imprisoned in the early days but in 1964 he was elected to the House of Assembly. He has not held a seat in the independent Papua New Guinea parliament. perhaps because of their trading prowess and their early realisation of the importance of education, Manus people hold positions of responsibility throughout the country, disproportionate to their small numbers. Because of Manus' fragile economic base, the money repatriated by these workers is most important. Coconuts and copra are still the most significant cash crop on the island, but there is some logging, and fishing has potential. Of the approximately 35,000 citizens born in the province, 7000 live outside.

Manus is the smallest province in Papua New Buinea, both in terns of land area (2100 sq km) and population, but it has a vast sea area (200,000 sq km). Its northern boundary is the equator. There are more than 200 islands, ranging from Manus, the largest (104 km long by 28 km wide) and highest (704 metres) to tiny coral atolls, most of which are uninhabited. Loregan, the provincial headquarters, is on Manus Island. Despite the proximity to the equator, the daily temperatures are a moderate 24 degrees C to 30 degrees C, although humidity is high. In Lorengan the other time of the year is between September and December, but in many places there is no real wet season. Strong winds from November to March can make sea travel uncomfortable.
The people of the province are Melanesians, although there has been some intermixing with Micronesians, particularly on the atolls to the west. The population can be artificially divided into three, although the clan, village and tribal links are much more complicated than this would suggest. The Manus people (sometimes referred to as Titians) occupy the south and north-west islands and share a common language, Titan. These people depend mainly on fishing for their livelihood. The Matangol live to the north, also depend on some agriculture. The Usiai are inland people and are exclusively gardeners. There is further specialisation between those who make canoes, nets, pottery, coconut oil, obsidian blades and wood carvings.

Obviously, such specialisation was dependent on trade, which is known as the Kawai system. Although ritual, magic and friendship played an important part, the practical result was that the Manus traded fish and shells for sago and taro from the Usiai and all groups traded their own particular specialty. The obsidian blades from Lou Island were especially important. Although the Kawas system no longer exists in its traditional form it does continue in some ways. This is partly because of the distribution of land, reefs, rivers and seas which are inherited on a patrilineal system. Although the Manus were allocated some of the German-planted coconut plantations they, and to a lesser extent the Matangol, still suffer from a shortage of fertile land. This is changing, with inter-marriage occurring more frequently. Margaret Mead first studied the Manus in her book Growing up in New Guinea and came back for a second look after World War II. Her studies have been criticised in academic circles, but they still give a fascinating and readable insight into traditional society. 

Extensive tattoos are fairly common among Manus people, with some designs in the public domain and others reserved for certain people. A common place for a tattoo is in the middle of the forehead, and if you are someone elsewhere in Papua New Guinea with a tattoo there, it is likely that they come from Manus. Despite its relative poverty, Manus has a good education system, and it shows - you can have some interesting conversations here. Four years of secondary schooling are compulsory, and students unable to attend the few secondary schools in the province use the radio 'School of the air'. The facts almost match the theory, with over a third of the population having received at least six years of schooling. English is widely spoken, even in remote villages.

Carving has virtually died out in the province although the people of Bipi Island still do some - you can see examples in the Lorengau council office. Wooden bowls, some spears and arrow heads were produced on Lou Island and shields and spears decorated with shark's teeth were produced on the North Western Islands. Dancing is the most popular form of cultural activity.

Only two degrees south of the equator, Manus is a steamy, sleepy place, with inland jungle on the central limestone hills which rise to about 700 metres. There are many sharp ridges and steams. Los Negros is volcanic, and rather more fertile than the main island. Very few visitors come to the Manus and there are few tourist-oriented services.
Land Area -- 9400 sq km
Population -- 165,000

The islands that comprise the North Solomons (Buka, Bougainville and a scattering of smaller atolls) are more closely related to the neighbouring, independent Solomon Islands than they are to much of Papua New Guinea - just as the name suggests. The major island, Bougainville, is green, rugged and little developed, yet it provides a very considerable portion Papua New Guinea's gross national product from the massive open-cut copper mine at Panguna - at least it did until the Bougainville Revolutionary Army closed down the mine. Due to the rebellion on Bougainville and the Papua New Guinea government's blockade of the island (see the following History section), visitors are not permitted, and it will be a long time before the situation returns to normal. Buka Island has suffered less, but you should still be cautious about visiting, even if it is legally possible.

It is not known from where, or when the first settlers arrived on Bougainville. It is possible that the present dark-skinned Melanesians who inhabit the island first settled as long as 30,000 years ago. Bougainville acquired its very French name from the explorer Louis Antoine de Bougainville who sailed up the east coast in 1768. Near the narrow passage which separates Bougainville from Buka he came across natives paddling long, artistically carved canoes. They greeted him with cries of 'Buka, Buka' which Bougainville promptly named their island. Actually, buka simply means 'who or 'what' - a very reasonable question to ask! Of course Bougainville was not the first European to drop by, Torres passed by in 1606.

A hundred years lager, Catholic missionaries attempted to set up a mission at Kieta. They were driven away on their first attempt, but they were more successful the second time around. Bougainville and Buka were considered part of the Solomon group, which was a British possession, until 1898, when they were traded to Germany. The Germans added them to their New Guinea colony and set up copra plantations along the coast, and in return the British had their ascendancy over Vavau in Tonga and the other islands in the Solomons confirmed. Australia seized the North Solomons, along with the rest of New Guinea, at the start of World War I. The Bougainvilleans, however, had a reputation for being 'difficult' and although the island was thoroughly explored by the Australian administration, by the start of World War II the only development was still on the coast.

In mid-1942 the Japanese arrived, swiftly defeated the Australians, and held most of the island until the end of the war. Buka in the north became an important air base, Shortland Island (part of the Solomons) was a major naval base and Buin, at the southern tip of Bougainville, was an equally important base for ground troops. Australian coastwatchers scored some notable successes on Bougainville, particularly during the battle for Guadalcanal. Jack Read, a district officer, and Paul Mason, a plantation owner, retreated into the jungle after the Japanese occupation. Read watched over Buka Passage, near his former station, while Mason set himself up near Buin in the south. bomber aircraft from Rabaul and bound for Guadalcanal passed over Buka and Buin and the fighters were based right at Buka, allowing the coastwatchers to give the Allied forces a two-hour warning of impending air strikes. This knowledge gave the Allies a tremendous advantage in what many regard as a critical battle - a turning point in the Pacific war. Miraculously, Paul Mason and Jack Read both survived, despite determined efforts by the Japanese to track them down.

In November 1943, American troops captured the west coast port of Torokina and, in 1944, Australian forces started to fight their way south towards Buin. Fortunately, the war ended before they came into direct confrontation with the main Japanese force. Nevertheless, the cost of the war in Bougainville was staggering. of 80,000 Japanese troops only 23,000 are thought to have been killed in action and the remaining 37,000 died in the jungles of disease and starvation. After the war Bougainville returned to normal - a mixture of quiet, subsistence farming and fishing villages and a few plantations. The district headquarters was transformed from Kieta to Sohano in Buka Passage but found its way back to Kieta in 1960.

Then, in 1964, a major copper discovery at Pangana revolutionised Bougainville. Over K400 million was invested in the development of the mine and its ancillary operations. A new town, roads, a power station and a port were all constructed from scratch. And thousands of workers from around Papua New Guinea and the world descended, bringing with them a cash economy and all its attendant vices. The district headquarters is now at Arawa, the main dormitory town for the mine. The mine was developed by Bougainville Copper Ltd (BCL), a subsidiary of Australia's (CRA, itself a subsidiary of the British Rio Tinto Zinc.

Secession & War
In the lead-up to independence, Bougainville was a strong part of the push for an independent grouping of the Bismarck Archipelago islands. The plan quickly faded, but around 1975 strong Bougainville secessionist movements sprang up, with Father John Momis as one of the leaders. Partly to offset this pressure, the North Solomons was granted provincial government, and the 'me too' reaction from the rest of the country has seen Papua New Guinea hardened with all those provincial governments. Meanwhile, the Panguna mine went ahead, huge royalties flowed to the landowners and the Papua New Guinea government, expat enclaves were established and everything seemed rosy.

However, a new generation was growing up. A small group of traditional landowners was doing very well out of the mine, but not much community development was taking place. Nor, it was claimed, were these landowners even the legitimate recipients of the royalties, and anyway, the environmental destruction caused by the mine was affecting many more people than those directly compensated for it. Many people had been against Panguna in the first place, and there was a growing feeling that the people had been cheated in the initial negotiations with CRA - that in their innocence they had signed away their land without realising the consequences, and they had not been given enough money for doing so. Criticism of CRA's parent company in Rabaul West's influential book River of Tears, also fuelled fears about foreign control of Papua New Guinea's economy and an apartheid-style situation developing. Sean Doney, in his excellent book Papua New Guinea, says that the rebels later wore T-shirts printed with 'River of Tears'.

In 1987 the Panguna Landowners' Association was formed, lead by Pepetua Sereo and Francis Ona, as an alternative to the previous group who were seen as puppets of BCL. It demanded better environmental protection, huge back-payments of profits from the mine and US$10 billion in compensation. Not surprisingly, these demands were not met, and in 1988 the Bougainville Revolutionary Army (BRA) began to sabotage the mine. Relations between the police sent to protect the mine and the locals deteriorated sharply. Several politicians, including the premier, were beaten-up by police, and the police and workers from other parts of Papua New Guinea came under attack from the BRA.  Increasing attacks on mine workers resulted in the mine closing altogether in late 1989. This was an enormous blow to the Papua New Guinea economy, although Ok Tedi and the new Highlands gold mines have meant that it was not a disaster.

After the mine closed a state of emergency was declared, the Papua New Guinea army moved in and the conflict spread to the rest of the island. While villages were moved into so-called care centres, outside areas of BRA control. To make sure the people moved, the army burned their villages and stories about rape and murder by the army flooded out of Bougainville. The Panguna issue had become a civil war. In 1990, the international concern about human rights violations and the hopelessness of a war which was costing many lives on both sides lead the Papua New Guinea government to simply give up on Bougainville, withdrawing all its forces and instituting a blockade. The blockade resulted in great hardship to the people of Bougainville. News from the island since then has been highly unreliable, but it seems likely that the BRA has been committing some atrocities of its own. 

Paius Wingti won the 1992 elections partly on a platform of of solving the Bougainville problem, but his solution has been to simply send back the army. The situation remains confused and the blockade is still in force. The BRA has evaded the blockade by bringing over supplies from the nearby Solomon Islands, and the Papua New Guinea army has caused international tension by raiding suspected BRA bases in the Solomons, killing a few innocent people in the process. The Papua New Guinea army now controls most of Bougainville's main centres but the BRA still controls large areas of jungle. Francis Ona has offered to surrender if it is negotiated under church supervision, but Wingti has rejected this and calls for the unconditional surrender of the rebels. Still, it seems that the leaders might eventually reach an agreement.

Unfortunately, that won't help solve what has been a major problem all along - the angry young men with guns. The Papua New Guinea army probably doesn't have the resources to hunt them all down and the politicians certainly don't have the will - things would get very much nastier than they have been if the army tried to defeat the BRA in a no-holds-barred war. If most members of the BRA don't go along with a negotiated surrender, an ugly little guerrilla war could boil along almost indefinitely.

Bougainville is about 200 km long and 60 to 100 km wide and covered in wild, generally impenetrable jungle. There are two major mountain ranges - in the south the Crown Prince ranges and in the north the higher Emperor Ranges. The highest mountain is Mt Balbi at 2745 metres; Balbi is an active volcano, like its smaller and more spirited cousin Mt Bagana, and is visible from both coasts. The coastal areas are extremely fertile and most of the population is concentrated along them. Buka, in the north, is separated from Bougainville by a channel only 300 metres wide and a km long. Tidal currents rush through the passage at up to eight knots. In the south Buka is hilly, reaching 400 metres at its highest point. Buka is generally low-lying, apart from this southern hill region, and very wet - annual rainfall is over six metres. There are many coral islands off its south and west coast.


The people of Bougainville and Buka are often collectively referred to as Bukas and the early German colonisers favored them due to their energy and abilities. The Bougainville people are instantly recognisable anywhere in Papua New Guinea due to their extremely dark skins, said to be the blackest in the world. There are 19 different languages on Bougainville.  The Bougainvilleans' relative affluence has, like the Tolai of East new Britain, led to a reluctance to perform the dull work on copra plantations and copra-labourers are imported from either parts of the country. Many people, however, still live in bush-material villages and depend on shifting agriculture for their food. The Bougainvilleans are proud of their traditions and culture and, despite the strong influence of the church, are determined to retain them. always ask permission before entering a village and then ask to see the head man.

People on the islands north-west of buka Passage still occasionally fish by the unique kite and spider web method. A woven palm leaf kite is towed behind a canoe and a lure, made of a wad of spider webs, is skillfully bounced along the surface of the sea. Garfish, leaping at the lure, get their teeth entangled in the web and are then hauled in.
Kieta and Arawa, virtually contiguous, have been severely damaged and remain off-limites.


Coming north from the airport you first go through Toniva, a suburb of Kieta, then Kieta, which is now virtually a suburb of Arawa, and then 10 km east (over the Kieta Peninsula) Arawa, the main town. Four km north-west of Arawa is Loloho on Arawa Bay. This is the post to which the copper concentrate was piped down from Panguna, the site of the power station and home to many of the mine workers. There's an attractive beach. The mine itself is high in the mountains, often shrouded in cloud and rain, about 28 km drive south-west from Arawa.


High in the centre of Bougainville is one of the world's largest artificial holes - Bougainville Copper's gigantic open-cut mine at Panguna. A geological expedition discovered copper reserves in Panguna in 1964 and by 1967 the size of the deposit was known to be large enough to justify cutting an access road from Kobuna. Progress from that point was rapid in 1969 construction of the mining project started, advance sales of copper were made, the temporary road was upgraded and port facilities were constructed. At the peak period for construction, before the mine started commercial operation in 1972, 10,000 people were employed. Before it was closed by the BRA, 4000 people worked for Bougainville Copper and approximately one in five were foreigners.

Buin, in the south of the island, has suffered less damage than Kieta/Arawa, but it's still off-limits. Buin is extremely wet from November to April. It is here that the finely made Buka baskets are woven - not, as the name might suggest, at Buka Island in the north. During the war Buin was the site of a very large Japanese army base and the area is packed with rusting relics of the war. The extensive Japanese fortifications came to nothing because the Australians landed north of Torokina and moved south, instead of making the frontal attack the Japanese had expected. You can see much wreckage at Lamuai and on the Kahili Plantation which you can walk to from Buin. Before the troubles there was a district office, a couple of trade stores, a PNGBC bank, and an interesting, bustling market, with many people coming from the Shortland Islands in the Solomons to sell fish. 
Apart from the formidable base the Japanese developed, there were plan s for resettling a huge number of civilian Japanese in the area - at a place called Little Tokyo. There were plans to develop some village guesthouses in the area, including at the beautiful Tonnoli Harbour. If you take the road straight though Buin, you come to an intersection; turn right to head back to Arawa through Siwai and Panguna, left to Malahita village or straight ahead for Kangu Beach. If you head for Kangu Beach, keep driving for 10 to 15 minutes until you spot a small overgrown bunker on the right and a track just past it. This goes through to an open area with a couple of pill boxes and a gun pointing forlornly out to sea. The beach is a long stretch of sand, with islands hovering on the horizon. If you don't turn off to Kangu Beach, you come to the little cove where the open boats from the Shortland Islands pull in and past that you come to a collapsed bridge and an attractive village.
Population 20,000

A crushed coral road runs up the east coast of Buka Island, connecting the copra plantation. construction of the road caused some local strife between the local council and the locally organised Hahalis Welfare Society, centred around Hanahan. Both of them insisted that road construction was their prerogative and members of the society refused to pay the head tax. Even more colourful was their Hahalis baby farm in the 1960s which had a certain flavour of organised prostitution about it.

There are a scattering of islands far away from Bougainville and Buka which, nevertheless, come under North Solomons jurisdiction. Some are as easily accessible from New Ireland as from the North Solomons.
Nuguria (Feed) Group
The 50-odd islands in the group have a total area of only five sq km and a population of not much over 200 Polynesians. They are about 200 km east of New Ireland and a similar distance north of Buka.
Nukumanu (Tasman) Islands
Nukumanu is the largest island in the group with an area of less than three sq km. They lie about 400 km north-east of Bougainville and much closer to the extensive Ontong Java Atoll in the Solomon Islands. The population is about 300 Polynesians. 
Kilinailau (Carteret) Group
Only 70 km north-east of Buka they comprise six islands on a 16 km circular atoll. The population of about 900 are Buka people who appear to have supplanted earlier Polynesian inhabitants.
Tau (Mortlock) Group
About 195 km north-east of Bougainville the ring shaped reef has about 20 islands, virtually mid-way on a line drawn from the Carteret to the Tasman Islands. The population of around 600 is predominantly Polynesian.
Green Islands
The Green Islands are on an atoll about 16 km by eight km which lies approximately 70 km north-west of Buka. Nissan is the large elliptical island and the smaller ones lie within its curve. Nissan and Pinipel Island, a little further north, are the only islands in the group which are inhabited. Total population is about 3200. The textbook perfect atoll was totally evacuated during World War II and a large American airbase was operated here. After the war vast quantities of supplies were dumped and thousands of drums of fuel were sold at only US$0.13 a litre. There was no shortage of war surplus material in New Guinea.

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