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New Guinea

NEW GUINEA, the largest island (excluding Australia) in the world, lying between the equator and 12 S. and 130 50' and 151 30' E., separated from Australia by Torres Strait and having the Arafura Sea on the south-west. It is divided politically between Britain (south-east), Germany (north-east) and Holland (west), the Dutch territory occupying about 48-6% of the whole area, the German 28-3% and the British Territory of Papua 23-1%. The total area is estimated to be 312,329 sq. m.

New Guinea was probably in Miocene times, if not later, united to the northern part of Queensland. The deeply indented shore of the Gulf of Papua forms the boundary of the subsided area between the two countries, and from it the land stretches out for 200 to 300 m. north and west on both sides of the Fly river in vast plains, little elevated above sea-level. From Cape Buru westwards precipitous limestone cliffs, several hundred feet high, face the sea and rise into forest-clad mountains behind. The northern extremity of New Guinea is all but severed from the mainland by the deep MacCluer Inlet, running eastwards towards Geelvink Bay which deeply indents the northern coast. Southwards from Geelvink Bay the north-east coast is more regular than the south-western. Off its coast-line, on the parallel of 6 S., lies the vast Bismarck Archipelago, of which New Pomerania (Neu Pommern) is the most important member; and, on the parallel of 10, the d'Entrecasteaux Islands, with the Marshall Bennett group to their north-east; while stretching out from the south-east promontory of the mainland is the Louisiade Archipelago. The Great Barrier Reef of Australia can be traced more or less continuously round the Gulf of Papua and along the south-east coast to the extremity of the Louisiades. In a general way it may be said that on the west coast of New Guinea, from Cape Buru to the Louisiades, the sea is shallow, while on its steeper eastern side the water close in-shore is often too deep ;2 Al* y?- 136 .>' ..*V* ' r ""< . ~~ Admiralty Islands . f (T*fM "'< Hanum -....

Archipelago ^\i W<? J <.i"'' -pi" 1 ' .-.i ".<'' V" *,(!>* Vlb?'" KVJgteiSpr . -" 5*JwSS*^v ' . " ,x* I jfe^ss for safe anchorage. The islands on the southern margin of the Louisiade Archipelago are raised coral reefs, but the majority are mountainous, rarely, however, exceeding 3000 ft.; all of them are richly forested, but of little agricultural value. The volcanic d'Entrecasteaux Islands are mostly larger, more elevated (the highest being 8000 ft.), and stand in deeper water than the Louisiade group. To the east of Kiriwina (Trobriand) lies a small group of uniquely formed islets, each of which is completely surrounded by a steep forest-clad marginal rampart of coral 300 to 400 ft. high, concealing a depressed inhabited central plateau.

Starting in the southern extremity of New Guinea from an abrupt face some 3000 ft. high, and traversing its centre nearly parallel to both coasts, run high ranges of mountains, which, if not continuous, merge into each other in the same general direction. The Owen Stanley range-its highest summit, named by Huxley in 1850 Mount Owen Stanley, 13,120 ft. the Albert Victor Mountains, the Sir Arthur Gordon range, and the Bismarck Mountains form a backbone united probably with the Sneeuw (Snowy) Mts., where perpetual snow was found by Dr. Lorentz in 1909 at 14,635 ft., and the height of Mt. Wilhelmina was fixed at 15,580 ft. This height may be exceeded by Mt. Carstensz. Other ranges, mostly of lower altitude, run parallel mainly to the east and west coasts. The most important and best-known rivers are the Amberno, in the north, discharging by a wide delta at Point d'Urville; the Kaiserin Augusta, which, rising in the Charles Louis range, and entering the Pacific near Cape della Torre, is navigable by ocean steamers for 180 m.; the Ottilien, a river of great length, which discharges into the sea a short distance south of the last named; and the Mambare, navigable by steam-launch for 50 m. which drains the eastern aspect of Wasigororo Mountains and enters the sea near the Anglo-German boundary. Below 8 S. the narrowness of the country precludes the existence of any very important rivers on either coast. The Purari, however, whose delta is 20 m. long by 20 broad, is navigable for 120 m. by steam-launch, while the Fly has been traversed by the same means for 500 and by a whale-boat for over 600 m. The latter drains an enormous tract of country, which is so little elevated above the sea-level that it can never be of any agricultural or commercial value. West of 141 E. the geographical features of the coast, except in the region of MacCluer Inlet and Geelvink Bay, are very little known, and those of the interior even less.

Geology. The geology of British New Guinea is best known from the report of A. Gibb Maitland (Ann. Rep., British New Guinea, 1891-1892; Par/. Papers, Queensland, 1893, C.A. 1. 53-85, with 3 maps and 3 plates; bibliography, p. 85), which shows that the axis of the territory is a high range, composed of slates and schists of undetermined age, with intrusive plutonic rocks. In the district around Port Glasgow, on the south coast of the eastern peninsula, are the Boioro limestones, also of unknown age ; they are lead-coloured, brecciated limestones with interbedded dolerites. Some Cretaceous or Upper Jurassic rocks occur in the basin of the Fly river. The Port Moresby beds are Cainozoic. They are highly inclined, and occupy a large range of country along the south coast, and include the Macgillivray Range, to the north-east of Beagle Bay. They are marine and probably Miocene; and range up to the height of 800 ft. above the sea, approximately the same limit as in Victoria. The Kevori grits, and the raised coral reefs are upper Cainozoic, and perhaps Pleistocene; but the reefs occur inland up to a height of 2000 ft. and their range back in time has not been fixed. The volcanic series include the rhyolite of Nell Island, some obsidian, and the sheets of basalts which form the Cloudy Mountains, Mount Dayman and Mount Trafalgar (an active volcano), and also cover wide areas to the south and west of the Owen Stanley Range. Most of western British New Guinea consists of recent superficial deposits, in the basin of the Fly river. The Louisiade and the d'Entrecasteaux Islands consist of the same slates and schists as form the main axis of the eastern peninsula, and they are auriferous. The geology of the rest of New Guinea is imperfectly known. It appears to consist in the main of a continuation of an axis of old schists and slates, with granite intrusions, and flanked by coastal plains with Cretaceous or Jurassic, and Miocene beds, with Pleistocene sands and reefs and volcanic rocks. In the north-west coal deposits occur. Fergusson Island clearly shows remains of extinct craters, and possesses numerous hot springs, saline lakes and solfataras depositing sulphur and alum. In Murua (Woodlark I.) are quarries of the banded quartzite from which the best stone adzes found throughout south-east New Guinea are made. In Rossel Island (Roua or Arova) occur crystalline schistose and volcanic rocks, and in Misima (St Aignan) limestones and lavas in addition. Nearly all the rivers in New Guinea yield " colours " of gold, but only in the Louisiade Archipelago has enough been discovered to constitute the district a goldfield. No auriferous reefs have been found. Black magnetic iron sand covers the shore in Milne Bay. Coal has been observed in the Purari sandstones. In the Gira river the valuable alloy osmiridium has been discovered. Earthquakes are rare on the mainland, but not infrequent in Bismarck and d'Entrecasteaux archipelagos.

Climate. Since the mountains as a rule traverse the island parallel to its coasts, the eastern shores have far less rain than the western. The amount which falls, chiefly at night, varies from 30 in. on some parts of the coast to 130 at others, and to a far greater but unknown amount in the mountains. Throughout the dry or cool season the wind blows steadily and almost uninterruptedly (except for an hour or so forenoon and afternoon) from the south-east. The temperature has an extreme range of from 72 to 95 F., with a mean of about 80. At an elevation of 3000 ft. the climate is pleasantly cool ; at 13,000 ft. ice forms in the night, but disappears with the heat of the Sun. No snow is known certainly to fall, though it is alleged to have been seen from the sea lying on the summits of the Charles Louis range. Fever is very prevalent on the coasts, and even in the interior at 2000 ft. above the sea. Though generally of a mild character, it is persistently recurrent, and slowly saps and wears out the constitution ; too often it is virulent and rapidly fatal.

Fauna. New Guinea shares in the poverty in mammals of the Australian sub-region. Monotremes (2 species) and marsupials (4 families and 44 species) predominate, but are not abundant. Among the tatter two genera, Distaechurus and Dorcopsis, are peculiar. A pig (Sus papuensis), a dingo, several species of mice (of which Chiruromys is a peculiar genus), a few squirrels, and a considerable number of Chiroptera (bats) inhabit the country. The island is specially remarkable for the number and beauty of its birds. The most recent lists record over 500 species as found in the Papuan area, and of these between 50 and 60 genera are peculiar to it. The birds of paradise, which are confined to the sub-region, give special celebrity to its fauna. Between 70 and 80 species have already been described, many of them the most gorgeously adorned, and others, such as the Pteridophora albertisi, the most wonderful of feathered creatures. They are absent from the Louisiades, but species occur in the d'Entrecasteaux Islands which have not Jjeen seen on the mainland opposite. The zoology of the Bismarck Archipelago is little known. The species of birds so far described from it number 178 (referable to 38 families), of which 74 are peculiar to it, though closely allied to Papuan forms. It contains, however, no Paradiseidae. The Amphibia, to which the sea is a barrier, are almost exclusively of Australian affinities. Turtles and tortoises are plentiful on the coast. Ceratochelys insculpta of the Fly river, a chelonian peculiar to New Guinea, is remarkable in having its nearest affinities (as have the Papuan tortoises) with South American species. Of the lizards, 3 of the 6 species of Varanidae, 16 of the 30 Scincidae, 8 Geckonidae, and 8 out of the 1 1 Agamidae are peculiar. Salamanders, toads and frogs are numerous, and crocodiles abound. Only 4 genera and 5 species of snakes are peculiar to New Guinea, many of them poisonous. Butterflies, moths and bees are very abundant, the former being remarkable for their size and splendid coloration; but these groups have not been investigated exhaustively enough to afford a correct idea of their number or their true affinities. Although the list of Coleoptera already known is long, it represents only a fraction of the species remaining to be discovered. The land molluscs show relationship with the Indian and the Malayan sub-regions; but many forms have here their centre, and have spread hence into Australia and the Pacific islands.

Flora. Most of the foreshores of New Guinea are eucalyptusdotted grass lands; in the interior dense forests prevail to a height of many thousand feet. Vast tracts of the country have been, however, deforested by fire, and these are covered by the tall ineradicable grass, Imperata arundinacea. So far the highest altitudes yet Eotanically investigated are those of the Owen Stanley range and the mountains in Kaiser Wilhelms Land, but of the flora of the highest range of all the Charles Louis mountains nothing is known. The vascular plants already described number about 1500 species. In the low and sub-mountainous lands the flora is a mixture of Malayan, Australian and Polynesian forms. There are, according to Muller, twice as many palms known from New Guinea as from Australia. The alpine flora, beginning at 6000 ft., is specially characterized by its rhododendrons, pines (Araucaria and Libocedrus), and palms, by numerous superb species of Agapetes (Ericaceae), and on the summits by an extraordinary association of species characteristically European (Rubus, Ranunculus, Leontodon, Aspidium), Himalayan, New Zealandian (Veronica), Antarctic and South American (Drymus, Libocedrus). Good pasture grasses are numerous, but pasture lands are limited. The usual tropical food-plants are cultivated. Tobacco has been found growing in the interior, and may be indigenous, as is in some districts the Kaya pepper (Piper methysticum). At Dorey a cotton plant (G. vitifolium) grows wild, and is also cultivated.

Natives. So large an area of New Guinea remains unexplored that it is impossible, except approximately, to state the number of its inhabitants, but probably 600,000 is under rather than over the mark. The people are broken up into numerous isolated tribes differing greatly in feature, colour and language. Ethnically they belong as a whole to the Melanesian division of the Indo-Pacific races. The_ predominant tribe are the Papuans (q.v.), who are found here in their greatest racial purity and occupy practically the whole island except its eastern extremity. The New Guinea native is usually of a negroid type with fine physique, but in the Arfak mountains in the north-west, and at points on the west and north coasts and adjacent islands, the very degraded and stunted Karons are found, with hardly the elements of social organization (possibly the aboriginal race unmixed with foreign elements), and resembling the Aetas or Negritos of the Philippines, and other kindred tribes in the Malay Archipelago. On the banks of the Fly river d'Albertis observed at least two widely differing types, those on its upper course bearing some resemblance to the tribes of the eastern coast. Here, wedged in among the ruder Papuans, who reappear at the extremity of the peninsula, a very different-looking people are found, whom competent observers, arguing from appearance, language and customs, assert to be a branch of the fair Polynesian race. But they are obviously of mixed blood. On the west coasts there is a semi-civilization, due to intercourse with Malays and Bugis, who have settled at various points, and carry on the trade with the neighbouring islands, in some of which, while the coast population is Malay or mixed, that of the interior is identical with the people of the mainland of New Guinea. On the west coasts Mahommedan teaching has also some civilizing effect. Many of the tribes at the west end of New Guinea are, at all events in war time, head-hunters, and in the mountains cannibals. Cannibalism, in fact, is practised here and there throughout New Guinea. The frequent hostility and mistrust of strangers are partly due to slavehunting raids and ill-treatment by traders, but the different tribes vary much in character. Thus in the mountains of the north-west the Karons live by plunder, or by disposal of slaves or bird skins; while their neighbours the Kebars are a peaceful agricultural people. The mountain tribes are usually despised by their coast neighbours, but in the south of west New Guinea the coast people live in perpetual terror of their inland neighbours.

At Humboldt Bay the people are ready to trade, as are the tribes at Astrolabe Bay; here the Russian Miklucho Maclay lived for some time, and was favourably impressed by the natives. Still farther east, the plateaus of the Finisterre ranges are highly cultivated and artificially irrigated by a comparatively fair people. Many tribes in the south-west seem to be migratory. At Princess Marianne Straits tribes much wilder than those farther west, naked and painted, swarm like monkeys in the trees, the stems of which are submerged at high tide. But the Torres Straits islanders are employed by Europeans in the pearl shell fishery, and are good labourers ; and in some of the Kei and An; Islands the Papuan inhabitants form orderly Christian communities. The people of the south-east peninsula are generally far from ferocious. Englishmen, wandering inland and losing their way, have been found and brought back by them. Their ^manners are more courteous, their women better treated, than is usual with Papuans, but they show perhaps less ingenuity and artistic taste. Their children, in the mission schools, show much intelligence.

Exploration and Annexation. Though probably sighted by Antonio d'Abreu, 1511, New Guinea was apparently first visited either by the Portuguese Don Jorge de Meneses, driven on his way from Goa to Ternate in 1526 to take shelter at " Isla Versija " (which has been identified with Warsia, a place on the N.W. coast, but may possibly be the island of Waigeu), or by the Spaniard Alvaro de Saavedra two years later. The name of " New Guinea " was probably given by Ortiz de Retez, or Roda, who in 1546 first laid down several points along the north coast. In the same and the two following centuries, though the coasts were visited by many illustrious navigators, as Willem Schouten and Jacob Lemaire, Abel Tasman, William Dampier, L. V. de Torres, L. A. de Bougainville and James Cook, little additional knowledge was gained. This was due first to the difficulties of the navigation, next to the exclusiveness of the Dutch, who, holding the Spice Islands, prevented all access to places east of them, and lastly to the stream of enterprise being latterly diverted to the more temperate regions farther south. The Dutch barrier was broken down by the arrival of Dampier and other " interlopers " from the east, and of emissaries from the (English) East India Company hi search of spice-bearing lands. The voyage of Thomas Forrest (1774) in the " Tartar galley " of 10 tons, and his account of New Guinea ( Voyage to New Guinea and the Moluccas, London, 1780), are still full of interest. New Guinea was actually annexed in 1793 by two commanders in the East India Company's service, and the island of Manasvari in Geelvink Bay was held for some months by their troops. After the peace of 1815 Dutch surveying expeditions to the west coasts became numerous, and in later times scientific explorers penetrated many of the unknown parts of Dutch New Guinea, such as A. R. Wallace (1856-1863), Odoardo Beccari (1871, 1875 and 1876), and Maria d'Albertis (1871-1878). Important expeditions were those of P. van der Crab, J. E. Teysmann, J. G. Coorengel, A. J. Langeveldt van Hemert and P. Swaan, undertaken for the Netherlands Indian government 1871-1872, 1875-1876 (reports published at The Hague in 1879); and f C. B. H. von Rosenberg in the Geelvink Bay districts in 1869-1870 (report published at The Hague in 1875). Subsequently to the visits of J. A. d'Entrecasteaux (1793) and Dumont d'Urville (1827-1840), the eastern coasts were surveyed by Captains F.P. Blackwood (1835)^ Owen Stanley (1848), Charles B. Yule (1864), and other British officers, including J. Moresby (1874). Among other explorers in this period the following may be mentioned: Nicholas von Miklucho Maclay in 1870, 1877 and 1870-1881, in the Astrolabe Bay district, etc.; the missionary, Rev. S. Macfarlane (1875, Fly river, etc.); about 1876-1880 the north-east coasts and adjacent islands were explored by the Rev. G. Brown and by Wilfred Powell, and in 1882 Dr Otto Finsch, whose name is.well known in connexion with scientific work in New Guinea, made valuable explorations in the neighbourhood of Port Moresby and the Loluki river.

The surveys and reports of Captain Moresby in 1874 brought home to Queensland (and Australia generally) the dangers possible to her commerce were the coasts opposite to Torres Strait and the entrance to the splendid waterway inside the Barrier Reef to fall into the possession of a foreign power. By authority, therefore, of Queensland, the mainland of New Guinea, opposite her shores east of the 14151 meridian, was annexed to that colony- in 1883. But this action was disallowed by the British government as Yule's and Moresby's had been. Finally, however, in 1884 a British protectorate was authoritatively proclaimed by Commodore Erskine over the region " lying between the 14131 meridian eastward as far as East Cape, with the adjacent islands as far as Kosman Island." German New Guinea was annexed on the 16th of November 1884, when the German flag was raised in Friedrich Wilhelmshafen and a trading company was established on the north-east coast, and in 1885 the two countries agreed to fix their boundaries through the then neutral areas of the country. The result of this was the assignation to Great Britain of the portion now known as the Territory of Papua (British New Guinea), lying between the extreme limits of 5 and 1 2 S. and 141 and 1 55 E. To Germany were assigned all the territory and islands to the north of the British boundary under the name of Kaiser Wilhelms Land, while all to the west of the 141 st meridian remained under its old flag as Dutch New Guinea.

Since this period explorers and investigators have been almost constantly at work. There may be mentioned the work of the Rev. J. Chalmers on the coast of the Gulf of Papua (1893), and of officers of the German New Guinea Company in the ship Ysabel " on the coasts and among the islands of the German territory; the expedition which crossed the south-eastern peninsula from Huon Gulf of which both the leaders, O. Ehlers and M. Piering, lost their lives (1895), the important German expedition under C. Lauterbach (1896), and the various explorations carried out by or at the instigation of Sir William MacGregor, including a crossing of the island from the mouth of the Mambare river to that of the Vanapa, and a second crossing in the reverse direction (1897). Ethnographical researches have been prosecuted by Messrs C. G. Seligmann and W. Mersh Strong, and others. The reports of travellers and of various missionary societies have thrown a great deal of light on the natural history of the island, on its resources, and the islanders.

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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