Papua New Guinea Travel Trivia
World’s second largest island
Papua New Guinea covers the eastern half of the world’s second-largest island, New Guinea, in the southwest Pacific. Greenland ranks #1, Borneo #3, and Great Britain #9. The western half of the island belongs to Indonesia.
It never rains in Southern California?
Well it certainly rains in PNG. There is only one country with higher rainfall, the tiny Sao Tome and Principe. You thought it rains a lot in Old Blighty? Well, it rains more than 2.5 times as much in PNG. It is sunny most of the time (PNG ranks similar to Australia in terms of hours of bright sunshine per year), but when it rains, you better take out your snorkel and put on your wetsuit.
PNG gained independence from Australia in 1975. The north-eastern part of the archipelago used to be a German colony.
PNG’s head of state is Queen Elizabeth II.
Approximately 700 Papuan and Melanesian tribes live in the country, each with its own language.
Despite being among the most resource-rich countries (per capita) in the world, PNG is relying more heavily on foreign aid (per capita) than any other sizeable country and ranks among the world’s poorest.
PNG has 781 species of birds and a paradise bird adorns its national flag.
As the world’s largest and highest tropical island, New Guinea is a safe haven for global biodiversity. It is home to about 8% of the world’s vertebrates and 10% of the world’s fish species, despite only covering less than 0.5% of the world’s land surface.
Culture and Cults
The defining feature of social organisation of the roughly 7 million citizens is still the tribe, with so-called big men having the last word on everything. They become big men and retain their status by giving gifts to other members of their tribe.
During WW II the Japanese and the Allied Forces dropped vast amounts of boxes of supplies on parachutes from airplanes onto some remote islands, hoping they would be picked up by their soldiers on the ground, but often left there to rot. Locals, who often had never seen anyone or anything outside their world, started so-called cargo cults (some had existed since the late 1800s for other reasons). They variably attributed divine qualities to specific Americans, all Allied Forces, airplanes, the boxes and items dropped, or a combination thereof.
According to Wikipedia cannibalism is still practiced in Papua New Guinea as of 2012, mainly for cultic reasons. In July 2012, twenty-nine local tribesmen were arrested in northeast Papua New Guinea after eating at least seven people believed to be sorcerers.
Rabaul on the island of New Britain is generally considered to be among the world’s three most active volcanoes. The town of the same name at the foot of the volcano regularly gets destroyed as a consequence of eruptions, lastly literally wiped out in 1994. Luckily, only five people lost their lives.
PNG’s highest mountain, Mount Wilhelm, is 4.509m high. Carstensz Pyramid, the highest mountain on the Indonesian part of the island, the highest point between the Himalayas and the Andes, and the highest island peak in the world, soars to 4.884m. When Dutch explorer Jan Carstensz first sighted the glaciers on the peak of the mountain in 1623, he was ridiculed in Europe for saying he had seen snow near the equator.
Vast parts of the mountainous interior of the country are only accessible by road for a few months per year because of the risk of floods and mudslides.