Deboyne Island was a Japanese seaplane base during World War II – but only for 5 days! The Japanese found that their new base was just a little too close to the allied planes based at Port Moresby and the base was quickly abandoned. The Japanese never returned to the island however several ‘Zero’ fighter planes were ditched in the area during the Battle of the Coral Sea. One remains virtually intact in the shallow waters of Deboyne Lagoon and this morning our expedition boats will convey snorkelling teams to examine the wreck. Fishing, diving and sightseeing boats will also explore the lagoon and outer reef. A visit to Panepompom Island provides opportunity to experience idyllic archipelago life. The ‘locals’ will welcome you on the beach, treat with some impromptu singing (and laughing) and then invite all to stroll amongst their huts. Our crew will also take the opportunity to deliver appreciated resources to the local school before the expedition boats are away again.
In the afternoon the ship’s helicopter will deliver a breathtaking orientation to the Calvados Chain especially distinctive Panasia and Duchateau Island. Here the islands are steep sided and ‘Jurassic Like’. Fishing, diving and snorkelling will again be on the agenda or perhaps you would prefer a hike on exotic Panasia!
The Sepik River is the longest river in Papua New Guinea and, one of the great river systems of the world. It has a large catchment area and supports numerous landforms including swamplands, tropical rainforests and mountains. Biologically, the river system is possibly the largest uncontaminated freshwater wetland system in the Asia-Pacific region.
The river’s total length is 1,126 kilometres and it has a drainage basin of over 80,000 square kilometres! There is a 5-10 kilometer wide belt of active meanders along most of the river’s course and a floodplain up to 70 kilometers wide includes extensive backwater swamps. However, unlike many other large river systems, the Sepik has no delta – it flows straight into the sea. The entire Sepik basin remains a largely undisturbed environment – there are no major urban settlements or mining and forestry activities in the river catchment.
Local villagers have lived along the river for many millennia and the river has formed the basis for food, transport and culture. European contact with the river started in just 1885 when German colonists first explored the area. In 1886 and 1887, further expeditions by steam boat were conducted by the Germans and over 600 kilometers of riverine was explored. Between 1912 and 1913 the Germans sent further expeditions to explore the river and surrounding areas. They collected flora and fauna, studied local tribes and produced the first maps. The station town of Angoram was established as a base on the lower Sepik for explorations, but with the beginning of World War I, exploration ceased.
After the war the Australian government took trusteeship of the former German colony, creating the Territory of New Guinea. During this period the Australians established a station on the middle Sepik at Ambunti and conducted further exploration.
In 1935 Sir Walter McNicolls, the new administrator of the Territory of New Guinea travelled up length of the Sepik to “have a look at the river people and the kind of country along the banks”.
The Japanese held the area throughout most of the Second World War. By the end of the war the Japanese had been completely surrounded however, the battle to defeat the remaining forces was hard fought and drawn out due to the terrain.
The Australians eventually pushed the Japanese back to the village of Timbunke on the middle Sepik in July 1945. Eventually the Japanese were defeated and surrendered at Wewak in September 1945.
The Sepik is revered for its art. The tribes living along the river produce magnificent wood carvings and artful clay pottery. Many tribes use garamut drums in rituals; the drums are formed from long, hollowed out tree trunks carved into the shape of various totem animals. As part of an elaborate coming of age ceremony, young men are scarified with the image of a crocodile on the river bank.