Thursday, 19 February 2004
Why Go to Papua New Guinea?
Hello! Thanks for stopping by. We just arrived in the heart of the Gulf of Papua early this morning. Have you had a chance to find Papua New Guinea on a map? Papua New Guinea is a country located on the eastern half of the island of New Guinea that is found just north of the northeastern tip of Australia and just south of the equator. The island of New Guinea is divided in half along 141° E longitude. The eastern half of the island is Papua New Guinea, a self-governed country since 1975. The western half is called Irian Jaya and became a part of Indonesia in 1963. The island itself is the 2nd largest island in the world and has both a dramatic landscape and history. Do you know what the largest island in the world is? I'll give you the answer later this week.
There are tall mountain ranges, some with elevations over 4,000 meters or 13,123 feet, which run along the axis of the island. Tropical jungles are found in the rugged interior; mangrove forests and swamps along the coasts, and many raging rivers throughout the country made it difficult for those who settled the island to travel within New Guinea. This resulted in a multitude of cultures and over 800 different languages. In fact, the languages of New Guinea make up 1/6 of the world's languages! I've had a chance to meet and become friends with several people from Papua New Guinea and next week I'll share some of their stories and culture with you.
So why are we here? Many of the researchers on the cruise have spent time in the waters on the east and west coasts of the United States close to where they live and work. So why would they travel halfway across the world, enduring long flights with many flight connections, to reach Papua New Guinea? Is it because the island is beautiful and the people extremely friendly? Well, that may be part of it, but the real reason they have chosen to come to the Gulf of Papua for the Source to Sink work is because of the Fly River.
The Fly River is located in the Western Province and is relatively unaffected by humans. In addition, rainfall is heavy-ish here and flows from the mountains down the Fly river into the Gulf of Papua. Also the amount of sediment that travels from the source (mountains) to sink (ocean) in this part of the world is extremely high - 20-25% of sediment that is dispersed into the oceans is thought to come from New Guinea and five islands in this area. There are also a variety of areas to study along the course of the Fly, such as the river itself, estuaries and a wide continental shelf. This high sediment input records changes in the past climate in the New Guinea region. Remember the tree rings, the sediment layers allow us to unravel the past and examine earth history. The scientists onboard are examining past changes in climate, sea level and plate tectonics and we will cover these topics later in the cruise. In the meantime, I'm going to see what's happening out on deck. Visit me tomorrow to take a look at how we plan to see below the sea floor!
Now Open For Business: Ship Chat with Ship and Shack
Today's weather and location at 1300 (thirteen hundred hours, military time for 1:00 pm)
Air Temperature: 28°C (82°F)
Water Temperature: 29°C (84°F)
Salinity: 29.69 PSU
Barometric Pressure: 1008.6 mb
Precipitation: 11.0 mm
Relative Humidity: 77%
Longitude: 8° 22.2642' S
Latitude: 144° 38.420' E