Port Moresby Commonwealth Walkway

Papua New Guinea / The Pacific

PAPUA NEW GUINEA  Papua New Guinea lies in the south-western Pacific Ocean and encompasses the eastern half of New Guinea, the world’s second-largest island.  It comprises the islands of Bougainville, New Britain and New Ireland, the Admiralty Islands, the D’Entrecasteaux Islands and the Louislade archipelago.  (The western half of New Guinea is made up of the Indonesian provinces of Papua and West Papua).  Papua New Guinea was settled over a period of 40,000 years by a mixture of peoples who are generally referred to as Melanesians.  There is a range of densely forested mountains running across the Papuan part, stretching down to coastal plains and swamps and to coral reefs.   The mountainous zone is called the Highlands, and reaches elevations in excess of 13,000 feet, rising to the country’s highest point of 14,793 feet at Mount Wilhelm in the Bismarck Range. Papua New Guinea’s unique biological species have long been sought by collectors throughout the world.  However, the government has established several conservation and protection measures.  The export of birds-of-paradise is banned, and hunters thereof are restricted to the use of traditional weapons.  In addition, the official languages of the country all reflect its colonial history.  There are more than 700 individual languages spoken in Papua New Guinea, while the official languages are English, Tok Pisin and Hiri Motu. In 1945 the Territory of Papua and New Guinea was formed, taking in the former German New Guinea, and these were amalgamated under Australian administration.  The country achieved independence in 1975, with the Queen as head of state, represented by the Governor-General, who is elected for a six-year term.  One of its principal challenges since 1975 has been the difficulty of governing many hundreds of diverse, once-isolated local societies as a viable single nation.  The Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh, Princess Anne and Captain Mark Phillips, and Earl Mountbatten of Burma visited the island in 1974, and the Queen and Prince Philip returned on their Silver Jubilee tour of 1977, and again in 1982.   The Prince of Wales got to know it when he was at school in Australia, and he presided over the Independence ceremonies in 1975.  He opened the new Parliament House in 1984 and revisited with the Duchess of Cornwall in the year of the Diamond Jubilee, 2012.    Capital Squeezed between the dusty hills and the deep blue sea, Papua New Guinea’s capital, Port Moresby, is located along the Southeastern coast.  Before the arrival of Europeans, the area around the harbour was inhabited by the Motu and Koitabu people, fishermen and yam farmers who traded with other settlements up and down the coast.  The harbour was explored in 1873 by Captain (later Rear-Admiral) John Moresby (1830-1922), of HMS Basilisk, who named its two sections Fairfax and Moresby for his father (Admiral Sir Fairfax Moresby – 1786-1877).  The entire area became known popularly as Port Moresby after the British annexed it in 1883–84, the city emerging as an important centre of trade, and the town became a main Allied base and a primary Japanese objective during World War II.  During that time the Papuans gave considerable help to the Allies, guiding them over rough terrains and trails.   Fun Facts 
  • Papua New Guinea is home to the Hooded Pitohui, the world’s only poisonous bird.
  • Port Moresby is sometimes known as Pom City.
  • There are very few paved roads in Papua New Guinea; instead air travel is more popular due to the dense jungle and so there are nearly 600 runways, both paved and unpaved.
  • The national sport of Papua New Guinea, although not official, is considered to be rugby.
  • Finally, Papua New Guinea is one of the few places in the world where snow falls despite it being near the equator.

3.5 miles / 5.6 kilometres

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