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Introduction

New Ireland (Tok Pisin: Niu Ailan, also called Latangai) is a large island in Papua New Guinea, approximately 7,404 km² in area with about 120,000 people. It is the largest island of the New Ireland Province, lying northeast of the island of New Britain. Both islands are part of the Bismarck Archipelago, named after Otto von Bismarck, and they are separated by Saint George's Channel. The administrative centre of the island and of New Ireland province is the town of Kavieng located at the northern end of the island. While the island was part of German New Guinea, it was named Neumecklenburg ("New Mecklenburg").

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History and Culture

The first European explorers to arrive were Dutch, in 1616. These were followed by Abel Tasman in 1643, on his way home from discovering Tasmania. From the late 1700s the passage between New Ireland and New Britain was commonly used by vessels sailing from Sydney to England. The first missionaries arrived in 1875 and, at about the same time, came traders looking to capture the locals to work on plantations in Queensland and Fiji. This was known as "blackbirding". New Ireland was colonized by Germany in 1886 and the Germans carried on blackbirding for plantations in the Madang area. New Irelanders retaliated by capturing and eating German traders.

The area was taken over by Australia in 1914. Between 1942 and 1945 it was occupied by the Japanese. In 2000 the population was close to 120,000 people, who talk 20 languages and around 25 dialects or sub-dialects. New Ireland's economy depends on timber, coconuts, cocoa and fishing.

The traditional culture in northern New Ireland is the Malagan. Its ceremonies are large, cultural events that take place irregularly and require considerable preparation. The word malagan both refers to wooden carvings that are prepared for the ceremonies, and to the entire system of traditional culture. Malagan carvings are created for use in the ceremonies. These used to be burnt at the conclusion of the event but most are now retained, as few skilled carvers remain.

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Geography

The island is part of the Bismarck Archipelago and is often described as having the shape of a musket. For much of its 360 kilometres in length, the island's width varies between less than 10 to 40 kilometres, yet the central mountainous spine is very steep and rugged. The highest peak is Mount Taron in the Hans Meyer Range (2,379 metres). Other mountain ranges are Tirpitz, Schleinitz, Verron and Rossel. The island lies between two and five degrees south of the equator. The original land cover was primarily dense rainforest. New Ireland is surrounded by the Bismarck Sea in the southwest and by the Pacific Ocean in the northeast.

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Cities

  • Kavieng - the capital of the province with excellent diving, sailing, fishing and surfing.
  • Namatanai - New Ireland's second town.

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Sights and Activities

  • Surfing - New Ireland is rapidly being recognised as an excellent surfing destination. Most popular, because it is easiest to reach, is the northern end of mainland New Ireland around the Kavieng area, with North Pacific Ocean swells between November and April. There are also plenty of options down the east coast highway. Other islands are only now being identified as having great surfing possibilities.
  • Fishing - Within a few minutes of the capital, Kavieng, there is a whole range of fishing opportunities. Species include Black Marlin, Blue Marlin, Sailfish, Yellow Fin, Skipjack and Dogtooth Tuna and the Giant Trevally. Mahi Mahi (Dolphin Fish), Mackerel and Wahoo are also available as well as Coral and Coronation Trout, Red Emperor, Sweetlip, Goldband Snapper and Amberjack. In the mangrove swamps there are Trevally, Cod and the Mangrove Jack.
  • Sailing - The southeast trade wind provides a steady breeze from mid-May until late October although the winds during the remainder of the year are more variable. New Ireland's proximity to the Equator means that there are no cyclones. Kavieng is often visited by yachts cruising the South West Pacific area and its port has all facilities. The outlying islands have some excellent anchorages.
  • Diving - Close to Kavieng there is a chance to dive with big pelagic fish, discover underwater walls with colourful corals and explore World War II wrecks. On the southwest coast the reefs drop steeply, offering exciting dives. The northern and northeastern coasts have extensive offshore reefs. Diving here is particularly good from August to October.
  • Lihir Island - This is off the north coast of the main island, opposite Namatanai. Formerly cannibals, then heavily influenced by Roman Catholic missionaries, the biggest change for the people of the island came in the early 1980s when gold was discovered. The Lihir mine is estimated to hold 40 million ounces of gold, making it one of the largest in the world. The town of Londolovit is a mining town but the islanders remain spread out around the island in coastal villages. The Lihir Hotel (Ph: 986 4166, Fax: 986 4167) is at Londolovit. The economic importance of the mine is stressed by the fact that Air Niugini flies to Lihir (LNV) daily.
  • Kontu - This is a town on the west coast of the main New Ireland island. This area is famous for its shark callers, men who can lure sharks to the side of their dugout canoes by singing to them.

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Weather

Most of New Ireland has a hot and humid tropical climate. Average daytime temperatures in the lowlying areas hoover around 30 °C during the day and 23 °C or 24 °C at night. Temperatures and humidity are about the same in most areas at sea level.

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Getting There

By Plane

Air Niugini has daily flights from Port Moresby to Kavieng and Lihir. It also has flights to Kavieng from Rabaul, Manus and other locations in PNG.

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Getting Around

The Boluminski Highway connects Kavieng with Namatanai. It is sealed for much of the way and closer to Namatanai it has a crushed white coral road surface. The road was named after Franz Boluminski who was a German District Officer. He built it by forcing villages along the coast to construct and maintain their section.

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New Ireland Travel Helpers

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This is version 2. Last edited at 11:24 on May 29, 19 by Utrecht. 3 articles link to this page.

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