Papua New Guiinea is located
between three degrees north and eleven degress south of the Equator. It
consists of a mainland region and a collection of 600 islands of varying
sizes. The mainland forms the eastern part of the island of New Guinea,
the western part being an Indonesian province. New Guinea (land area
868,000 square kilometres) is the world's second largest island (after
Geologically and topographically PNG is very new. It is
situated in a zone where the earth's crust is very weak, on the boundary
between the tectonic plates of Australia and the Pacific Ocean. Most of
the country has been formed by comparatively recent earth movements and
The coastal and island regions tend to be hot and humid.
Some areas in the south (including Prot Moresby) have a distinct rainy and
dry season. Other southern coastal areas (including Madang and Morobe)
have a less clearly defined wet season.
The overall appearance of the country is extremely
rugged, particularly in the highlands which are characterised by sheer
slopes, sharp ridges, fast-running rivers and the scars of countless
The highlands regions can be quite cold at night,
although the days are usually warm and clear. A typical highland cloud
cycle takes place each day - clear in the morning with some local fogs
followed by an increasing cloud buildup. Afterrnoon rains are common.
The dominant feature of the country is the central spine
of mountains through the island of New Guinea, a complex of high mountain
ranges intersected by valleys and plateaus.
The mainland ranges from open beaches to coastal swamps
and rough, fjord-like areas in Oro Province to dry Savannah country in the
Markham and Ramu Valleys and the steep mountains of the highlands. The
highest mountain in PNG is Mt Wilhelm (4000 metres).
There are few large valleys in the Papuan region, but
the New Guinea region in the northern part of the mainland has several
large open valleys such as the Asaro, Jimi and Wahgi, providing excellent
agricultural and pastoral land. There are many small offshore islands,
many without fresh water.
Island provinces are located off the tip of Papua with a
cluster of islands forming the Milne Bay Province. To the north of the New
Guinea mianland are the island provincws of Manus, New Ireland, East New
Britain, West New Britain and North Solomons (Bougainville). All island
provinces are noted for their coral reefs, beaches, rich volcanic soil and
abundance of marine resources. The islands of New Britain and Bougainville
have active volcanoes and experience earthquakes of up to 5 on the Richter
scale. A volcano erupted in 1994, destroying much of the town of Rabaul in