Papua New Guinea, an island country in the South Pacific just north of Australia. It consists of the eastern half of the island of New Guinea and adjacent islands, the Bismarck Archipelago, and the northern Solomon Islands. The area is 178,260 square miles (461,691 km 2 ).
Papua New Guinea lies south of the Equator, wholly within the tropics, and is one of the most primitive areas on earth. The greater part is mountainous, with peaks reaching a maximum height of 14,800 feet (4,510 m). Lowlands are most extensive in the Fly River basin in the southwest and along the Sepik River in the northwest. Except in the higher mountains, the climate is hot, humid, and extremely rainy—up to 250 inches (6,350 mm) a year—and much of the country consists of tropical forests and grasslands. Animal life is varied and abundant.
Primitive farming, hunting, and fishing support most of the country's people; some tribes in the interior still have a Stone Age culture and some practiced cannibalism and headhunting well into the 20th century. Western culture and modern commercial activities are found mainly in coastal cities and towns. In scattered locations there are modern plantations producing coconuts, cacao, rubber, palm oil, tea, and coffee. Lumbering and mining of gold, copper, and petroleum, are also of economic significance. Manufacturing and transportation and communication facilities are poorly developed.
Papua New Guinea's largest city is Port Moresby, the capital. The population is Melanesian, divided into more than 500 tribes speaking hundreds of languages and dialects. The most widely understood languages are Tok Pisan (a pidgin language used in government and the schools). Moto, and English. Nominally 93 per cent of the population are Christians, but belief in magic, sorcery, and traditional deities is widespread.
Papua New Guinea is a constitutional monarchy. But the prime minister is the head of the government. The prime minister is elected by the country's national legislature, which is elected by the people. Papua New Guinea is a member of the Commonwealth of Nations.
Great Britain and Germany divided the eastern half of New Guinea in 1884 (the Dutch ruled the western half). Britain took the southern part, which became the Territory of Papua, and held it until 1906, when control was transferred to Australia. After World War I the German portion was mandated to Australia by the League of Nations. The mandate became the Trust Territory of New Guinea after World War II. After 1949 the two territories were administered as one by Australia, although they retained their separate identities. Internal self-government was granted in 1973, and the two territories merged to become independent Papua New Guinea in 1975.
|Facts in brief about Papua New Guinea|
|Capital: Port Moresby.|
|Total land area: 178,704 mi2 (462,840 km2). Greatest distances between islands—north-south, 730 mi (1,174 km); east-west, 1,040 mi (1,674 km).|
|Elevation: Highest—Mount Wilhelm, 14,793 ft (4,509 m) above sea level. Lowest—sea level.|
|Population: Current estimate—6,253,000; density, 35 per mi2 (14 per km2); distribution, 87 percent rural, 13 percent urban. 2000 census—5,190,786.|
|Chief products: Agriculture—cocoa, coconuts, coffee, rubber, tea, timber. Mining—copper, gold, natural gas, petroleum, silver.|
|Flag: Papua New Guinea's flag is divided diagonally from upper left to lower right. A golden bird of paradise is in the upper section, which is red. Five stars representing the Southern Cross appear in the lower section, which is black.|
|Money: Basic unit—kina. One hundred toea equal one kina.|