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Huon Peninsula

Huon Peninsula seen from space (false color)

Huon Peninsula is a large rugged peninsula on the island of New Guinea in Morobe Province, eastern Papua New Guinea. It is named after French explorer Jean-Michel Huon de Kermadec. The peninsula is dominated by the steep Saruwaged and Finisterre and Cromwell Mountains. The nearest large town is the Morobe provincial capital Lae to the south, while settlements on the north coast include the former German town of Finschhafen, the district capital of Wasu, Malalamai and Saidor with its World War II era Saidor Airport.

The Huon Peninsula is home to a diverse range of indigenous communities, each with their own unique cultures and traditions.

The region is known for its rich biodiversity, with a wide range of flora and fauna that are found nowhere else in the world. The Huon Peninsula Conservation Area is home to numerous endangered species, including the Huon tree kangaroo and the golden-mantled tree kangaroo.

The area was the site of the Huon Peninsula campaign of World War II, in 1943-44 as Japanese troops retreating from Lae fought their way over the Finisterre Mountains to Madang on the north coast.


For over 40,000 years, the region has been home to indigenous communities, such as the Yabob and Morwap, who have relied on hunting, fishing, and gathering for their survival. Their way of life remained largely unchanged until the arrival of European explorers in the 16th century. Stone tools dating back to around 40,000 years ago have been discovered by archaeologists on top of stone terraces, they were believed to be used for agricultural purposes.[1]

In the 19th century, Christian missionaries established missions on the peninsula, leading to significant changes in the region's social and cultural landscape. During World War II, the Huon Peninsula played a pivotal role in the Pacific War. The Australian and American militaries established bases in the area, and the peninsula became a major staging ground for military operations. After the war, the Huon Peninsula underwent rapid development, with new infrastructure being built to support the growing population. Agriculture and mining became major industries, attracting people from all over Papua New Guinea.

Huon peninsula campaign

The Huon Peninsula campaign was a series of battles fought in north-eastern Papua New Guinea in 1943–1944 during the Second World War. The campaign formed the initial part of an offensive that the Allies launched in the Pacific in late 1943 and resulted in the Japanese being pushed north from Lae to Sio on the northern coast of New Guinea over the course of a four-month period. The campaign was preceded by an amphibious landing by troops from the Australian 9th Division east of Lae on 4 September 1943.


Below is a table containing some of the traditional inhabitants of the region, their spoken languages, and some notes about their culture. This list is incomplete and there are many other peoples in the area each with diverse set of customs and traditions.

Ethnic groups Languages spoken Cultural practices
Morobean Tok Pisin, English, and several indigenous languages such as Yabem, Bukawa, and Nalik Traditional music, dance, and art; customary land tenure systems; subsistence agriculture
Siassi Islanders Siassi language, Tok Pisin Traditional seafaring and fishing techniques; weaving; oral storytelling
Tewae-Siassi people Tewae-Siassi language, Tok Pisin Traditional farming practices; basket weaving; spiritual beliefs centered around the environment and ancestral spirits
Kamula Doso people Kamula Doso language, Tok Pisin Traditional hunting and gathering practices; elaborate face and body tattoos; ritual scarification
Bongu people Bongu language, Tok Pisin Traditional farming and fishing practices; elaborate woven mats; reverence for ancestors and spirits of the natural world


The Huon Peninsula is a part of the New Guinea Orogen, which is a mountain range that was formed as a result of the collision between the Australian and Pacific tectonic plates.[2] It is known for its complex geology, including repeated episodic uplift events.[3] These uplift events have resulted in the formation of regressive terraces that are cut into raised late Quaternary reef tracts.[3] The peninsula is primarily composed of sedimentary and volcanic rocks, with a few areas of metamorphic rocks. The Huon Peninsula also has significant mineral deposits, including gold, copper, and silver. The area around the town of Wau in the central part of the peninsula was once a major gold mining center during the colonial era, and remnants of the mining operations can still be seen in the area today.

The limestone formations on the peninsula have also contributed to the unique landscape of the region. Studies have shown that up to six regressive terraces occur on the youngest Holocene reef tract, while up to 15 occur on older reef tracts II and III. These tracts span the interval from 33,000 to 52,000 years ago, and the uplift events are believed to be coseismic, meaning they are caused by earthquakes.[3] The mean recurrence interval of uplift events was found to be between 1,000 and 1,300 years in both the Holocene and late Pleistocene periods.[3] The amplitude of uplift events averages around 3 meters, and generally increases from northwest to southeast in keeping with the regional late Quaternary trend. However, for some events, the uplift is approximately horizontal over 20 kilometers.[3]


River Name Estimated Length (km)
Markham River ~120 km
Ramu River ~640 km
Mape River Unknown
Waria River Unknown
Kikori River Unknown
Purari River Unknown
Vanapa River Unknown


Name Elevation (meters) Coordinates Note
Mount Boising 4,150 5°57′S 146°22′E Mount Boising is the colloquial (though unofficial) name for the highest point in the Peninsula's Finisterre Range. Until its summiting in 2014, it may have been the world's most prominent unclimbed peak.
Mount Sarawaget 4,121 6°18′S 147°05′E Mount Sarawaget is the highest point of the Saruwaged Range.


Some of the most notable settlements along the Huon peninsula are listed in a table below.

Settlement Name Province Description
Lae Morobe Province Largest city in the region, major port and industrial center
Finschhafen Morobe Province Historic German colonial town, popular tourist destination
Salamaua Morobe Province Former gold-mining town, now mostly abandoned
Wau Morobe Province Historic gold-mining town, now a small service center
Bulolo Morobe Province Mining town, site of a large gold mine
Madang Madang Province Coastal town, popular tourist destination
Bogia Madang Province Remote coastal village, known for its traditional culture
Saidor Madang Province Coastal town, site of an Allied victory in World War II


The Huon Peninsula experiences a tropical rainforest climate. This type of climate is characterized by high humidity, high temperatures, and abundant rainfall throughout the year.[4]

The annual average temperature on the peninsula is around 27°C (81°F), with very little seasonal variation.[4] The warmest months are from October to March, when temperatures can reach up to 32°C (90°F). [4]The coolest months are from May to August, with temperatures averaging around 23°C (73°F). The amount of rainfall in the region varies depending on the location, with some areas receiving up to 6,000 millimeters (236 inches) of rain annually. The rainy season typically lasts from December to March, with the heaviest rainfall occurring in February. The dry season, which lasts from June to September, is characterized by less rainfall and lower humidity. The Huon Peninsula also experiences occasional tropical cyclones and monsoons, which can bring extremely heavy rain and strong winds. These weather events can cause flooding and landslides.[4]


The region is known for its production of cocoa, copra, and palm oil, which are exported to other parts of Papua New Guinea and to international markets. Additionally, small-scale farming is common in the area, with many families growing crops such as bananas, taro, and sweet potato for subsistence and sale.

At intermediate altitudes within the region mandarins are produced as a cash crop.[5]


In addition to its natural attractions, Huon Peninsula also has a rich cultural heritage. The region is home to several indigenous communities, each with its unique language, customs, and beliefs. Visitors can learn about these communities by visiting their villages, attending cultural festivals, and participating in traditional ceremonies. Some of the most popular cultural experiences on the peninsula include the Baining Fire Dance,[6] the Morobe Show,[7] and the Sepik River Crocodile Festival.[8]

Some of the most notable sites include the Madang Museum,[9] the War Cemetery in Lae,[10] and the ruins of the Japanese wartime base at Salamaua.


Within several areas of the region some of the local populations practice a type of soil erosion prevention, they do so by weaving the stems of Piper aduncum into 2-3 meter tall fences which are then used to create a type of terrace.[11]

Flora and fauna

Matschie's tree-kangaroo with baby

The rainforests that cover these remote mountains provide habitats for many birds and animals and have been designated the Huon Peninsula montane rain forests ecoregion. The rainforest of the hillsides consists of shorter trees and more herbs than you would find in lowland rainforests around the world, with predominant species of tree including Pometia, Canarium, Anisoptera, Cryptocarya laurels, and Terminalia, while the higher slopes have thicker forests of yet smaller trees and the higher slopes of the Cromwell Range in particular hold the best-preserved large forest of Dacrydium conifers in the southern hemisphere.[12]

Mammals indigenous to the Huon region include the endangered Matschie's tree-kangaroo, while the birds include many of typical Australasian families such as bowerbirds, Australian robins, honeyeaters (including the endemic spangled honeyeater) and birds of paradise (including the endemic Huon astrapia). There are also endemic butterflies. Although some logging has taken place, the forests of the Huon Peninsula mountains are mostly undisturbed.[12]

Frogs & Lizards

Below is a table containing some of the frogs and lizards commonly found within the area.[13]

Frogs & lizards found within the Huon Peninsula region
Type Scientific name
Monitor Lizards Varanus i. indicus, Varanus p. prasinus
Skinks Tribolonotus gracilis, Tiliqua scincoides gigas, Sphenomorphus solomonis, Sphenomorphus muelleri, Sphenomorphus minutus, Sphenomorphus jobiensis, Sphenomorphus granulatus, Sphenomorphus derooyae, Sphenomorphus anotus, Prasinohaema v. virens, Prasinohaema flavipes, Lobulia stanleyana, Lobulia elegans, Carlia fusca, Cryptoblepharus boutonii, Emoia atrocostata, Emoia baudini, Emoia c. caeruleocauda, Emoia cyanogaster, Emoia loveridgei, Emoia mivarti, Emoia p. pallidiceps, Emoia physicae, Emoia submetallica, Eugongylus albofasciolatus, Eugongylus rufescens, Lamprolepis smaragdina, Lipinia longiceps, Lipinia noctua, Lipinia pulchra
Agamid lizards Gonocephalus dilophus, Gonocephalus modestus, Gonocephalus papuensis
Legless Lizard Lialis jicari
Gecko Cyrtodactylus novaeguinea, Cyrtodactylus pelagicus, Cyrtodactylus vankampeni, Gehyra interstitialis, Gehyra mutilata, Gehyra vorax Gekko vittatus, Hemidactylus frenatus, Hemiphyllodactylus t. typus, Lepidodactylus lugubris, Lepidodactylus magnus, Lepidodactylus novaeguineae, Cyrtodactylus loriae, Cyrtodactylus louisiadensis
Microhylid frogs Cophixalus biroi, Cophixalus cheesmanae, Cophixalus pipilans, Cophixalus shellyi, Cophixalus variegatus, Copiula fistulans, Hylophorbus r. rufescens, Oreophryne sp, Phrynomantis lateralis, Phrynomantis robusta, Sphenophryne mehelyi, Sphenophryne palmipes, Sphenophryne polysticta, Xenobatrachus rostratus, Xenobatrachus subcroceus, Xenorhina doriae
True frogs Platymantis papuensis, Rana daemeli, Rana grisea
Tree frogs Litoria amboinensis, Litoria angiana, Litoria eucnemis, Litoria genimaculata, Litoria i. infrafrenata, Litoria micromembrana, Litoria nigropunctata, Litoria thesaurensis, Litoria wollastoni, Nyctimystes disrupta, Nyctimystes foricula, Nyctimystes kubori, Nyctimystes obsoleta, Nyctimystes pulchra
Leptodactylidae Lechriodus aganoposis
True toad Bufo marinus


The below table contains some of the birds commonly encountered at higher elevations along the Huon peninsula.[14]

Birds found at higher elevations within the Huon peninsula
Scientific Name Scientific Name
Psitacella brehmii Grallina bruijni
Psitrichas fulgidus Chaetorhynchus papuensis
Cacomantis castaneiventris Paradisaea minor
Chrysococcyx rufcollis P. guilielmi
Ninox rufa Chlamydera lauterbachi
Apus pacifcus Chlamydera cerviniventris
Coracina Montana Melidectes ochromelas
Ptilorrhoa caerulescens Melidectes foersteri
Ptilorrhoa leucosticta Meliphaga Montana
Zoothera heinei Meliphaga albonotana
Sericornis perspicillatus Melanocharis crassirostris
Sericornis papuensis Dicaeum geelvinkianum
Crateroscelis nigrorufa Daphoenosita chrysoptera
Rhipidura atra Pitohui kirhocephalus
Machaerirhynchus faviventer Pachycephala schlegelii
Monarcha rubiensis Amalocichla incerta
Myiagra alecto Amalocichla sclateriana
Arses telescophthalmus Petroica bivitata
Arses insulari Poecilodryas albonotata
Charmosyna wilhelminae Psiteuteles goldiei
Otidiphaps nobilis Gallicolumba beccarii
Megapodius decollatus Hieraaetus weiskei
Accipiter meyerianus Accipiter melanochlamys


Hooded Pitohui (Pitohui dichrous) YUS Conservation area on the Huon Peninsula, Morobe Province, Papua New Guinea

The raised beach coastal terraces of Huon were added to the UNESCO World Heritage Tentative List on June 6, 2006 in the Mixed (Cultural + Natural) category.[15]

In 2009 the YUS Conservation Area was established in the northern part of the peninsula. YUS stretches over 760 km2 and includes the three rivers, Yopno, Uruwa and Som, for which it was named.[16]

See also


  1. ^ R., Michael Bourke (2009). Food and Agriculture in PNG. ANU Press. p. 13. ISBN 978-1-921536-61-8. OCLC 1076714793.
  2. ^ "Mining Projects - MRA - Mineral Resources Authority of PNG". 2021-07-21. Retrieved 2023-04-22.
  3. ^ a b c d e Chappell, John; Ota, Yoko; Berryman, Kelvin (1996-01-01). "Late quaternary coseismic uplift history of Huon Peninsula, Papua New Guinea". Quaternary Science Reviews. 15 (1): 7–22. Bibcode:1996QSRv...15....7C. doi:10.1016/0277-3791(95)00062-3. ISSN 0277-3791.
  4. ^ a b c d Meteorology., Australia. Bureau of (1972). Climate of Australia and Papua - New Guinea. Bureau of Meteorology. OCLC 220950422.
  5. ^ R., Michael Bourke (2009). Food and Agriculture in PNG. ANU Press. p. 213. ISBN 978-1-921536-61-8. OCLC 1076714793.
  6. ^ "Face-To-Face With the Baining Fire Dancers of Papua New Guinea". Discover by Silversea. 2023-02-18. Retrieved 2023-04-22.
  7. ^ "Morobe Show". Papua New Guinea. Retrieved 2023-04-22.
  8. ^ "Sepik River Crocodile & Arts Festival". Papua New Guinea. Retrieved 2023-04-22.
  9. ^ The future of indigenous museums : perspectives from the southwest Pacific. Nick Stanley. New York: Berghahn Books. 2007. ISBN 978-1-84545-188-2. OCLC 137331464.((cite book)): CS1 maint: others (link)
  10. ^ CWGC. "Lae War Cemetery | Cemetery Details". CWGC. Retrieved 2023-04-22.
  11. ^ R., Michael Bourke (2009). Food and Agriculture in PNG. ANU Press. p. 244. ISBN 978-1-921536-61-8. OCLC 1076714793.
  12. ^ a b "Huon Peninsula montane rain forests". Terrestrial Ecoregions. World Wildlife Fund.
  13. ^ Zweifel, Richard. "Frogs and lizards from the Huon Peninsula, Papua New Guinea". American Museum of Natural History. 165 (5). hdl:2246/1047.
  14. ^ Freeman, Benjamin G (2013). "Ornithological survey of the mountains of the Huon Peninsula, Papua New Guinea" (PDF). Bulletin of the British Ornithologists' Club. 133 (1): 4–18.
  15. ^ Huon Terraces - Stairway to the Past - UNESCO World Heritage Centre, Retrieved 2009-03-03.
  16. ^ Conservation International, retrieved 19 May 2010

Further reading

  • Schmitz, Carl August. (1960). Historische Probleme in Nordost-Neuguinea; Huon Halbinsel. Studien zur Kulturkunde, volume 16 (in German). Wiesbaden: F. Steiner. OCLC 2561167.

6°25′00″S 147°30′00″E / 6.416667°S 147.5°E / -6.416667; 147.5

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Huon Peninsula
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