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This article discusses the island of New Britain in Papua New Guinea. For other uses of the name, see New Britain .


New Britain, or Niu Briten, is the largest island in the Bismarck Archipelagomarker (named after Otto von Bismarck) of Papua New Guineamarker. It is separated from the island of New Guineamarker by the Dampier Strait, and from New Irelandmarker by the St. George's Channel. The main towns of New Britain are Rabaulmarker/Kokopomarker and Kimbemarker.

New Britain and New Irelandmarker are so named because their outlines on a map roughly correspond to those of the British Islesmarker in the Atlantic Oceanmarker. While the island was part of German New Guinea, it was named Neupommern ("New Pomerania").

Geography

Topography of New Britain
New Britain, with selected towns and volcanoes
New Britain extends from 148° to 152° E. longitude and from 4° to 7° S. latitude. It is crescent-shaped, approximately 600 km (370 miles) along its southeastern coastline, and from 30 to 110 km (20–70 miles) wide, not including a small central peninsula. The island is the 38th largest in the world, with an area of 37,800 km² (14,600 mile²).

Steep cliffs form some sections of the coastline; in others the mountains are further inland, and the coastal area is flat and bordered by coral reefs. The highest point, at 2438 m (7999 ft), is Mount Sinewit in the Baining rangemarker in the east. Most of the terrain is covered with tropical rainforest, and several large rivers are fed by the high rainfall.

New Britain was largely formed by volcanic processes, and there are several active volcanoes on the island, including Ulawunmarker (the highest volcano in Papua New Guinea), Langilamarker, the Garbuna Groupmarker, the Sulu Rangemarker, and the volcanoes Tavurvurmarker and Vulcanmarker of the Rabaul calderamarker. A major eruption of Tavurvur in 1994 destroyed the East New Britainmarker provincial capital of Rabaulmarker. Most of the town still lies under metres of ash, and the capital has been moved to nearby Kokopomarker.

Administrative divisions

New Britain is part of the Islands Region, one of four regions of Papua New Guinea. It comprises the mainland of two provinces:

History

1700-1914

William Dampier became the first known European to visit New Britain on February 27, 1700: he dubbed the island with the Latin name Nova Britannia.

In November 1884, Germany proclaimed its protectorate over the New Britain Archipelago; the German colonial administration gave New Britain and New Irelandmarker the names of Neupommern (or Neu-Pommern; "New Pomerania") and Neumecklenburgmarker (or Neu-Mecklenburg; "New Mecklenburg"), and the whole group was renamed the Bismarck Archipelago. New Britain became part of German New Guinea.

In 1909, the indigenous population was estimated at about 190,000; the foreign population at 773 (474 white). The expatriate population was practically confined to the northeastern Gazelle Peninsula, which included the capital, Herbertshöhemarker (now Kokopo). At the time 5,448 hectares (13,464 acres) had been converted to plantations, primarily copra, cotton, coffee, and rubber. Westerners avoided exploring the interior initially, believing that the indigenous peoples were warlike and would fiercely resist intrusions.

On 11 September 1914, New Britain became the site of one of the earliest battles of World War I when the Australian Naval and Military Expeditionary Force landed on the island. They quickly overwhelmed the German forces and German New Guinea became the Australian Territory of New Guinea.

World War II

Two photographs of native New British Islanders, 1944
During World War II the Japanesemarker captured New Britain very early on. During January 1942, Japanese heavily bombed Rabaulmarker. On January 23, Japanese Marines landed by the thousands, starting the Battle of Rabaul. The Japanese used Rabaul as a heavy base until 1944. It was used as the key point for the failed invasion of Port Moresbymarker.

New Britain was invaded by the U.S. 1st Marine Division in the Cape Gloucestermarker area of the very western end of the island, and also by U.S. Army soldiers at some other coastal points. As for Cape Gloucester, with its swamps and mosquitos, the Marines said that it was "worse than Guadalcanalmarker".

The Allies were able to bypass attacking Rabaul by surrounding it with air and naval bases on surrounding islands and on New Britain itself Operation Cartwheel. The large neighboring island of New Irelandmarker was bypassed altogether. The Rabaul air and naval base was abandoned by the Japanese in August 1945, and surrender by the Japanese followed on 2 September 1945 in Tokyo Baymarker.

Since 1945

People and culture

The indigenous people of New Britain fall into two main groups: the Papuans, who have inhabited the island for tens of thousands of years, and the Austronesians, who arrived around two thousand years ago. There are around ten Papuan languages spoken and about forty Austronesian languages, as well as Tok Pisin and English. The Papuan population is largely confined to the eastern third of the island and a couple of small enclaves in the central highlands. At Jacquinot Bay, in the south-east, they live beside the beach where a waterfall crashes directly into the sea.

The population of New Britain was 404,873 in the 2000 census. Austronesian people make up the majority on the island. The major towns are Rabaulmarker/Kokopomarker in East New Britainmarker and Kimbemarker in West New Britainmarker.

The traditional cultures of New Britain are diverse and complex. While the Tolai of the Rabaul area of East New Britain have a matrilineal society, other groups are patrilineal in structure. There are numerous traditions which remain active today, such as the dukduk secret society (also known as tubuan) in the Tolai area.

See also



References




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