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The Odyssey is currently anchored in picturesque Kavieng, Papua New Guinea
Photo: Chris Johnson

March 2, 2001
Kavieng Arrival
  Real Audio
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Log Transcript

This is Genevieve Johnson speaking to you from Kavieng, New Ireland, Papua New Guinea.

We have arrived in port after a long and challenging ocean passage from Tarawa. Interestingly, the monsoon we encountered that caused us to delay our arrival, has subsequently headed south, eventually forming a class two cyclone over Northern Australia.

The long narrow, tree covered land mass of New Ireland, came into view early afternoon. It was a relief to see land after such a stormy trip.

It was when we were only nine miles from the entrance to Kavieng harbor that we were about to experience another delay in our arrival. This delay, unlike the monsoon a few days previous, was to be a welcome one. The familiar clicks of sperm whales emerged from the volcanic depths west of New Ireland, faintly at first, then louder as we closed the distance between the whales and the Odyssey. The booming clicks of a large male were delivered as usual to us in the pilothouse via the speakers connected to the underwater acoustic array. The science team is particularly enthusiastic when adult male sperm whales are identified. The whalers mostly targeted the larger males in the past, as a consequence, the balance between the sexes has been badly distorted with adult females greatly outnumbering adult males. The distortion of sex ratios is heightened by the fact that once males leave their mother's group they join groups of other males and resort to much higher lattitudes, remaining there until they are fully mature, whereupoon they return to the lower breeding latitudes.

Until just before sunset, we remained in the vicinity of at least four widely distributed animals. We were all elated, not only to find a large male, but also a sperm whale group right now at the very beginning of our time in Papua New Guinea... and so close to port. By the time we headed for an anchorage we did so reluctantly, even though, just a few hours before, the exhausted crew could not wait to reach land. As we passed through the harbor entrance, Captain Bob Wallace pointed out the large birds flying overhead, which we quickly realized weren't birds at all, but flying foxes, fruit bats. Neither name is very good since the latest theory is that they may be more closely related to primates than to other mammals.

The Kavieng Market - women are selling 'buai' nuts, a popular item the people of Kavieng mix with burned coral called lime and chew like tobacco, leaving distinctive voluminous red gums and teeth.
Photo: Chris Johnson

After our first good nights rest in a while, the crew ate breakfast out on deck. It would be hard to imagine a more picturesque location for the Odyssey to have anchored. We welcomed the opportunity, though brief, to set foot on land again. The crew took a few hours to explore the port town of Kavieng, discovering that there is a near shore, open air market, which is an ideal place to observe the daily activities of local people.

We will be in Kavieng only briefly, giving us just enough time for some provisioning and boat maintenance-tasks which are infinitely more enjoyable in a setting as idyllic as Kavieng. The town is surrounded by widely scattered islands with exotic landscapes supporting a diverse array of native flora and fauna-very beautiful, and quite a change from the flat landscape of coral atolls that we have been experiencing over the past 6 months.

We will be spending the coming months researching the rich and diverse waters of Papua New Guinea, our anticipation is heightened by the presence of sperm whales in such close proximity to land, a phenomenon local people have told us is quite common.

Log by Genevieve Johnson

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