The Odyssey is currently anchored in picturesque Kavieng, Papua New Guinea
Photo: Chris Johnson
March 2, 2001
This is Genevieve Johnson speaking to you from Kavieng, New Ireland, Papua
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
heightened by the fact that once males leave their mother's group they join
of other males and resort to much higher lattitudes, remaining there until
are fully mature, whereupoon they return to the lower breeding latitudes.
Until just before sunset, we remained in the vicinity of at least four
distributed animals. We were all elated, not only to find a large male, but
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
so reluctantly, even though, just a few hours before, the exhausted crew
not wait to reach land. As we passed through the harbor entrance, Captain
Wallace pointed out the large birds flying overhead, which we quickly
weren't birds at all, but flying foxes, fruit bats. Neither name is very
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
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
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
and fauna-very beautiful, and quite a change from the flat landscape of
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
sperm whales in such close proximity to land, a phenomenon local people have
told us is quite common.
Log by Genevieve Johnson