Also spelled WIAK ISLAND, (Indonesian Pulau Biak), largest of the
Schouten Islands, off the northern coast of West Papua (the Indonesian
part of New Guinea) at the entrance to Cenderawasih (Geelvink) Bay. It
is 45 miles (72 km) long and 23 miles (37 km) wide and has an area of
948 square miles (2,455 square km). Biak was seized by the Japanese in
April 1942 during World War II; it was retaken May 27-July 22, 1944,
by Allied forces.
Schouten Islands = Biak Island
Indonesian Kepulauan Schouten, formerly MISORE ISLANDS, archipelago in
the Pacific Ocean across the entrance to Cenderawasih Bay, off the northern
coast of West Papua provinsi ("province"), Indonesia. The
first European sighting of the group was by the Dutch navigator Willem
Corneliszoon Schouten. The chief islands are Biak, Supiori, and
Numfor. The town of Biak, on the southern coast of Biak, is the
mainsettlement and administrative centre. The islands,
particularlyNumfor and Biak, are among the most densely populated
areas of Irian Jaya.
This group should not be confused with another island group of the
same name, also off the northern coast of New Guinea but belonging to
Papua New Guinea.
WILLEM CORNELISZOON SCHOUTEN, Dutch explorer whose1615-16
expedition discovered a new route, the Drake Passage,around the
southern tip of South America, connecting the Atlantic Ocean with the
The Dutch East India Company held a monopoly on all East Indies trade
by ships routed through the Strait of Magellan when, in1615, an
Amsterdam merchant, Isaac Le Maire, mounted an expedition to find a
new route to the Pacific. His son Jakob and veteran sea captain
Schouten led the voyage that set sail in May1615 with two ships--the
second piloted by Schouten's brotherJan. By December they reached the
far southeastern coast of South America, where the smaller ship caught
fire and had to be abandoned. Sailing south the next month, Schouten
passed throughthe Le Maire Strait between Tierra Del Fuego and Estados
(Staten)Island, and sailed into the Pacific. He gave the southernmost
tipof America the name Cape Horn (Dutch: Kaap Hoorn). This new route,
now known as the Drake Passage, was longer but much simpler than the
established passage through the Strait of Magellan.
The expedition went on to discover new islands in the SouthPacific
before reaching its destination, Batavia, Java (now Jakarta, Indonesia.),
in October 1616. There the Dutch governor refused to believe that
Schouten had discovered a new route westward and confiscated his
cargo. Schouten and Le Maire were charged with infringing on the
monopoly and were sent home toHolland; Le Maire died along the way.
Upon his return to the Netherlands, Schouten's (and Le Maire's)
diaries, complete with maps, were published and proved valuable to
Biak town, where the airport is located, is the chief urbancentre. It
is also the transportation centre for West Papua, with flights to
other towns in West Papua, as well as to Surabaya and Ujung Pandang in
Indonesia and to Hong Kong. It has now become an oil boom town as
Biak the main island of Cenderawasih Bay, and near by Supiori Island
are the respective locations for the Biak and Supiori Nature Reserves.
These parks are bird sanctuaries that include beautiful varieties of
parrots and cockatoos. Biak is the center for the illegal trade of
uniqueIrianese birds, as well as a bustling headquarters for both the
tuna industry and offshore oil drilling operations.
In the town of Biak, there are number of surprisingly good restaurants
featuring freshly caught seafood. There a several new hotels in town,
and taxis roam the streets looking for fares. Three hospitals are
available in caseof emergencies, and modern stores and pharmacies are
conveniently located in center of town. There is an open-air market
that sell fruits and vegetables early in the morning, and there are
shops selling souvenirs and jewelry crafted from 23-kt. gold, which
are sold by weight, with very little added for workmanship.
Biak's offshore island are worth a visit if one has the time. The
principal of these outlying destinations are Numfor and Yapen islands.
Yapen can breached by air, but Numfor is only accessible by boat. And
route native boats which are readily hired, one can view
lobsters,blue-spotted rays, and other inhabitants of the coral
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