also spelled WIAK ISLAND, Indonesian Pulau Biak, largest of the Schouten Islands, off the northern coast of Irian Jaya (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.
Biak town, where the airport is located, is the chief urban centre. It is also the transportation centre for Irian Jaya, with flights to other towns in Irian Jaya, as well as to Surabaya and Ujung Pandang in Indonesia and to Hong Kong. It has now become an oil boomtown as well.
Biak the main island of Cenderawasih Bay, and nearby 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. Siak is the center for the illegal trade of unique Irianese birds, as well as a bustling headquarters for both the tuna industry and offshore oil drilling operations.
Indonesian Kepulauan Schouten, formerly MISORE ISLANDS, archipelago in the Pacific Ocean across the entrance to Cenderawasih Bay, off the northern coast of Irian Jaya 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 Numfoor. The town of Biak, on the southern coast of Biak, is the main settlement and administrative centre. The islands, particularly Numfor 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.
b. 1567?, Hoorn, Neth.
d. 1625, Antongil Bay, Madagascar
in full WILLEM CORNELISZOON SCHOUTEN, Dutch explorer whose 1615-16 expedition discovered a new route, the Drake Passage, around the southern tip of South America, connecting the Atlantic Ocean with the Pacific.
The Dutch East India Company held a monopoly on all East Indies trade by ships routed through the Strait of Magellan when, in 1615, 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 May 1615 with two ships--the second piloted by Schouten's brother Jan. 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 through the Le Maire Strait between Tierra Del Fuego and Estados (Staten) Island, and sailed into the Pacific. He gave the southernmost tip of 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 South Pacific before reaching its destination, Batavia, Java (now Jakarta, Indon.), 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 to Holland; 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 subsequent explorers.
THE GATEWAY TO IRIAN JAYA
The island of Biak, at the very top of the Bird's Head Peninsula of Irian Jaya, is the international entry point for visitors from the U.S. Although Biak is currently considered by most travelers as a stop-over on flights to Bali and Jakarta, there are plans to make this island and its offshore islets an international resort.
ground has been broken on Marauw Beach, on 325 hectares of land just 15 minutes from Frans Kaisepo International Airport, for an international class tourist resort. The plan includes six 4- and 5- start hotels, an 18-hole golf course and counting and water skiing. There will be marina, a seaside park, and a 2.7-hectare hilltop park, 100 to 200 units of condominiums and villas, and service facilities set among attractively landscape open spaces. A shopping center called Amenity Plaza will cater to a variety of needs, serving the local residents as well as tourists. The Merauw Beach development highlights upcoming and existing activities in Cendrawasih Bay, which is considered a world-class diving area.
For some years now, modern cruise and diving ships have been stopping at Biak opening up a vast undersea empire to those who wish to explore it. A ship called Tropical Princess, has been operating in these waters since 1990. It can accommodate 20 persons for its usual 10-days cruise during which passengers can scuba dive around Biak, the Auri island of the Monokwari regency, the Aggrameos Island of the Paniai regency, and the Raja Ampat Islands of Sorong regency.
Local companies also offer deep sea diving. Sentosa Tosiga Tours and Travel, which has a new dive center and shop in Biak, Cover all of the Padaido Island group, South Supiori Island, and the north shore of Yapen Island. The company also works with a Pinisi ship that takes people around Cendrawasi Bay, the Mapia Islands, and as far as Sorong.
For divers and even snorkelers there is a wonderland of exotic fish and magnificent coral gardens ringed by sandy white beaches. Wherever divers chose to go, theirs will be truly a voyage of wonderment.
Apart from its natural beauty, Biak is also rich in history. It was one of the principal battle sites of World War II, and today, the Japanese caves that can be reached by a short taxi ride from town are a prime tourist attraction. There is also a Japanese monument and a museum near the caves, with World War II relics and artillery pieces displayed.
The approach to the cave is itself an adventure. As one descends a steep concrete stairway to the vine-draped entrance, small bats dart out of the cave's mouth. Then suddenly, one is in a huge cathedral-like chamber with stalactities dripping from the ceiling. Eerie blue daylight from an adjoining opening to the sky pierces the gloom, adding an air of mystery.
Other nearby attractions are an orchid garden where one can see 2,200 orchids of 63 native varieties and a well-stocked aviary of nearby 200 birds of 33 species, including birds of paradise, white cockatoos, cassowaries, and other indigenous fowl.
Along the way, native villages line the coast, their picturesque stilt-supported houses rising out the water, and local fishermen cast their nets or set out to sea in catamaran canoes.
Except for some hotel dances, there is not much nightlife in Biak, but the local people are friendly and obliging. Arrangementcan be made to view fire-walking ceremonies, and there are dance and musical groups that can can be hired to perform. The majority of the population of Biak Island, however, consists of farmers fisherme, who have adapted to modern ways, unlike the Dani and Asmat tribes of the interior, who have kept up their customs and traditions.
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 case of 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 souvernirs 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 be reached 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 formations.
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