Biak Island,West Papua
also spelled WIAK ISLAND, Indonesian Pulau Biak, largest of theSchouten Islands, off the northern coast of Irian Jaya (theIndonesian 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). Biakwas seized by the Japanese in April 1942 during World War II; itwas retaken May 27-July 22, 1944, by Allied forces.
Biak town, where the airport is located, is the chief urbancentre. It is also the transportation centre for Irian Jaya, withflights to other towns in Irian Jaya, as well as to Surabaya andUjung Pandang in Indonesia and to Hong Kong. It has now become anoil boomtown as well.
Biak the main island ofCenderawasih Bay, and near by Supiori Island are the respectivelocations for the Biak and Supiori Nature Reserves. These parksare bird sanctuaries that include beautiful varieties of parrotsand cockatoos. Siak is the center for the illegal trade of uniqueIrianese birds, as well as a bustling headquarters for both thetuna industry and offshore oil drilling operations.
Indonesian Kepulauan Schouten, formerly MISORE ISLANDS,archipelago in the Pacific Ocean across the entrance toCenderawasih Bay, off the northern coast of Irian Jaya provinsi("province"), Indonesia. The first European sighting ofthe group was by the Dutch navigator Willem CorneliszoonSchouten. The chief islands are Biak, Supiori, and Numfoor. Thetown 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 ofIrian Jaya.
This group should not be confused with another island group ofthe same name, also off the northern coast of New Guinea butbelonging to Papua New Guinea.
b. 1567?, Hoorn, Neth.
d. 1625, Antongil Bay, Madagascar
in full WILLEM CORNELISZOON SCHOUTEN, Dutch explorer whose1615-16 expedition discovered a new route, the Drake Passage,around the southern tip of South America, connecting the AtlanticOcean with the Pacific.
The Dutch East India Company held a monopoly on all East Indiestrade by ships routed through the Strait of Magellan when, in1615, an Amsterdam merchant, Isaac Le Maire, mounted anexpedition to find a new route to the Pacific. His son Jakob andveteran 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 SouthAmerica, where the smaller ship caught fire and had to beabandoned. 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 newroute, now known as the Drake Passage, was longer but muchsimpler than the established passage through the Strait ofMagellan.
The expedition went on to discover new islands in the SouthPacific before reaching its destination, Batavia, Java (nowJakarta, Indon.), in October 1616. There the Dutch governorrefused to believe that Schouten had discovered a new routewestward and confiscated his cargo. Schouten and Le Maire werecharged with infringing on the monopoly and were sent home toHolland; Le Maire died along the way. Upon his return to theNetherlands, Schouten's (and Le Maire's) diaries, complete withmaps, were published and proved valuable to subsequent explorers
THE GATEWAY TO IRIAN JAYA
The island of Biak, at the verytop of the Bird's Head Peninsula of Irian Jaya, is the international entry point for visitors from the U.S. AlthoughBiak is currently considered by most travelers as a stop-over onflights to Bali and Jakarta, there are plans to make this islandand its offshore islets an international resort.
ground has been broken onMarauw Beach, on 325 hectares of land just 15 minutes from FransKaisepo International Airport, for an international class touristresort. The plan includes six 4- and 5- start hotels, an 18-holegolf course and counting and water skiing. There will be marina,a seaside park, and a 2.7-hectare hilltop park, 100 to 200 unitsof condominiums and villas, and service facilities set amongattractively landscape open spaces. A shopping center calledAmenity Plaza will cater to a variety of needs, serving the localresidents as well as tourists. The Merauw Beach developmenthighlights upcoming and existing activities in Cendrawasih Bay,which is considered a world-class diving area.
For some years now, moderncruise and diving ships have been stopping at Biak opening up avast undersea empire to those who wish to explore it. A shipcalled Tropical Princess, has been operating in thesewaters since 1990. It can accommodate 20 persons for its usual10-days cruise during which passengers can scuba dive aroundBiak, the Auri island of the Monokwari regency, the AggrameosIsland of the Paniai regency, and the Raja Ampat Islands ofSorong regency.
Local companies also offer deepsea diving. Sentosa Tosiga Tours and Travel, which has a new divecenter and shop in Biak, Cover all of the Padaido Island group,South Supiori Island, and the north shore of Yapen Island. Thecompany also works with a Pinisi ship that takes people aroundCendrawasi Bay, the Mapia Islands, and as far as Sorong.
For divers and even snorkelersthere is a wonderland of exotic fish and magnificent coralgardens ringed by sandy white beaches. Wherever divers chose togo, 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 battlesites of World War II, and today, the Japanese caves that can bereached by a short taxi ride from town are a prime touristattraction. There is also a Japanese monument and a museum nearthe caves, with World War II relics and artillery piecesdisplayed.
The approach to the cave isitself an adventure. As one descends a steep concrete stairway tothe vine-draped entrance, small bats dart out of the cave'smouth. Then suddenly, one is in a huge cathedral-like chamberwith stalactities dripping from the ceiling. Eerie blue daylightfrom an adjoining opening to the sky pierces the gloom, adding anair of mystery.
Other nearby attractions are anorchid garden where one can see 2,200 orchids of 63 nativevarieties and a well-stocked aviary of nearby 200 birds of 33species, including birds of paradise, white cockatoos,cassowaries, and other indigenous fowl.
Along the way, native villagesline the coast, their picturesque stilt-supported houses risingout the water, and local fishermen cast their nets or set out tosea in catamaran canoes.
Except for some hotel dances,there is not much nightlife in Biak, but the local people arefriendly and obliging. Arrangementcan be made to viewfire-walking ceremonies, and there are dance and musical groupsthat can can be hired to perform. The majority of the populationof Biak Island, however, consists of farmers fisherme, who haveadapted to modern ways, unlike the Dani and Asmat tribes of theinterior, who have kept up their customs and traditions.
In the town of Biak, there arenumber of surprisingly good restaurants featuring freshly caughtseafood. There a several new hotels in town, and taxis roam thestreets looking for fares. Three hospitals are available in caseof emergencies, and modern stores and pharmacies are convenientlylocated in center of town. There is an open-air market that sellfruits and vegetables early in the morning, and there are shopsselling souvernirs and jewelry crafted from 23-kt. gold, whichare sold by weight, with very little added for workmanship.
Biak's offshore island areworth a visit if one has the time. The principal of theseoutlying destinations are Numfor and Yapen islands. Yapen can bereached by air, but Numfor is only accessible by boat. And routenative boats which are readily hired, one can view lobsters,blue-spotted rays, and other inhabitants of the coral formations.