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
urbancentre. 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 boom town as well.
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.
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. 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
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 whose1615-16 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, 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
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
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 subsequent explorers
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-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
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 Marauw 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 usual10-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 Cendrawashi Bay, the Mapia Islands, and as far as
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 battlesites of World War II, and today, the Japanese caves that can
breached 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
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 33species, 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.
Arrangement can 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
fishermen, 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 arenumber 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 formations.