Duke of York Islands

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Duke of York Islands
The Duke of York Islands from space
The Duke of York Islands from space
Waters Bismarcksee
archipelago Bismarck Archipelago
Geographical location 4 ° 10 ′  S , 152 ° 27 ′  E Coordinates: 4 ° 10 ′  S , 152 ° 27 ′  E
Duke of York Islands (Papua New Guinea)
Duke of York Islands
Number of islands 12
Main island Duke of York Island
Total land area 68 km²
Location of the individual islands
Location of the individual islands

The Duke of York Islands (German from 1885 to 1918: Neulauenburg or Neu-Lauenburg ) form a group of islands in the Bismarck Archipelago belonging to Papua New Guinea . They are named after the Duke of York Eduard August . Between 1884 and 1919 they were part of the German colony of German New Guinea . As early as 1875, the group was the starting point for colonial efforts around the trading houses Hernsheim and Godeffroy .



The Duke of York Islands on an early German nautical chart (1879)

The 68 km² area consists of twelve islands :

f1Georeferencing Map with all coordinates: OSM | WikiMap

Island name Alias Coordinates Area (km²)
Duke of York Island ! 495.8244445652.453889504 ° 11 ′  S , 152 ° 27 ′  E 000000000000051.800000000051.80
Ulu ! 495.7827785652.414444504 ° 13 ′  S , 152 ° 25 ′  E 000000000000010.000000000010.00
Makada ! 495.8791675652.420000504 ° 07 ′  S , 152 ° 25 ′  E 000000000000004.00000000004.00
Mioko ! 495.7702785652.457778504 ° 14 ′  S , 152 ° 27 ′  E 000000000000001.92000000001.92
Kabakon ! 495.7630565652.396944504 ° 14 ′  S , 152 ° 24 ′  E 000000000000000.76000000000.76
Kerawara ! 495.7580565652.415833504 ° 15 ′  S , 152 ° 25 ′  E 000000000000000.45000000000.45
Utuan ! 495.7688895652.440833504 ° 14 ′  S , 152 ° 26 ′  E 000000000000000.40000000000.40
Mualim ! 495.7813895652.465000504 ° 13 ′  S , 152 ° 28 ′  E 000000000000000.14000000000.14
Ruruan ! 495.7972225652.423056504 ° 12 ′  S , 152 ° 25 ′  E 000000000000000.13000000000.13
Mait Unanga ! 495.8872225652.436111504 ° 07 ′  S , 152 ° 26 ′  E 000000000000000.03000000000.03
Mait Iri ! 495.8844445652.440833504 ° 07 ′  S , 152 ° 26 ′  E 000000000000000.01000000000.01
Tonwalik ! 495.7641675652.386944504 ° 14 ′  S , 152 ° 23 ′  E 000000000000000.01000000000.01

The Credner Islands , about 7 km to the southwest , consisting of Big Pigeon and Pigeon , do not belong to the Duke of York Islands.


The Duke of York Group is located in an endangered zone, as two tectonic plates collide here. Earthquakes and tsunamis are not uncommon for the residents of the islands. On November 28, 2000 the resettlement or evacuation of many inhabitants of the islands was announced in order to avoid deaths if the archipelago were to sink soon.

Major islands

Duke of York Island (main island)

Drawing of the main island by Samuel Wallis around 1767

The Duke of York Island (formerly also: Amacata or Amakada ) consists of coral limestone raised in terraces. This leads to an occurrence of andesite in some parts of the west coast. It is about eight kilometers long. In the north was the Hunter Harbor, also known as Balanawang , which was discovered by John Hunter in 1791.


The island of Kabakon - or at least a large piece of land on it - was acquired by the natural scientist Theodor Kleinschmidt in mid-1879 . The sellers were some tribesmen from the neighboring island of Utuan who held land on Kabakon.

During German colonial times there were coconut plantations on Kabakon, and the consumption of coconuts was advertised.


Kerawara is an island located at the southern end of the Duke of York Islands. Kerawara was home to one of the imperial courts of the German New Guinea colony. Until 1890, the central administration of the New Guinea company was located here .


Makada is an island in the north of the Duke of York Group. In February 1876, the captain of trade and later merchant Eduard Hernsheim had a station built on it for the purchase of turtle shells and the production of copra . From September, the office was temporarily central station of the South Sea Company Hernsheim & Co . In December 1878, Corvette Captain Bartholomäus von Werner "acquired" the adjoining Ferguson harbor for barter goods (around 400 marks) for the German Empire. The branch of Hernsheim & Co was closed again in June 1879 due to epidemic malaria cases. During the colonial period (1884-1914) the former station area was used for extensive cattle rearing.

On November 5, 1884, the imperial flag was hoisted on the island. Until 1899 Makada was part of the eastern jurisdiction of the protected area of ​​the New Guinea Company . Subsequently and until 1914 it was part of the Imperial Protected Area of ​​German New Guinea .


The small island in the south of the archipelago is about 1.6 kilometers long and 1.2 kilometers wide and was the starting point for the colonization of the Duke of York Islands. During the German colonial rule, there were coconut plantations on Mioko and a station of the German Trading and Plantation Society of the South Sea Islands in Hamburg ( DHPG ). The port on Mioko was already claimed by Germany in 1878. The German flag on Mioko was hoisted on November 4, 1884 by the captain of the warship SMS Elisabeth .


Ulu is an island southwest of the main island and consists of coral limestone and andesite . In the late 19th century, the German naturalist Theodor Kleinschmidt bought the island from a tribe on the neighboring island of Utuan . However, a little later, in April 1881, he was killed by that tribe in a quarrel that he had provoked. In the research literature, however, it is controversial whether Kleinschmidt actually acquired Ulu or not the neighboring island of Kabakon to the southwest.


There is a moderately humid, tropical maritime climate . Dry weather on the Duke of York Islands heralds the imminent southeast trade wind . The lowest averages of 23 ° C are in the months of June to September, the maximum temperatures of 32 ° C in the months of December and January. The humidity fluctuates between 71 and 78 percent. An average of six rainy days are recorded in December and eleven in March and April.


Smaller forests usually grow on the Duke of York Islands, including the umbrella tree Pandanus dubius ( called Uom by the inhabitants of the islands ). There are also some grassy areas ( Sorghum propinquum ). Wax flowers such as Hoya papillantha or Hoya sororia (where it is assumed that Hoya sororia is identical to Hoya papillantha ) or Alpinia such as Alpinia oceanica , which were found on Kerawara and Mioko, grow on flowers . There is also, for example, the orchid species Leucophanes albescens . The moss Plagiochila miokensis is only found on the island of Mioko.

The butterfly Mycalesis phidon xanthias occurs throughout the archipelago . The beetle snail Lepidopleurus acuminatus and the field locust Valanga nobilis miokoana also live on the islands . In addition, the quail species Excalfactoria lepida occurs. The smooth lizards Lygosoma impar and Lygosoma dahlii also inhabit the archipelago. The butterfly Ornithoptera priamus miokensis only lives on the island of Mioko. The blue and black marlin , the sailfish and the single-color tuna live in the coastal waters .

Agricultural use

Large areas of the islands are used to grow coconuts, bananas, nuts and other fruits. Aibika ( Abelmoschus manihot ) and cassava are grown in some home gardens . Cocoa is also sometimes grown, although the plantations are not particularly productive. Water buffalo are used to pull carts loaded with coconuts and copra .

To transport goods by sea, come next dugout canoes with single boom and boom loose plank boats used, but its origins in the Solomon Islands have. They finally spread to New Ireland via Buka and Nissan and found their way onto the Duke of York Islands.


A man from the Duke of York Islands. Watercolor by
John Hunter circa 1791
Women on Mioko around 1900

In 1996 there were 12,000 people on the islands. This results in a population density of 207 inhabitants / km². Many of the island's residents have moved to other islands in the region.

Most of the Melanesians live on the Duke of York Islands . It appears to be a mixture of the New Ireland and New Britain residents who probably populated the islands in earlier times. They believe that their culture came into being with the arrival of the first missionary on the islands, Father George Brown. His first impression of the inhabitants was: "Natives stark naked, extremely unpleasant to look at".

The residents of the Duke of York group speak Ramoaaina , an Austronesian language of the West Ocean branch. In 2000, the language was spoken by 10,266 people. Dialects of Ramoaaina are Makada and Molot (spoken on the main island) and Aalawa (spoken mainly on Mioko, Ulu and the more southern islands). The Makada dialect is very different from Ramoaaina and may not be understood by speakers of other dialects. Many people also speak the lingua franca Tok Pisin . In addition, residents of the islands between the ages of 20 and 50 who have attended secondary school can speak some English. Some of the over 50-year-olds also speak the related language Kuanua of the Tolai , which was a common language of trade in the New Britain and New Ireland area.

Most of the people on the islands make a living from selling copra . For this purpose, a separate warehouse was established in 1995. Many men claim to sell around ten to fifteen tons of copra annually (3,000 to 4,500 kina per household per year). In addition, the residents of the Duke of York group sell significant amounts of fish in Kokopo . However, these businesses are not particularly profitable as profits are limited by inadequate marketing agreements.


The archipelago was discovered for Europe in 1767 by the British Philipp Carteret . In 1878 the captain of the warship SMS Ariadne acquired the Fergusson port on the island of Makada for the German Empire for 400 marks. In 1884 the archipelago was finally incorporated into the German colonial empire under the administration of German New Guinea . In addition to copra production, the recruiting, and in some cases the forced deportation of workers, especially from New Mecklenburg ( New Ireland ), to the German Samoa colony was important. An average of 20% of those displaced were unable to return to their home areas.

After the First World War , the Duke of York Islands became part of Great Britain . They have belonged to the state of Papua New Guinea since independence in 1975 .

Christian mission

George Brown's first house in Port Hunter

The Methodist Church was the first to start missionary work in the Bismarck Archipelago: On August 15, 1875, the missionary George Brown came to the islands and founded the Wesleyan Mission in the Bismarck Archipelago. He settled in Port Hunter (Hunterhafen) on the main island. Together with a dozen helpers, he converted the neighboring islands of New Britain and New Ireland from Duke of York and founded numerous congregations that always consisted of settlers and natives. Locals were baptized from 1878 and the first lay preachers were appointed from the indigenous population from 1880. The killing and eating of four missionaries by locals on the Gazelle Peninsula of New Britains "punished" Brown in 1878 with a campaign of revenge that killed 20 locals and a number of houses. In 1881, Brown and his family moved to Sydney. Catholic missionaries came to the islands from 1882 for the Mission du Sacré Cœur . The majority of today's population has Methodist roots and belongs to the United Church in Papua New Guinea , in which the Methodist congregations in particular were absorbed in 1968.

The missions not only wanted to convert the "unbelieving heathen" to Christianity, but also pursued the goal of exporting colonial goods from the mission areas. In the south of the main island, for example, there were coconut plantations of the Catholic Mission during German colonial times. The Wesleyan Mission also had coconut plantations on Ulu in addition to a station and an educational establishment.



The main foods on the Duke York Islands are taro , bananas, and yams . Fruits and nuts are also important foods. Here dominate mangoes , Polynesian chestnut , pineapple and breadfruit . Parartocarpus , star fruit and rambutan are not so common, but still worth mentioning . It is likely that fruit was a higher priority in the local diets before Europeans brought sweet potatoes and cassava to the islands.

A local specialty is a snack made from grated cassava, coconuts and fish.

From December 1982 to February 1983, a total of 161 families from seven villages were asked what they had eaten the day before. 76 percent had eaten sweet potatoes, 72 percent coconut, 56 percent bananas, ten percent taro, six percent manioc, two percent yams and one percent sago . In addition, 59 percent of those surveyed had consumed rice and 43 percent fish.


The inhabitants of the Duke of York Islands make masks mainly from softwood. Some masks are also modeled on a turtle shell or a coconut shell using clay. The masks are painted with a mixture of earth and charcoal. The masks are decorated with shells, tusks and feathers from cassowaries . The masks are used for ritual mask dances in which the boys are introduced into the community . The masks are also called Lor masks by the inhabitants of the islands . The masks describe the settlement of the islands. In the past, residents only knew three colors that they could make themselves: red, black and white. Red was made from some type of earth, black was made from a mixture of soot and palm oil , and white was made by burning coral.


The most common jewelry on the islands are necklaces. These are worn by the women and consist of small glass beads and teeth from local possums . Various smaller ornaments are attached to short hanging cords.

The appearance, value and length depend on the man's wealth. The variety of necklaces ranges from simple strings of pearls to 6 cm wide ribbons, the middle piece of which consists of possum teeth. It is these teeth that give the jewelry value, as each possum only has two teeth that can be used for this purpose. Often times up to fifty possums have to be killed for just one chain. August Seidel reports on the splendid collar of King Dick's favorite woman with a 6 cm high and 4 cm wide center piece that consists of over one hundred possum teeth.


There is a special tradition at the wedding: a coconut is broken over the heads of the couple and the coconut milk is poured over them.

Every year the residents of the Duke of York group send a canoe laden with money and decorated with green leaves out to sea to compensate the fish for their relatives caught last year.

The Dukduk secret society used to exist on the islands .


  • Goran Aijmer: Ritual Dramas in the Duke of York Islands. An Exploration of Cultural Imagery. 1997, ISBN 91-630-4203-7
  • Cornelis de Boer: Pele, the shell money from Neu-Lauenburg . In: The primitive money collector . 17/1986
  • Helen Bethea Gardner: Gathering for God: George Brown in Oceania. Otago University Press, 2006, ISBN 978-1-877372-18-6
  • D. Gewertz and F. Errington: First contact with God: individualism, agency, and revivalism in the Duke of York Islands . In: Cultural Anthropology . Volume 8, 1993, pp. 279-305
  • Andrew Midian: The Value of Indigenous Music in the Life and Ministry of the Church. The United Church in the Duke of York Islands . 1999, ISBN 9980-68-034-2
  • August Seidel: Germany's colonies. Colonial reading book for school and home . Area Verlag, 2004, ISBN 3-89996-201-X , pp. 322-324
  • George Brown: Notes on the Duke of York Group, New Britain and New Ireland . In: Royal Geographical Society . Volume 47, 1877, pp. 137-150
  • Ernst von Hesse-Wartegg: Samoa, Bismarck Archipelago and New Guinea. Three German colonies in the South Pacific . Leipzig 1902
  • Carl Ribbe: A collective stay in Neu-Lauenburg (Duke of York in the Bismarck Archipelago) . 1912
  • Grose-Smith: Descriptions of eight new species of butterflies from New Britain and Duke of York Islands in the collections of the Hon. W. Rothschild and Mr. Grose Smith, captured by Captains Cayley Webster and Cotton . In: Annals and Magazine of Natural History. 1894

Web links

Commons : Duke of York Islands  - Album containing pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ The Heat Is Online: 1,000 flee as sea begins to swallow up Pacific islands
  2. ^ Official press of Prussia: VII. Year. No. 108. Latest news. Responsible editor: Dr. H. Klee. Berlin, Tuesday, November 27, 1888.
  3. German Colonial Lexicon: Kerawara
  4. Jakob Anderhandt: Eduard Hernsheim, the South Seas and a lot of money: biography in two volumes . MV-Wissenschaft, Münster 2012, here: Volume 1, pp. 127, 148 f., 267 and 286.
  5. Duke of York Islands , in: Meyers Konversationslexikon, Vol. 5, 4th edition, Leipzig and Vienna 1885-1892, p. 201
  6. ^ The Pacific Islands Handbook . P. 239 and Pacific Islands Yearbook . 1981, p. 298
  7. Heinz Schütte: "Stori Bilong Wanpela Man Nem Bilong Em Toboalilu". The Death of Godeffroy's Kleinschmidt, and the Perception of History. ( Memento of the original from October 5, 2013 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. In: Pacific Studies. Vol. 14, No. 3 (1991), pp. 69-96, here: p. 71. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / ojs.lib.byu.edu
  8. Jakob Anderhandt: Eduard Hernsheim, the South Seas and a lot of money: biography in two volumes . MV-Wissenschaft, Münster 2012, Volume 1, p. 487. A private letter from Kleinschmidt dated January 5, 1880 to Rev. Benjamin Danks, in which Kleinschmidt reports on his purchase of the island "Kambe Kounae (Kapakon)", serves as evidence.
  9. ^ The Scottish Geographical Magazine . 1999, p. 95
  10. Archive link ( Memento of the original from October 16, 2006 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. Climate table  @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / www.fit-for-travel.de
  11. The useful plants of the island of Guam: with an introductory account of the physical features and natural history of the island, of the character and history of its people, and of their agriculture . 1905, p. 343
  12. ^ Hoya sororia K. Schumann 1905 ( memento of April 11, 2005 in the Internet Archive ) and Hoya papillantha K. Schumann 1898 ( memento of April 11, 2005 in the Internet Archive )
  13. ^ Mathematical Proceedings of the Cambridge Philosophical Society . 1975, p. 93
  14. Biology University of Ulm: Leucophanes albescens C. Mull.
  15. Recognized species of Plagiochila in Australasia and some island groups of the Pacific Ocean ( Memento of the original from September 5, 2008 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link has been inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice.  @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / www.rsnz.org
  16. phidon
  17. Biology University of Ulm: Lepidopleurus acuminatus Thiele, 1909
  18. Biology University of Ulm: Valanga nobilis miokoana
  19. On a New Quail from the Duke of York Group - Scientific Entertainment Society Meeting Reports . 7 pp. [2–3] and Biology University of Ulm: Excalfactoria lepida Hartlaub, 1879
  20. Biology University of Ulm: Lygosoma impar and Biology University of Ulm: Lygosoma dahlii
  21. ORNITHOPTERA PRIAMUS and East New Britain: Flora and Fauna
  22. Fishing in Papua New Guinea
  23. The new great ethnology: peoples and cultures of the earth in words and pictures . 1954, p. 386
  24. ^ Proceedings of the Royal Geographical Society of London . 1881, p. 85
  25. Encyclopedia of Fairy Tales . Volume 9, p. 546
  26. Ethnologue report for language code: rai
  27. ^ Gisela Graichen and Horst Founders: German Colonies. Dream and trauma . Berlin 2005, ISBN 3-550-07637-1
  28. ^ Ulrich Fellmann:  Brown, George. In: Biographisch-Bibliographisches Kirchenlexikon (BBKL). Volume 28, Bautz, Nordhausen 2007, ISBN 978-3-88309-413-7 , Sp. 261-271.
  29. German Colonial Lexicon: Ulu
  30. The Mystic Rose. A Study of Primitive Marriage . P. 378
  31. ^ Tonga: The Never-Ending Saga
  32. German Colonial Lexicon: Dukduk