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ENVIRONMENT

SURVIVING THE VOLCANO

The famous Yasur volcano in Vanuatu is a tourist drawcard and regarded as the most accessible live volcano in the world.

It erupts many times per hour and has been doing so continuously for 800 years.

Tanna Island in Vanuatu is the site of the ninth instalment of the Survivor TV series.

Entitled Vanuatu - Islands of Fire this Survivor series was filmed in the summer of 2004.

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LOST WORLD

In 2005 scientists discovered hundreds of new species - mammals, birds, butterflies - in a pristine mountain rainforest environment in Papua.

A giant white rhododendron flower measuring 15cms across, 5 new palm species, a new honeyeater bird and a large mammal, the golden mantled tree kangaroo, were some of the remarkable discoveries scientists made in the remote mist-shrouded Foja Mountains region of Papua.

Papua already had the world's longest lizards (Papua monitor) and the world's largest butterflies.

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TROPICAL GLACIER

Papua is home to the world's only permanent glacier on a tropical island.

The glacier-covered Puncak Jaya is 5030 metres high and is the highest peak between the Himalayas and the Andes.

The tallest peaks in Papua are snow bound all year round.

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MOTHER RIGHTS TO LAND

In some parts of the Pacific, women rather than men are owners of the land.

On much of Bougainville, land ownership is matrilineal - passing from mother to daughter - and women have long protected their land rights.

In 1969, women stood in front of bulldozers sent by the mining company Conzinc Riotinto of Australia (CRA) to clear rainforest for the construction of the Panguna mine project.

For Digital Resources on Bougainville click here
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TSUNAMI

The effects of global warming are already becoming apparent in many of the outer islands of Papua New Guinea where the rising sea water level has spilled inland with a resultant detrimental effect on food gardens and crops.

When the tide subsides, pools of salt water remain, causing root crops such as banana, breadfruit trees and other foods to die from an excessive intake of salty water.

In July 1998 three giant tsunamis hit Papua New Guinea's northwest coast.

Up to 3000 people were killed as villages along the coast were completely destroyed.

A Pacific Tsunami Warning System in Hawaii is now in operation with 26 nation states participating in a network of seismic monitoring stations across the Pacific.

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BUTTERFLIES WITH BIRDWINGS

The name 'birdwing' derives from the insect's Latin name, 'Ornithoptera', and like birds, these butterflies soar above the forest canopy. The enormous Queen Alexandra Birdwing Butterfly is confined to patches of the lowland forests of a limited region within the northern province of Papua New Guinea. It has a wingspan of up to 30.5 centimetres, making the large females bigger than many birds.

Because of their beauty and size, collectors from the U.S., Europe, and Japan prize birdwing butterflies.

A single Queen Alexandra specimen can fetch thousands of dollars.

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HOW MANY ISLANDS?

The Pacific Ocean contains more than 25,000 islands (more than the total number in the rest of the world's oceans combined), the majority of which are found south of the equator. Some islands cover thousands of square kilometres. But others are no more than tiny piles of rock or sand that barely rise above the water. Pacific atolls are coral islands, formed on the top of submerged volcanoes by coral polyps. They are the ocean equivalent of rainforests, and are home to 25% of all marine species.

About 16 million people live in the Pacific Islands but only a few islands or island groups, such as Fiji, Hawaii, New Guinea and New Zealand, have large numbers of people.

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WORLD'S TALLEST MOUNTAIN AND DEEPEST SEA

The floor of the Pacific Ocean is home to the world's tallest mountain.

When measured from base to peak, Mauna Kea, a dormant volcano near Hawaii, measures 10,202 metres. Its base is over 5000 metres under the surface of the Pacific Ocean.

The greatest known depth in any of the world's oceans is 11,033 metres in the Mariana Trench off Guam. This is deeper than the height of Mount Everest, the highest mountain in the world at 8850 metres.

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SEAS RISING

The eight million or so inhabitants of the South Pacific Islands (excluding Australia and New Zealand) have already experienced the first effects of global warming.

Elevated water temperatures, violent storms and rising sea levels are beginning to destroy delicate ecosystems, forcing islanders to consider leaving their homes and island communities. This is a particular problem for Tuvalu as its highest land is just 5 metres above sea level.

Recently Tuvalu had record high tides measuring 1.5 metres above average. 3000 people are currently being resettled from Tuvalu to New Zealand and Kiribati.

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