COAST SAMARAI TO YULE ISLAND The south coast of Papua New Guinea (previously identified, simply, as the south coast of Papua) is unique in that much of it is fronted by a narrow barrier reef.
Geologically, it is said that this side of the country is sinking while the other side is rising, a fact which might well explain a network of reefs similar to the Great Barrier Reef.
Papua New Guinea's barrier reef is all coral and provides fair anchorage in many places along its length but such practise is only advised when the trade wind is well established and there is little chance of a wind direction reversal. Reef anchorage is not necessary because of the number of good land anchorages along this stretch of the coast.
The barrier reef extends from Mailu Island — about 100 miles west of Samarai — to just beyond Port Moresby. Undoubtedly it would have continued around the Papuan Gulf to become as one with the Great Barrier Reef off Queensland were it not for the destructive effects of the mighty Fly River whose mouth keeps the offshore areas completely clear of any form of coral.
The barrier reef tends to lie from three to ten miles offshore and the water between it and the mainland is mostly navigable although the only properly charted inner route is between Hood Point and Port Moresby.
From Mailu Island to Samarai the barrier reef sinks to depths of around ten to twenty metres which causes a heavy swell to stack up and create uncomfortable conditions for small craft in close. It also provides some of the finest surface fishing grounds to be found anywhere in the Pacific, with mackerel, tuna, dolphin and barracuda being common game.
The coast is mountainous with some peaks rising to 3040 metres, such as Mount Obree which lies approximately 35 miles in from Marshall Lagoon.
Actually the mountains recede somewhat in the Marshall Lagoon area leaving flat featureless land along the foreshore. So featureless is this area that Cape Rodney, for example, is quite unidentifiable from seaward unless its position is established by other marks or it is sighted obliquely.
SAMARAI is described fully at the beginning of Area A. The approach to the coast in that area is also described.
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