Papua New Guinea

Lake Hargy Caldera Complex, West New Britain, PNG


“As the fifteenth century began, we believed, absolutely, that the earth was flat. As the twenty-first century began, we believed with equal certainty that every one of the earth’s great discoveries had been made” (James M. Tabor, 2010). Yet to this very day, new discoveries continue to astound even the most hardened cynics.

At 04:30 hrs on June 2011, we checked our backpacks, sampling gear, and camera equipment in at Auckland airport and prepared mentally for the wild and amazing adventure Sarah and I were about to embark on…into the ‘land of the unexpected’…Papua New Guinea! Our objectives were multifaceted and would involve biodiversity surveys within the Lake Hargy Caldera, a search for unexplored cave systems in the Nakanai mountains, try to acertain the existence of tree-kangaroos on the Island of New Britain, and educate the local communities about sustainable land management.

Owen Stanley Range, Papua New Guinea (Photograph by Sarah Wells)

Two days later we joined the rest of our expedition team at Jackson Airport in Port Moresby and boarded our flight to West New Britain. Our team including modern day explorer and team leader Prof. John Lane, entomologist Don Miller, ornithologist Sarah Wells, herpetologist and naturalist Dylan van Winkel, botanical researcher Heidi Rogers, and students Alan Rhoades and Emily Ramsey.

Team Hargy and Biakakea villagers (Dylan van Winkel missing from photograph)

The primary objective of the expedition was to undertake a biological inventory of the Lake Hargy Caldera. More simply, using an array of survey techniques to record the species present in the Hargy Caldera. This information forms an essential scientific baseline from which conservation priorities can be derived and recommendations for conservation action made. Over the past four years, scientific study in the Caldera has been limited to geological inverstigations of volcanic morphology, entomological collections of Lepidoptera, botanical surveys, studies on the characteristics of the lake, and preliminary studies on resident herpetofauna. The 2011 expedition aimed to collect detailed information on the species of birds, reptiles, amphibians, invertebrates, and mammals present within the Caldera’s complex ecosystem.

Quenching our thrist for adventure, John, myself and journalist and explorer Matt Power, loaded our gear onto a raft and paddled off across Lake Hargy for 5 days of adrenalin packed exploration in the Nakanai Mountains. The following days would see us trekking vast distances in torrential downpours, rappelling limestone cliffs, rigging handlines, suturing up machete wounds and documenting new landforms and wildlife. Unfortunatelty on day 4, we were stopped dead in our tracks by  a 150 ft vertical drop for which we had no more rope to rappel with, and we had to return to camp 3. Beyond camp 3 however, the prospects of discovering unmapped cave systems, undescribed species and ‘lost’World War II wreckages are high. The anticipation of discovery will continue to captivate my thoughts until I return! 

Read all about our adventure in the terra incognita of the Lake Hargy Caldera in The Atavist’s “LAND OF SECRETS” (by Matt Power) –

The Atavist’s “Land of Secrets,” by Matt Power



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