New Hanover 101… The second largest island in New Ireland province is located about 40km to the west of Kavieng.
Volcanic in structure with a densely forested hinterland, New Hanover is a wild, rugged and sparsely populated island.
That small population live a village based, subsistence life-style. Where most of what they need comes from the land or the sea.
Traditionally known as Lavongai Island, its north coast looks out on to the vast Pacific Ocean and has superb beaches with numerous offshore islands, fringing reefs and views to die for! It is the waves coming in from the Pacific and the offshore breaks that have attracted surfers to the area.
Anthropologists have also found New Hanover a place of interest. Principally the local traditional customs associated with the rich meanings of certain body fluids (milk, blood and semen…)
Along with the interesting Johnson Cult strategy the locals used against their somewhat bemused and confused former Australian colonial rulers.
New Hanover 101 – Underwater…
The main reason divers go to New Hanover is Three Island Harbour, on the north-west tip of the island. Which is the last resting place of four Japanese WWII vessels. All of which were sunk by Allied bombers in February 1944.
When the tide of war in the Pacific changed at the end of 1943, the Japanese base in Kavieng became a prime target for the Allied forces as they counter attacked.
Beginning on the 11th February 1944, major air raids were carried out by squadrons of B-25 Mitchell bombers.
Over the next few days the base, together with its fleet of sea-planes, was destroyed.
Those air raids were followed up on the 16th February. When six squadrons of bombers went in search of a 14-ship Japanese convoy heading for the area. Three of those vessels – the Sanko Maru, an unidentified submarine and Subchaser #39 – were located in Three Island Harbor.
The Sanko Maru was attacked first and quickly sank. While the Subchaser was pursued and ultimately ran aground on a nearby reef, where it became target practice for the bomber crews.
In a tremendous photograph taken by the rear camera of one of the attacking B25’s – “Rita’s Wagon”.
Another Mitchell Bomber, “Brother Rat”, was captured dropping a 500lb bomb on the Subchaser.
While the Sanko Maru burns in the background…
The submarine was later identified as a Type C midget version, when the B25’s returned the next day and dropped two 500lb bombs.
Later evidence indicates that the bombs missed their target… And the submarine was actually scuttled by the crew to prevent it from being captured.
But, because the submarine was lifted out of the water by the impact and a sheet of flame was reported by the bomber crew, it was assumed the sub had been sunk.
During that raid, the B25’s also found a freighter anchored in shallow water less than 1km from the sunken Subchaser and proceeded to bomb it. The ship, which is believed to be the 1200 ton Kashi Maru, was split in two by the attacks and sunk.
New Hanover 101 – How to Dive It?
Your choices are limited if you want to dive this remote part of PNG… New Hanover is not the easiest place to get to and the only way to do it is by boat. Which typically involves at least a 2-3 hour ride from Kavieng.
Lissenung Island Resort runs a New Hanover special trip and uses Clem’s Place as the base from which to operate from. Alternatively the MV Febrina liveaboard visits both New Hanover and New Ireland as part of its annual schedules.
New Hanover 101 – Where to Stay?
Your choices are even more limited when it comes to somewhere to stay in New Hanover… Clem’s Place on Tunnung Island is the main surf camp in the area and offers a good base to operate from.
Owned and operated by Clem Anton and his wife Sophie. The camp consists of a main lodge with 5 small bungalows and a common shower and toilet block.
Clem’s is located in front of Tunnung Island’s tidal lagoon and just along from the local village.
The sunsets over the lagoon are spectacular and the local villagers are very friendly and welcoming.
So you really feel you are somewhere quite special!
Clem’s Place in no luxury resort, but it’s a great place to base yourself from for a few days while exploring the excellent dive sites of the area.