Map of the Bismarck Archipelago
|Location||Papua New Guinea|
|Major islands||New Britain, New Ireland|
|Area||49,700 km2 (19,190 sq mi)|
The first inhabitants of the archipelago arrived around 33,000 years ago from New Guinea, either by boats across the Bismarck Sea or via a temporary land bridge, created by an uplift in the Earth's crust. Later arrivals included the Lapita people.
The first European to visit these islands was Dutch explorer Willem Schouten in 1616. The islands remained unsettled by western Europeans until they were annexed as part of the German protectorate of German New Guinea in 1884. The area was named in honour of the Chancellor Otto von Bismarck.
Following the outbreak of World War I, the Australian Naval and Military Expeditionary Force seized the islands in 1914 and Australia later received a League of Nations mandate for the islands. They remained under Australian administration—interrupted only by Japanese occupation during World War II—until Papua New Guinea became independent in 1975.
The Bismarck Archipelago includes mostly volcanic islands with a total land area of 49,700 km2 (19,189 sq mi). Islands are grouped here according to administrative province:
- Manus Province (see 9 on the map)
- Admiralty Islands, group of 18 islands including:
- Western Islands, with:
- New Ireland Province (12)
- Morobe Province (11)
The passage of water between the islands of New Britain and New Ireland is called St. George's Channel after St. George's Channel in the British Isles between Wales and Ireland.
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