1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/New Pomerania

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NEW POMERANIA (Ger. Neu-Pommern, formerly New Britain, native Birara), an island of the Bismarck Archipelago, N.E. of New Guinea in the Pacific Ocean, about 6° S., 150° E., in the administration of German New Guinea. It is crescent shaped, about 330 m. long, and, except where the Willaumez Peninsula projects northward, nowhere more than 60 m. wide. The north-eastern extremity consists of the broad, irregular Gazelle Peninsula, joined to the main mass by a narrow neck. The total area is about 9500 sq. m. The island is in great part unexplored. The coasts are in some parts precipitous; in others the mountains recede inland, and the coast is flat and bordered by coral reefs. The formation appears otherwise to be volcanic, and there are some active craters. The greatest elevation occurs towards the west — about 6500 ft. There is a rich tropical vegetation, and a number of considerable streams water the island. The chief centre is Herbertshöhe at the north of the Gazelle Peninsula; it is the seat of the governor of German New Guinea (see New Guinea).

The natives are Melanesians, resembling their Papuan kinsmen of eastern New Guinea, and are a powerful well-formed race. Their villages are clean and well kept. Unlike their Papuan relatives, the islanders are unskilled in carving and pottery, but are clever farmers and fishermen, constructing ingenious fishing weirs. They have a fixed monetary system consisting of strings of cowries. They perform complicated surgical operations with an obsidian knife or a shark's tooth. The common dead are buried or exposed to sharks on the reefs; bodies of chiefs are exposed in the fork of a tree. Justice is executed, and taboos, feasts, taxes, &c., arranged by a mysterious disguised figure, the duk-duk. The population is divided into two exogamous classes. The children belong to the class of the mother, and when the father dies go to her village for support, the land and fruit trees in each district being divided between the two classes. There are several dialects, the construction resembling Fijian, as in the pronominal suffixes in singular, triad and plural; the numerals, however, are Polynesian in character.