Fondation Iris

PAPUA EXPEDITION 2016-2017

VIDEOS

The second "Science and Images" expedition organized by Fondation Iris  took place in West Papua between December 2016 and January 2017. Comprising scientists and artists working on environmental monitoring in this region of great biodiversity, its primary objective was to highlight the extraordinary biodiversity of the place and to identify the dangers which threaten it. The aim of the expedition was to raise awareness about the importance of the preservation of this natural one-of-a-kind heritage.

 

MANSUAR

RAJA AMPAT

The elongated, hilly island of Mansuar, together with its western neighbour, smaller, uninhabited Kri, forms the southern side of the Dampier Strait, Raja Ampat's most popular diving area. In fact, Kri is where diving and tourism in Raja Ampat started, as it was for many years home to the islands' only dive resort.

 

Then what delightful hours I passed wandering up and down the dry river-courses, full of water-holes and rocks and fallen trees, and overshadowed by magnificent vegetation. I soon got to know every hole and rock and stump, and came up to each with cautious step and bated breath to see what treasures it would produce.

 

Alfred Russel Wallace

The Malay Archipelago

BATANTA

RAJA AMPAT

Mangrove forests, at the boundary between land and sea, have the unique ability to withstand daily flooding by salt water. The trees have developed incredible coping mechanisms to survive in these extreme environmental conditions either by filtering out or excluding the salt from their tissues.  Mangrove forests provide habitat for a large variety of terrestrial and marine organisms and are said to be the nurseries of coral reefs.  Humans rely on mangroves for countless other ecosystem services such as coastal protection, water filtration and carbon fixation.

 

The coastal villages in the Raja Ampat region are taking part in a cleanup competition, an initiative organized by the local government. The result is quite remarkable as villages visited during the expedition were spotless and only very little plastic was found washed up on beaches. This kind of initiative is a great driver of change in a country which is among the top contributors of ocean plastic in the world and struggles with out of control plastic pollution.

 

The water was transparent as crystal, and tinged the rock-strewn slope which plunged steeply into its unfathomable depths with colours varying from emerald to lapis-lazuli. The sea was calm as a lake, and the glorious sun of the tropics threw a flood of golden light over all. The scene was to me inexpressibly delightful. I was in a new world, and could dream of the wonderful productions hid in those rocky forests, and in those azure abysses.

 

Alfred Russel Wallace

The Malay Archipelago

WAYAG

RAJA AMPAT

Located on the border of the Pacific Ocean and only 10km North of the Equator, Wayag offers an incredible panorama of pristine beaches, turquoise water and dramatic karst formation with near-vertical walls hanging over the sea. The iconic mushroom islands are in fact the tips of mountains that have been progressively eroded for thousands of years and are continuing to subside. Like in the rest of Raja Ampat, the landscape of Wayag has been shaped by historic tectonic events.

 

The two  surgeons/naturalists  Jean Quoy and Joseph Gaimard, onboard the french frigate "Uranie" during its circumnavigation of the world (1817-1820), were the first to describe much of the marine fauna found in the Raja Ampat region including the blacktip reef shark (Carcharhinus melanopterus).

 

URANIE

RAJA AMPAT

The island of Uranie was named in memory of the passage of the French frigate Uranie during its circumnavigation of the world (1817-1820) under the command of Louis de Freycinet. The wife of the commander, Rose Freycinet (born Pinion) was also on board, disguised as a man as the presence of women was prohibited on state vessels at that time. She became the first European woman to provide an account of her circumnavigation of the globe and one of Guinea’s emblematic birds, the Pinion’s Imperial Pigeon was consequently named in her honor. The Uranie was shipwrecked on its return journey off the coast of the Falkland Islands.

 

WALLACE'S CHANNEL

RAJA AMPAT

Exploring the channel between the Waigeo and Gam islands where Wallace was famously stuck for several days during his trip from Seram to Misool. The continuity between jungle and coral reef is seamless in this narrow passage.

In such a country, and among such a people, are found these wonderful productions of Nature, the Birds of Paradise, whose exquisite beauty of form and colour and strange developments of plumage are calculated to excite the wonder and admiration of the most civilized and the most intellectual of mankind, and to furnish inexhaustible materials for study to the naturalist, and for speculation to the philosopher.

 

Alfred Russel Wallace

The Malay Archipelago

WAIGEO

RAJA AMPAT

An Indonesian endemic, the Wilson's bird-of-paradise is distributed to the hill and lowland rainforests of Waigeo and Batanta islands. Males of these birds clear an area of rainforest to create a 'display court'. Then they perform an elaborate mating dance to impress a potential mate. The male usually exhibits the attractive breast shield and accompanies the mating dance with song and calls.

MISOOL

RAJA AMPAT

Misool, at the southernmost tip of the Raja Ampat region, is featuring incredible karst landscapes as well as prehistoric petroglyph rock paintings by early settlers of West Papua. It is believed that the paintings date back to a time when it was still possible to walk from Australia’s Torres Strait to the island of New Guinea across what is now the shallow, muddy Arafura Sea.

 

Incredible nature! This marine lake in Misool is home to millions of endemic jellyfish. These jellyfish (just like corals!) are involved in mutualistic relationship with zooxanthellae algae and live purely of the energy of the sun.

Many ornithologists, including Wallace's assistant Charles Allen, who spent about six months there, collected birds in Misool. Southeast of Misool, near the villages of Gamta and Magey, we went up the Gam river  in an environment particularly rich in birds. We  discovered why these tropical rainforests are so well named "rainforest"!

Misool in the Raja Ampat archipelago is located in the heart of the Coral Triangle. The region harbours the greatest marine biodiversity on Earth. At Magic Mountain the team was lucky enough to dive with several manta rays, the largest of all ray species.

Warakaraket is one of the countless karst islands found in Misool. The uninhabited island is covered in dense forest from beach to summit providing habitat for a large variety of native fauna and flora. The island is surrounded by pristine coral reefs hosting among the highest marine diversity in the world.

The country is all rocky and mountainous, covered everywhere with dense forests, offering in its swamps and precipices and serrated ridges an almost impassable barrier to the unknown interior.

 

Alfred Russel Wallace

The Malay Archipelago

KITI KITI WATERFALLS

KUMAWA MOUNTAINS

A large subterranean river network runs underneath the karstic rock of the Kumawa Mountains in Western New Guinea. The summit of the mountain stands at 1,600 meters however despite the abundance of water no rivers can be found above the 300-meter mark. This lack of rivers at altitude is due to water quickly infiltrating into the karst, which as been eroded over time by wind and weather.  The team of the Fondation Iris expedition visited both extremities of the Kumawa Mountains in the East and to the West.

 

KARAWAWI BAY

KUMAWA MOUNTAINS

Karawawi Bay, protected by Cape Papisol at the foot of the Kumawa Mountains, was until very recently a virgin area very rich in biodiversity. The Fondation Iris team observed during its passage in January 2017 the first signs of deforestation.

BITSYARA BAY

TRITON BAY

Bagan are traditional fishing boats that use strong lights during the night to attract fish into their nets. The vessels are often visited by whale sharks, the gentle giants of the ocean. Whale sharks and the bagan fishermen live in harmony as the sharks are seen as a good omen. In return the fishermen feed the sharks with the by-catch caught in their nets.

For once, the reality exceeded the most glowing accounts I had ever read of the wonders of a coral sea. There is perhaps no spot in the world richer in marine productions, corals, shells and fishes.

 

Alfred Russel Wallace

The Malay Archipelago

AIDUMA

TRITON BAY

The Bird’s Head Seascape is an epicenter of marine diversity with over 1,600 different species of reef fish as well as 75% of the world’s known coral species being found in the area. An extensive network of twelve Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) covering more than 3.6 million hectares was created to protect this incredible biodiversity. The Iris Strait in Triton Bay separates the mainland of West Papua and the island of Aiduma. It was named after the passage of two ships during a Dutch expedition at the beginning of the 19th century: Triton and Iris!

 

KAMBURUMI

TRITON BAY

The tasselled wobbegong (Eucrossorhinus dasypogon) is a well camouflaged, bottom-dwelling carpet shark found in shallow coral reef environments. This shark is a great example of the separation of species across the Wallace Line. The Wallace Line was defined in the 19th century by the British naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace and represents a boundary between the distribution of species of Oriental and Australian origin.  The wobbegong is part of the Australian marine fauna and is only found on the eastern side of the line (New Guinea to northern Australia).

LENGGURU AREA

TRITON BAY

The lowland rainforests of Mount Lamansiere in Triton Bay are home to a huge variety of bird species including the common paradise king fisher, the hooded butcher bird and the crowned pigeon. The lesser bird of paradise, the magnificent riffle bird and the glossy manucode (all bird of paradise species) can also be found here. An incredible soundscape resonates above the trees at dawn when the forest is caught in the early morning fog.

For millions of years the karst formations in Papua have been subjected to complex tectonic movements. As a result the Lengguru region is characterized by alternating mountain folds and deep isolated valleys. The region is an important hotspot of biodiversity concentrating a high number of endemic species on a relatively small spatial scale.

GRAND DUCHESS HELENA STRAIT

TRITON BAY

Nikolaï Mikloukho-Maklaï also known as the Moon Man (or le Papou Blanc in French), visited Triton Bay in 1874 and describes the strait between the island of Maurawa and the mainland as the ‘most beautiful landscape in all of the East Indies’. He named the passage after the Grand Duchess Helena Pavlovna in memory of the happy days spent together at her palace in Germany before his departure to New Guinea. The same type of landscape also deeply fascinated Alfred Russel Wallace on his journey across the Malay archipelago as well as the entire crew of the Fondation Iris expedition.

 

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