A map of Papua New Guinea Lying a hundred kilometres or so off Australia's northernmost tip is the island of New Guinea. The western half is part of Indonesia. The eastern portion is independent Papua New Guinea. It also includes the islands of New Ireland, New Britain and Bougainville. A mountain range runs east-west across New Guinea. The rugged slopes are covered by dense rainforest. Near the coast are grasslands and mangrove swamps. Close to the Equator, Papua New Guinea has a tropical climate. Higher up in the mountains, conditions are cooler.
The largest ethnic group are Papuans, descended from people who arrived in the islands from Southeast Asia tens of thousands of years ago. Others are Austronesian peoples who arrived in the last 4000 years. Although more than 800 languages are spoken in the country, nearly everyone uses a language called Tok Pisin (pidgin) to speak with one another.
In November 2000, the government evacuated 1000 residents of Papua New Guinea’s Duke of York islands. The islands are just a few metres above above sea level, and the villagers' houses were being engulfed by higher and higher tides.
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