Beneath Kimbe Bay, a perfect natural wonder

Extracts from “Coral Crucible” by Din Silcock – Airlines PNG inflight magazine vol 22, 2012

Surveys by famous marine biologists like Professor Charles Veron and Dr Jerry Allen and respected organisations like The Nature Conservancy, have helped to establish a bewildering array of statistics for the area.

Kimbe Bay s host to around 860 species of reef fish, 400 species of coral and at least 10 species of whales and dolphins.

To put that in a global perspective – in an area roughly the same size as Carlifonia – Papua New Guinea is home to almost five percent of the worlds marine biodiversity.

ust under half of that fish fauna and virtually all of the coral species can be found in Kimbe Bay, which means that the bay should really be considered as a kind of fully stocked marine biological storehouse.

Bounded by the long Williaumez Peninsula to the west and Cape Toroko some 140km to the east, Kimbe Bay is sheltered from the worst of new Britain’s weather.

Along the coastal area of the bay, a 200m shelf runs parallel to the shore for about 5km before dropping down to about 500m and up to 1,000m in the eastern part. On the norhtern outskirts of the bay, as it approaches the Bismarck Sea, the sea floor  drops off rapidly to excess of 2,000m.

Across the deep seascape are dramatic sea-mounts and coral pinnacles that rise up towards the surface and rpovide isolated ecosystems for the marine creatures of the bay.

The sea-mounts in particular act as beacons to the bay’s diverse and prolific pelagics and marine mammals – with twelve species of mammals identified to date, including sperm whales, orcas, spinner dolphins and duogong!

The deep waters and generally benign conditions functions as a kind of marine nursery and are fundamental to the incredible biodiversity of Kimbe Bay, but the other significant element is the nutrient-rich currents of the Bismarck Sea that provides the nutrients to sustain the bays residents and visitors.

To the south of the New Britain are the 4,000m-deep basins of the Solomon sea that the Southern Equatorial Current crosses as it makes its way to the Bismarck Archipelago.

As those powerful currents flow along the north coast of New Britain and around the top of the long and narrow Williaumez Peninsula, eddies are produced in the western part of Kimbe Bay that direct the nutrient rich flows into the bay and induce further upwellings from the deep water basins to the north.

In a nutshell, the forces of nature have combined to produce an almost perfect natural environment to create and sustain the coral crucible and the creatures that cohabit with it.


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