Formed by a now extinct volcano, Baluan Island is the southernmost of the Admiralty Islands. The volcano’s eruption left rocks and boulders strewn all over the island, and the locals refer to it as the “palaces of stones.” These stones mark the end of many unlucky visitors, who were sacrificed on these natural altars. On our arrival we were greeted by a sign, “Welcome to Baluan, The Rocky Island of Fruits”. The main foods on the island are fish and vegetables grown in the perfect growing volcanic soil
Baluan is in Manus province of Papua New Guinea and Manus Island is located nearby. This is one of the primary South Pacific regions where American anthropologist Margaret Mead did her primary research in the 1920s. We were very fortunate to have three anthropologists traveling with us on the ship throughout our three-week Melanesia expedition. We were introduced to Margaret Mead and her groundbreaking research and publications while we were in Papua New Guinea. The following is a short summary of Mead’s work in the region.
“In 1925 she [Mead] set out for American Samoa, where she did her first field work, focusing on adolescent girls, and in 1929 she went, accompanied by her second husband, Reo Fortune, to Manus Island in New Guinea, where she studied the play and imaginations of younger children and the way they were shaped by adult society. The Samoan work, published as Coming of Age in Samoa, became a best seller and has been translated into many languages. This work presented to the public for the first time the idea that the individual experience of developmental stages could be shaped by cultural demands and expectations, so that adolescence might be more or less stormy and sexual development more or less problematic in different cultures. It was addressed above all to educators, affirming that the ‘civilized’ world had something to learn from the ‘primitive.’ The Manus work, published as Growing Up in New Guinea, effectively refuted the notion that ‘primitive’ peoples are ‘like children.’ Different developmental stages, and the relationships between them, need to be studied in every culture. Mead was thus the first anthropologist to look at human development in a cross-cultural perspective.” – www.interculturalstudies.org