Papua New Guinea is a wild, rugged region, with limited communications. The climate is tropical, and the largely mountainous country is subject to earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. The highest point is Mt. Wilhelm (14,793 ft/4,509 m), in the Bismarck Mts. in central Papua New Guinea. The native population is largely Melanesian and Papuan but is divided into many distinct cultures. Some 800 different languages are spoken in the country. Melanesian Pidgin (Tok Pisin) is the lingua franca, and it and the much less widely spoken English and Hiri Motu (a Malayo-Polynesian language that was a lingua franca in the southeast) are official languages. About two thirds of the population is Christian, with Roman Catholics and Lutherans the largest churches; the rest follow traditional beliefs.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.