PAPUA NEW GUINEA 2013

Central Province
Vaihua River
(aka Frog Pond)

The Vaihua River comprises numerous small creeks that begin as springs only a short distance the other side of the Lea Lea Road, many of them passing through culverts into the Exxon-Mobil LNG site and out the other side, to converge as a lowlying wetland area to the west of the site. The dominent vegetation is kunai grass (Imperata cylindrica) but there are stands of pandan (Pandanus sp.) in the open grassland, with dense gallery forest of rain trees (Albizia saman) fringing the larger of the creeks. In July many of the watercourses were reduced to small pools but the depth of the dry creek beds suggested they could carry a decent head of water. The Vaihua River then flows into a mangrove swamp before entering the Coral Sea.

Frog Pond and the Vaihua River

 

This area is known as Frog Pond by the Exxon-Mobil people, it was where they set up their first base camp while the site was being cleared for construction, although strictly that name applies to a patch of land nearer the highway.

Woodland beyond the Exxon fences A dry creek bed with gallery forest
Occasional pools in the creek bed Mark above one such pool

There were many birds here: megapods (Megapodiidae) in the dark creek beds and Blue-winged kookaburras (Dacelo leachii) in the trees.

Owen, Jasper, Ben and I visited the location behind Frog Pond on three successive three days and put a lot of time and effort into finding snakes there.

The rain-tree fringed creek Dense 2.0m high kunai grass

We searched the creek beds with their occasional pools of shady water, and also out into the grassland where the kunai grass and pandan indicated the location of more permanent water in the form of swampy patches or dark pools, oases in the expanses of parched brown grassland where reptiles might congregate.

Frog Pond and the Vaihua RiverThe Exxon-Mobil LNG fence line

 

The small creek led into swampy areas and eventually a cool billabong
The dense habitat, kunai, rain-trees and pandan The kunai grass fringing the forest is a great place for snakes to hide

During WWII this area was part of an artillery range so it was important to be careful when foraging in the undergrowth.

Ben and his WWII AIF artillery shell

 

We found some impressive spiders in the forest, e.g. ground-dwelling tarantulas (Theraphosidae) and wolf spiders (Lycosidae), and tree-dwelling huntsman spiders (Sparassidae).

Tarantula spider
[Theraphosidae]
Wolf spider
[Lycosidae]
Huntsman spider
[Sparassidae]
close-up study