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Home BLOGS Guest Blog Back in Papua New Guinea

Back in Papua New Guinea

Written by Tiffany Bozic   
Monday, 21 December 2009 07:41
Artist Tiffany Bozic and her husband, who's the curator of Birds and Mammals at the Cal Academy, take a trip to study some of the rarest birds on Earth. When FF founder John Trippe asked me over the summer to write a little 'show and tell' blog about my recent trip to Papua New Guinea I said I would when I got back. I returned late November, swiftly underwent typical culture shock, than edited some photos for the blog. I suppose I'll give you give you a brief background first.

First off, my name is Tiffany Bozic. I paint all things feathery and slithery, mostly on maple panels with acrylic washes. Below is an example of a painting called 'The Raft' I made this past summer - you can see more of my work here: www.tiffanybozic.net.

My husband Jack is the curator of Birds and Mammals at the California Academy of Sciences. He has been traveling around PNG for many years studying mostly Birds, namely a poisonous bird called a Pitohui. But he's always dreamed of surveying these very remote islands off the eastern tip of PNG called Milne Bay. Our mission was to set up mist nets on as many islands as we could and collect samples from local bird populations to screen for viruses. I'm just giving a tiny taste of our sailing adventure. If you are interested in any details you can get the full account here: calacademy.org/blogs/jdumbacher/

I hope you enjoy!

The Raft by Tiffany Bozic

PNG is located right above Australia. On this trip we visited Milne Bay Islands off the South Eastern tip.


Our Sailboat Dalai - Bruno and Charmin along with their son Aladin built this boat from scratch.

The locals still use these traditional dug out canoes to get around from island to island.

Traditional local sailing rig - these boats could move really fast!

It seemed to us that every kid had their own boat and they would sail up to us and trade items like fresh fruits and veggies for rice and sugar.

A lot of the boats had beautiful carvings like this.


A beautiful and safe place to anchor, don't you think?

Many of the islands were too small to support human populations like this island here in the distance. But a great place to look for birds! A yam garden is in the foreground.

The water was about 80-100'visability - great snorkeling! Sadly, my camera couldn't capture the bioluminescence at night!

There was trash washed up on the shores of every single island we visited. The one item we saw most frequently? You guessed it: flip flops. Sigh.

palm cliffs

orange shrooms

Here is an example of typical house in a village. Sago palm roof and Pandana walls, and black palm floor boards.

Here they laid out coconuts to dry in the sun. The land and ocean provides them with fresh fish, fruit, bush material for their houses, just about everything you need to get by in this worldÂ… except I-phones and Television ofcourse.


A portrait of a beautiful happy family

No doubt in my mind that this boy is going to be a sweet little heartbreaker...

Almost every island we arrived children would start crying "Dim Dim!!!" which translates to 'white people'. A lot of them had never seen a white person. It is quite possible then that this young boy had never had his photo taken by anyone, let alone a Dim Dim. Hence the expression on his face...

This poor little girl was running a bad fever. Malaria is very present in this region. Without a test it's hard to know but reasonable to assume.

Ahh... Sumatra is so cute! She lives in a Matrilineal Society so she will grow up and inherit generous parcels of land and hopefully live a long happy life.

Without the benefit of the ability to give notice, we had to show up to every island unannounced. But rather quickly we were ushered to whoever was in charge and explained what it was that we wanted to do there. Here is Jack with a map receiving advice from the local chiefs about which islands yield the most promising birds.


Spectacled Monarch - Some of the beautiful birds we caught in our nets seemed to give us a glimpse into a very strange and unfamiliar world.

This is a male Shining Flycatcher with a bright orange mouth (used to impress the ladies).

Meeting a Frogmouth bird was in my 'top 10 gotta'do's' before I die. I felt extremely elated followed by the quick realization that I am now 10% closer to death.

Holding a sea turtle was also in my top 10. So now I am 20% closer to death. And they were worth it!

Here I am holding a live Cus Cus (Possum). They really do play dead!

Nephila Spider - As big as your hand!

These little red ants sew leaves together to make a nest. They also bite. It was difficult to avoid brushing up against one of these nests in the forest. Within seconds we were covered in what seemed like thousands of them and screaming every profanity you can imagine. On that note: I find it interesting how long they can live without their head.

An egg fell out of its nest and broke open when it hit the ground. I put it in a betel nut and took a photo of it while it's heart was still beating. My heart goes out to all the baby birds that don't even make it up to bat.

Painted Lobsters... A fitting name!

Jungle mask


shells The feast

peeling yams... An important woman in the village died so they invited us to their ritual feast to celebrate her life. Here woman are peeling yams they grew in their gardens to cook in their clay pots.

pig slaughter... I doubt any of the children in this village are confused about where their meat comes from.

fruit dove

BBQ fruit bat... On tonight's menu they have delicately roasted fruit bat hors d'oeuvres and locally harvested Bush tobacco.

The locals ate fruit bats because they have traditionally lived off the land for thousands of years.

Field sketches:

Hornbill... Painting out in the field certainly has it's challenges, but this little Hornbill kept stealing my pens making it quite impossible to get any work done.

Hornbill eye... I couldn't stay mad for long though - she had the longest eyelashes!

I leave you with a few little watercolor (3-4") sketches...

a drawing of a girl... For those of you reading this that have followed my work and say "why no more people?" well, Here you go! (Sorry I'm out of practice)

water color branch... And this is for everybody else. If a Wattled Ploughbill mated with a Golden face it might look like this.

Thank you very much for taking the time to read this. If you are still interested in checking out more photos from our travels you can find more here: calacademy.org/blogs/jdumbacher/

Words and photos: Tiffany Bozic {moscomment}

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