Otto Finsch

Friedrich Hermann Otto Finsch (1839-1917), German naturalist, ethnographer and explorer. He first visited eastern New Guinea and adjacent islands between 1879-82 collecting specimens, particularly birds, and recording the customs of the people. While collecting along the coast of Astrolabe Bay in 1881, he investigated the economic potential of the region on behalf of German commercial interests. In 1884-85, under the guise of scientific investigation, he led an expedition sponsored by German financier, Adolph von Hansemann, to select sites for settlement on the northeastern coast of New Guinea for Hansemann’s New Guinea Company. In November 1884 he named the northeast coast Kaiser Wilhelmsland and raised the German flag in the Bismarck Archipelago and on the New Guinea mainland. In December 1884 Germany claimed the area as a protectorate. In 1885 Finsch explored the mouth of the Sepik River and named the Bismarck Range after the German Chancellor. Finsch’s natural history papers, particularly those on birds, were published in a number of scientific journals. The port of Finschhafen, the site of the first German settlement, bears his name.

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