The valley was discovered by a wealthy American explorer during his botanical and zoological expeditions in 1938 who first reported that this 1,600 m-high valley appeared to be inhabited by a lost civilization .
When the cloud cleared , the expeditions members beheld a vast beautifully tended garden of checker-board squares with neat stone fences , clean-cut networks of canals and meticulously terraced mountain slopes ( read of this discovery in the march 1941 issue of national geography ).
The grand valley of the baliem received worldwide publicity in 1945 when a sightseeing plane out of wartime Hollandia crashed and its survivors had to be rescued in a daring glider operation. An American nurse in this group called the valley a Shangri-la. The first outsiders to settle here were missionaries landing by a float plane on the Baliem river in 1954. The Dutch established a settlement at Wamena in 1956 , bringing in school teachers , new breeds of livestock , modern clothing and metal tools. Wamena continued under their control until Indonesia wrested West New Guinea from Holland in 1962. The grand valley 1s 72 km long by 16-32 km wide. It has magnificent scenery and unlimited tourist potential. It is inhabited by tribes of Neolithic ex-warrior farmers , the Dani’s.
The Baliem river runs like a snake through a valley of stony riverbeds , jungle ravines , kampung of Honnai ( the round houses ) , plots of green cultivated fields and stone walls. The Dani are today some of the most skilled and meticulous gardeners in the world.The temperature is mild and the rainfall moderate ( though highly variable ). If it is raining in the southern part of the valley , it might be sunny in the north or vice versa. September through october is the season of high winds , usually raining in the afternoon. It is frequently cloudy except in the early morning when all surrounding mountains are in clear view.