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Report on Rabaul (Papua New Guinea) — August 1987


Scientific Event Alert Network Bulletin, vol. 12, no. 8 (August 1987)
Managing Editor: Lindsay McClelland.

Rabaul (Papua New Guinea) Seismicity declines; deflation in caldera

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 1987. Report on Rabaul (Papua New Guinea) (McClelland, L., ed.). Scientific Event Alert Network Bulletin, 12:8. Smithsonian Institution. https://doi.org/10.5479/si.GVP.SEAN198708-252140


Papua New Guinea

4.2459°S, 152.1937°E; summit elev. 688 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

Seismicity declined to its lowest level since the 1983-85 unrest; only 34 caldera earthquakes were recorded in August, compared to 80-150/month in the last seven months. There were periods of several consecutive days with no events and only three small events were recorded 13-20 August. The six located earthquakes were in the Greet Harbour and Karavia Bay areas (NE and E parts of the caldera).

Dry tilt readings on Vulcan Headland . . . showed a steady deflation of 20 µrad since May. In Greet Harbour, usually the most active area, tilt readings remained virtually unchanged although levelling revealed a slight subsidence of 10 mm at Matupit Island since the end of June. This slight deflationary trend was consistent with EDM results.

Geological Summary. The low-lying Rabaul caldera on the tip of the Gazelle Peninsula at the NE end of New Britain forms a broad sheltered harbor utilized by what was the island's largest city prior to a major eruption in 1994. The outer flanks of the asymmetrical shield volcano are formed by thick pyroclastic-flow deposits. The 8 x 14 km caldera is widely breached on the east, where its floor is flooded by Blanche Bay and was formed about 1,400 years ago. An earlier caldera-forming eruption about 7,100 years ago is thought to have originated from Tavui caldera, offshore to the north. Three small stratovolcanoes lie outside the N and NE caldera rims. Post-caldera eruptions built basaltic-to-dacitic pyroclastic cones on the caldera floor near the NE and W caldera walls. Several of these, including Vulcan cone, which was formed during a large eruption in 1878, have produced major explosive activity during historical time. A powerful explosive eruption in 1994 occurred simultaneously from Vulcan and Tavurvur volcanoes and forced the temporary abandonment of Rabaul city.

Information Contacts: C. McKee, P. de Saint-Ours and P. Lowenstein, RVO.