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Report on Rabaul (Papua New Guinea) — November 1989


Scientific Event Alert Network Bulletin, vol. 14, no. 11 (November 1989)
Managing Editor: Lindsay McClelland.

Rabaul (Papua New Guinea) Seismicity increases; felt earthquakes

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 1989. Report on Rabaul (Papua New Guinea) (McClelland, L., ed.). Scientific Event Alert Network Bulletin, 14:11. Smithsonian Institution. https://doi.org/10.5479/si.GVP.SEAN198911-252140


Papua New Guinea

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

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

"There was a further increase in seismicity in November, with a total of 546 recorded events. Half of the recorded events occurred in swarms of low-frequncy earthquakes on the 12th (36 events), 17th-18th (138), 20th (39) and 24th (84). The first two swarms originated from the Greet Harbour-Beehives area (NW part of the caldera seismic zone), with 4-5 felt earthquakes on the 17th. A couple of earthquakes were felt locally on the 20th (the largest, ML 2.3), originating from the Karavia Bay and Blanche Bay areas (S and W caldera seismic zones). The swarm on the 24th also originated from the Greet Harbour area. Levelling carried out before and after the swarms of felt earthquakes showed no significant ground deformation."

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: D. Lolok and P. de Saint-Ours, RVO.