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Report on Rabaul (Papua New Guinea) — February 1991


Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, vol. 16, no. 2 (February 1991)
Managing Editor: Lindsay McClelland.

Rabaul (Papua New Guinea) Minor inflation but seismicity remains weak

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 1991. Report on Rabaul (Papua New Guinea) (McClelland, L., ed.). Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, 16:2. Smithsonian Institution. https://doi.org/10.5479/si.GVP.BGVN199102-252140


Papua New Guinea

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

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

"Seismicity . . . returned to a low level in February, but ground deformation measurements indicated some uplift.

"The total number of caldera earthquakes for the month was 141, and daily totals ranged between 0 and 17. All events were of small magnitude (ML <1.0). Only three events were large enough to be located; these occurred on the NE (2) and NW (1) parts of the caldera seismic zone.

"Tide gauge measurements indicated a mild progressive rise in the Matupit Island area throughout February. The total uplift was ~25 mm. Slight uplift had also been indicated in January; ~7 mm between 11 and 31 January. Levelling measurements from Rabaul Town to Matupit Island indicated uplift of 10 mm at the S end of the island 10 January-8 March. The difference in these measurements is explained by the fact that the Matupit tide gauge is much closer to the source of deformation. The tide gauge is ~0.8 km from the SE coast of Matupit Island, and within a few hundred meters of the apex of the caldera floor bulge (evident since the early 1970's)."

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, RVO.