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Report on Rabaul (Papua New Guinea) — March 1993


Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, vol. 18, no. 3 (March 1993)
Managing Editor: Edward Venzke.

Rabaul (Papua New Guinea) Seismic activity increases; no significant surface deformation

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 1993. Report on Rabaul (Papua New Guinea) (Venzke, E., ed.). Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, 18:3. Smithsonian Institution. https://doi.org/10.5479/si.GVP.BGVN199303-252140


Papua New Guinea

4.271°S, 152.203°E; summit elev. 688 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

"There was a marked increase in seismic activity in March; 1,685 earthquakes were recorded . . . . This is the highest monthly total since April 1986 (1,769 earthquakes), and the second highest since the 1983-85 crisis period.

The earthquakes occurred both individually and in swarms. Large swarms, with >100 events, occurred 9, 15, 18, and 30 March. Only a few of the earthquakes were felt, the largest on the 15th, M 3.0-3.5. All of the 35 accurately located earthquakes were on the ring-fault system, and the majority were clustered near the recent eruptive centres of Vulcan (9) and Tavurvur/Rabalanakaia (16) (figure 12). Most of the events were located at depths <2 km. Nearly all of the Vulcan earthquakes occurred before 4 March, though the Tavurvur/Rabalanakaia events occurred throughout the month. Routine monthly leveling on the 23rd showed no significant changes from previous months. Wet and dry tilt measurements also showed no trends."

Figure (see Caption) Figure 12. Map of the Rabaul Caldera showing recently active volcanic vents and extinct composite cones (modified from Almond and McKee, 1982).

Reference. Almond, R. A., and McKee, C. O., 1982, Location of volcano-tectonic earthquakes within the Rabaul Caldera: Geological Survey of Papua New Guinea Report 82/19.

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 688-m-high asymmetrical pyroclastic 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 1400 years ago. An earlier caldera-forming eruption about 7100 years ago is now considered to have originated from Tavui caldera, offshore to the north. Three small stratovolcanoes lie outside the northern and NE caldera rims. Post-caldera eruptions built basaltic-to-dacitic pyroclastic cones on the caldera floor near the NE and western 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: H. Patia, R. Stewart, and C. McKee, RVO.