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Report on Rabaul (Papua New Guinea) — May 1993


Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, vol. 18, no. 5 (May 1993)
Managing Editor: Edward Venzke.

Rabaul (Papua New Guinea) Seismic activity remains high; uplift of caldera center

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 1993. Report on Rabaul (Papua New Guinea) (Venzke, E., ed.). Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, 18:5. Smithsonian Institution. https://doi.org/10.5479/si.GVP.BGVN199305-252140


Papua New Guinea

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

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

"Seismic activity in May was again relatively high, as 1,525 earthquakes were recorded . . . . Normal background level since the 1983-85 unrest has been around 250-350 earthquakes/month. The earthquakes occurred as discrete events and in swarms on 18 and 20 May. The 20 May swarm contained ~680 events, of which 73 were located. Some of the earthquakes were felt, with MM III-IV, and the four largest earthquakes in this swarm all had magnitudes of 3.8. Located earthquakes were equally distributed around the N part of the ring fault. The swarm on 20 May was located near the mouth of Blanche Bay, an area that has not been very active since the 1983-85 crisis period.

"Routine monthly levelling showed an uplift of 21 mm at the S end of Matupit Island between 27 April and 25 May. This levelling was complemented by dry-tilt measurements that showed inflation of the caldera's central portion. During the 20 May earthquake swarm, data from the tide gauge network showed an uplift of 50-60 mm at a station in the centre of the caldera, near the area of inferred maximum 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 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: I. Itikarai, P. de Saint-Ours, R. Stewart, and C. McKee, RVO.