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Report on Rabaul (Papua New Guinea) — July 1994


Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, vol. 19, no. 7 (July 1994)
Managing Editor: Richard Wunderman.

Rabaul (Papua New Guinea) Seismicity remains low; minor subsidence

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 1994. Report on Rabaul (Papua New Guinea) (Wunderman, R., ed.). Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, 19:7. Smithsonian Institution. https://doi.org/10.5479/si.GVP.BGVN199407-252140


Papua New Guinea

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

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

"July was relatively quiet, with 220 detected earthquakes . . . . Activity was highest in the middle of the month, with half the earthquakes occurring between 13 and 19 July, and two swarms on those days. Most of the earthquakes, including the 13 July swarm, were located on the NE portion of the ring fault on the E side of Greet Harbour at depths of 0-4 km. Most of the rest were located near the W portion of the ring fault. An exception to this was the swarm on 19 July, which was located, albeit poorly, in the center of Karavia Bay. None of the earthquakes were large enough to be felt. The largest earthquake during the month, M 2.7, occurred on 5 July. Leveling measurements on 19 July showed a very small amount of subsidence, <9 mm, at the end of Matupit Island since 27 June.

"On 13 July, signals were recorded from three earthquakes that originated outside the network, somewhere N of Rabaul. S-P times between 2 and 4 seconds were consistent with locations near Tavui caldera, an underwater caldera N of Rabaul. This caldera was only discovered in 1984 and virtually nothing is known about it. Records are currently being checked for any other seismic activity that may have come from this vicinity."

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: B. Talai, R. Stewart, and C. McKee, RVO.