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Report on Rabaul (Papua New Guinea) — October 1997


Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, vol. 22, no. 10 (October 1997)
Managing Editor: Richard Wunderman.

Rabaul (Papua New Guinea) Low level of activity but tilt readings reveal inflation

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 1997. Report on Rabaul (Papua New Guinea) (Wunderman, R., ed.). Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, 22:10. Smithsonian Institution. https://doi.org/10.5479/si.GVP.BGVN199710-252140


Papua New Guinea

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

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

Activity at Tavurvur crater was at a low level during October 1997 despite a slow re-inflation of the shallow caldera reservoir. Weak fumarolic activity composed of white and blue vapor emissions occurred at the summit area; during mid-October the emission rate increased and roaring noises were heard. Output of SO2 from the crater peaked at ~960 metric tons/day during mid-October; during the following week, the emission rate returned to a normal level of 400 tons/day. A similar peak occurred towards the end of the month.

Seismic activity remained low throughout October. Two high-frequency events, on 15 and 21 October, were recorded; however, neither was large enough to be located.

The water-tube tiltmeter at Sulphur Creek (3.5 km from Tavurvur) indicated an additional 8 µrad inflation of the central magma reservoir area during October. Inflation since the 17 August eruption (BGVN 22:08) totaled 15 µrad. Dry-tilt measurements around Greet Harbour showed an inflation of 2-5 µrad radial to the central magma reservoir. Leveling results confirmed the inflationary trend with a 3-cm uplift since March at the end of Matupit Island and a 3-5-cm uplift measured by sea shore survey since June. No changes in tilt were recorded on the Vulcan side.

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: B. Talai and H. Patia, Rabaul Volcano Observatory (RVO), P. O. Box 386, Rabaul, Papua New Guinea.