Redcliffe Pier

Sunday, September 21, 2014

RABAUL TURNS TO RUBBLE

Joan and I were on our last hop of our Papua/New Guinea trip in1967. We flew from New Ireland to New Britain, both big islands off the north coast of PNG. Rabaul is famous for its active volcanoes.
 The beautiful scenic harbour is a sunken caldera from huge volcanic action in earlier times. The caldera harbour is surrounded by volcanoes some of them still active.

We visited Matupit Volcano. It was quiet but there was steam rising out of vents and the ocean at the edge was bubbling hot.

We climbed up the side of the volcano and looked over towards the airstrip and the township behind it. It was quite an experience landing on this strip. Flying down into the caldera surrounded by volcanoes and landing on a strip with water at both ends, it was like an aircraft carrier .

When we reached the top we could look down into the crater. The smell of sulphur was  a little overpowering, but it was exciting being on a live volcano.

Another day we visited the beaches. They were very different in that the sand was very fine and black as black obviously from volcanic fallout.

Needless to say it is a hot tropical island where the children didn't wear much. They were very shy and cute.
Rabaul has a colourful history as well as geology.  It was the headquarters of the German Colony  from 1884 to 1914 when it was taken over by Australia as part of the British Empire in WW1. In 1937 Tavurvur Volcano erupted and destroyed the town. 507 people were killed. In WW2 the Japanese invaded and took control. There were 110,000 troupes based there. They intended capturing Pt Moresby and then Australia. The Japanese built miles of tunnels as shelter from allied air attacks. We walked through some of these tunnels we also saw submarines and landing craft still inside the tunnels. In 1943 the allied forces established bases on islands all around Rabaul and cut off their supply lines and the base became useless. The Australians repelled the Japanese on the mainland on the infamous Kokoda Trail and prevented the fall of Pt Moresby. In 1945 the Japanese surrendered and although Australia had been bombed it was saved from invasion.

Australia resumed administration of PNG until independence in 1975. In 1994 Tavurvur and Vulcan erupted. With only 19 hours notice the whole town was evacuated. Five were killed. The whole town was covered in ash and buildings collapsed under the weight. Rabaul was turned into rubble. The capital of the province was relocated to Kokopo.

We were lucky to see this beautiful town before it was obliterated. Next stop we were home in Pt Moresby ready to start work again.

25 comments:

  1. Beautiful Rabaul - sure was a place to see, but the smell of sulphur from the active volcanoes was overpowering for me, but the locals did say you got used to it!!!!
    Those Japanese wartime tunnels were amazing to explore also, but if memory serves me correctly they could be still dangerous and great care was to be taken for the adventurous. Still to say that you did go into them was something to boast about, eh?
    The Japanese HQ bunker near the Rabaul pool was something I would have loved to have got into, but it was all cemented up????
    Great report, Diane.
    Brings back great memories.
    Cheers
    Colin

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    1. It was a beautiful place. I wasn't there long enough.

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  2. The quality of your slides never cease to amaze me Diane, such wonderful memories you have.

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    1. Thank you , Linley. I must admit I have to do a bit of processing to get the colour back. Still not perfect but usable.I am sometimes surprised that I managed to use the rules of composition before I even knew about them.

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  3. Fascinating photos and commentary. Amazing that so much of the local culture survived the invasions of various outside nations, only to be finally obliterated by the volcanoes.

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  4. Fantastic place with these volcanoes and these cute children. the children look a lot like the children on Vanuatu. I am actually impressed with the quality of your photos. Most of my old photos are pretty bad
    I also like your profile picture Is it a painting?

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    1. It is a photo which has been manipulated with an iPad app called 'Waterlogue'

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  5. I can tell you that even way back then and certainly not now would I ever climb up an active volcano.. YIKES.. but the view down is is beautiful and so are the children.

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  6. Exciting to walk on a vulcano. I have walked over the Etna in Italy also an active one. The ground was still warm. You never know when a big eruption will come, but they the scientists keep a good eye on them and can predict pretty well the behaviours of the activities nowadays.

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  7. Diane, Rabaul looks like a beautiful place to visit. Climbing on an active volcano is an adventure. The children were so cute, and the landing strip for the airplanes looks tiny.. Thanks for sharing, have a happy day!

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  8. Black sand! I missed out on Rabaul, we were scheduled to go but the volcano's belly was rumbling.

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  9. Another clutch of terrific photos. Is that steam rising in the third photo?

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    1. Yes Andrew there was steam coming out of the narrow vent on the side of the volcano as well as from the crater.

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  10. Looks interesting, amazing you walked on an active volcano. The children look lovely. Wonderful memories..

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  11. i cannot imagine living with that danger looming, never knowing when it may erupt.

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  12. How awesome to think only eight years earlier you were standing there Diane! Such a dicey business living in volcano and earthquake areas, don't think i could do it.

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    1. Actually it was 27 years later when the volcanoes erupted and wiped out rabaul, but scientists were always warning that it could go up any time.

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  13. What an amazing post with such clear photos. You knew your [photographic] stuff back then already, Diane. I love the scenery and the adventurous girls on the active volcano. The children are too precious. My favorite is the lone little one with a sandal in its hand. You make history and geography and science so interesting!

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  14. It must be so interesting to look back knowing you saw things that would never be seen again.

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  15. Thankfully most were evacuated in time - yet rather sad to consider the changes brought by the volcano.

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  16. What a resilient town and people only to have nature reclaim it all. You have a lovely historical archive of what was once there and I bet exploring those tunnels was surreal!

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  17. What an amazing adventure to have landed in a live volcano. I always love hearing of your adventures in this amazing place, and what a record you are making here!

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  18. I don't think I could live in such a place but I guess for some it is what they are use to so it is natural

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  19. A chilling ending to a beautiful place. You certainly had a natural gift for photography from a young age. I bet it was extremely eerie walking through those war time tunnels. It gave me goosebumps reading about it!

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  20. Whenever I read these posts of your experiences, Diane, I am taken aback that you have such vivid memories and photos to share. Also the background info is always interesting and makes the accompanying photos even better.

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