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PAPUA NEW GUINEA – RABAUL (PHOTOS, A POEM AND VIDEOS)

April 12, 2013

RABAUL

Rabaul is a township in East New Britain province, Papua New Guinea. The town was the provincial capital and most important settlement in the province until it was destroyed in 1994 by falling ash of a volcanic eruption. After the eruption the capital was moved to Kokopo, about 20 kilometres away. Rabaul is continually threatened by volcanic activity due to being built on the edge of Rabaul caldera, a flooded caldera of a large volcano.

Rabaul lies on the Gazelle Peninsula and vies with Madang for the title of the most beautiful town in Papua New Guinea. Spread out around the rim of Simpson Harbour, Rabaul is a well laid out town with all facilities within walking distance. It has a busy market, selling fresh produce, local cigars and betel nut, is located on the main road from Tokua Airport near Supabake Bakery. At the waterfront are boats for travel to the outer islands or for a spot of fishing.

Most of the indigenous people are Tolais. During the eruption 80% of the buildings in Rabaul collapsed. Although there has been much reconstruction the city always runs the risk of further volcanic activity.

Rabaul (the word means Mangrove in one of the local languages as it was built on a mangrove swamp) was the headquarters of German New Guinea until captured by Commonwealth troops during World War I. The Australian administration was moved to Lae in 1937 after an eruption that caused over 500 deaths. In January 1942, it was heavily bombed on January 23 thousands of Japanese troops were landed. By 1943 there were about 110,000 Japanese troops based in Rabaul and around 2000 local women were forced into prostitution. The Japanese army dug many kilometers of tunnels as shelter from the Allied air forces and many of these can still be seen today.

On 19 September 1994, Tavurvur and Vulcan volcanoes erupted, destroying the nearby airport and covering most of the town with heavy ash. Fortunately the city’s inhabitants evacuated before the eruption and only a handful of people were killed. Most of the buildings in the southeastern half of Rabaul collapsed due to the weight of ash.

A WALK AROUND THE TOWN LED US TO THE RABAUL PAGE PARK MARKET:

ENTRANCE TO THE RABAUL TOWN MARKET

ENTRANCE TO THE RABAUL TOWN MARKET

SIGN AT THE RABAUL MARKET

SIGN AT THE RABAUL MARKET

AN OVERVIEW OF THE MARKET

AN OVERVIEW OF THE MARKET

BETEL NUTS - The 'betal' nut of the areca palm tree contains a mild, central nervous system stimulant called arecoline. In PNG, it was common practise for the locals to chew the nut on its own or with a pastey mixture of tobacco, lime and a betel-climber leaf ( a vine which is usually found growing with the areca palm tree). Usually only one "chew" is prepared at a time and, sometimes, in order to prolong the chew, tobacco is added. This mixture creates a red stain which colors the mouth of the chewer as well as any spot where 'spit' is projected.

BETEL NUTS –
The ‘betal’ nut of the areca palm tree contains a mild, central nervous system stimulant called arecoline. In PNG, it was common practise for the locals to chew the nut on its own or with a pastey mixture of tobacco, lime and a betel-climber leaf ( a vine which is usually found growing with the areca palm tree). Usually only one “chew” is prepared at a time and, sometimes, in order to prolong the chew, tobacco is added.
This mixture creates a red stain which colors the mouth of the chewer as well as any spot where ‘spit’ is projected.

A WOMAN SHOWS US HOW THE BETEL ARE CHEWED

A WOMAN SHOWS US HOW THE BETEL ARE CHEWED

THEY ARE WATCHING THE WOMAN AS SHE DEMONSTRATES HOW TO CHEW THE BETEL NUT

THEY ARE WATCHING THE WOMAN AS SHE DEMONSTRATES HOW TO CHEW THE BETEL NUT

STALLS AT THE MARKET

STALLS AT THE MARKET

A VENDOR AT THE MARKET

A VENDOR AT THE MARKET

THERE ARE MANY VENDORS AT THE MARKET TODAY WITH MANY SELLING BETEL NUTS

THERE ARE MANY VENDORS AT THE MARKET TODAY WITH MANY SELLING BETEL NUTS

WOMAN WITH HER BABY AT THE MARKET

WOMAN WITH HER BABY AT THE MARKET

TAPIOCA WITH BANANA WRAPPED IN BANANA LEAVES

TAPIOCA WITH BANANA WRAPPED IN BANANA LEAVES

IT IS A SUNDA AND THERE ARE MANY PEOPLE AT THE MARKET TODAY

IT IS A SUNDAY AND THERE ARE MANY PEOPLE AT THE MARKET TODAY

FISH THAT HAS JUST BEEN CAUGHT IS SOLD AT THE MARKET

FISH THAT HAS JUST BEEN CAUGHT IS SOLD AT THE MARKET

FISH IS AN IMPORTANT STAPLE IN THE DIET ON RABAUL

FISH IS AN IMPORTANT STAPLE IN THE DIET ON RABAUL

THE DRESSES THAT ARE WORN BY THE WOMEN ARE MADE IN PAPUA NEW GUINEA AND ARE POPULAR THROUGH OUT MELANESIA

THE DRESSES THAT ARE WORN BY THE WOMEN ARE MADE IN PAPUA NEW GUINEA AND ARE POPULAR THROUGH OUT MELANESIA

A MOTHER AND HER CHILDREN AT THE MARKET IN RABAUL

A MOTHER AND HER CHILDREN AT THE MARKET IN RABAUL

FISH ARE QUITE PLENTIFUL IN THE WATERS AROUND RABAUL

FISH ARE QUITE PLENTIFUL IN THE WATERS AROUND RABAUL

FISH IS AN IMPORTANT STAPLE IN THE DIET ON RABAUL

BANANAS GROW FREELY IN THIS AREA OF THE TROPICS

BANANAS GROW FREELY IN THIS AREA OF THE TROPICS

A COUPLE POSING FOR ME - IN THE BACKGROUND IS LOCAL TRANSPORTATION

A COUPLE POSING FOR ME – IN THE BACKGROUND IS LOCAL TRANSPORTATION

THERE ARE ALWAYS MANY CHILDREN PLAYING AT THE MARKET

THERE ARE ALWAYS MANY CHILDREN PLAYING AT THE MARKET

THE MARKET WILL CLOSE SOON AND PEOPLE ARE MAKING LAST MINUTE PURCHASES

THE MARKET WILL CLOSE SOON AND PEOPLE ARE MAKING LAST MINUTE PURCHASES

MORE VENDORS OUTSIDE THE COVERED STALLS

MORE VENDORS OUTSIDE THE COVERED STALLS

A MAN EATING A COCOANUT NEAR THE ENTRANCE TO THE MARKET

A MAN EATING A COCOANUT NEAR THE ENTRANCE TO THE MARKET

PEOPLE WAITING OUTSIDE THE MARKET

PEOPLE WAITING OUTSIDE THE MARKET

RABAUL (MT. TUVURVUR) VOLCANO

Rabaul volcano is one of the most active and most dangerous volcanoes in Papua New Guinea.
Rabaul exploded violently in 1994 and devastated the lively city of Rabaul. Since then, the young cone Tavurvur located inside the caldera has been the site of near persistent activity in form of strombolian to vulcanian ash eruptions.
The caldera has an elliptical form (14 x 9 km) and is surrounded by a steep volcanic ridge several hundred meters high. Google earth view of the Rabaul caldera

Background:

Rabaul is the easternmost member of the volcanic Bismarck arc and located on the north eastern end of the Gazelle Peninsula at the NE end of New Britain. Thanks to its shape forming a sheltered harbor Rabaul city was the island’s largest city prior to the major eruption in 1994.
The 8 x 14 km caldera was formed by at least 2 major eruptions. One about 7100 years ago formed Tavui caldera offshore to the north and a second eruption about 1400 years ago created the present-day shape. These plinian eruptions deposited thick tuff layers from pyroclastic flows that form the gentle outer slopes of the volcanic complex.
The caldera has a wide opening to the east where the sea forms Blanche Bay. 3 small stratovolcanoes lie N and NE outside the caldera. Volcanic activity inside the caldera since the last caldera-forming eruption produced various lavas ranging from basaltic to dacitic. Several vents have built cinder cones, including the historically very active Vulcan and Tavurvur. Other vents include Turanguna, Rabalanakia, Sulphur Creek, Kombiu (“mother”), and Beehives. In 1994, both Vulcan and Tavurvur erupted simulaneously, forcing the temporary abandonment of Rabaul city.

FROM THE VOLCANO MONITORING STATION ABOVE RABAUL ONE CAN SEE MT. TUVURVUR IN THE DISTANCE

FROM THE VOLCANO MONITORING STATION ABOVE RABAUL ONE CAN SEE MT. TUVURVUR IN THE DISTANCE

MT. TUVURVUR

MT. TUVURVUR

MT. TUVURVUR (CLOSE UP)

MT. TUVURVUR     (CLOSE UP)

 

 

THIS VOLCANO IS ACTIVE AND STEAM IS CONSTANTLY COMING UP THROUGHTTHE LAVA ROCKCOMINGUP  THROUGH THE LAVA ROCK

THIS VOLCANO IS ACTIVE AND STEAM IS CONSTANTLY COMING UP THROUGH THE LAVA ROCK

 

 

NEAR THE VOLCANO THERE ARE HOT SPRINGS RELEASING SULFUR

NEAR THE VOLCANO THERE ARE HOT SPRINGS RELEASING SULFUR NOTICE THAT THE GROUND IS COVERED IN VOLCANIC ASH

 

 

WORLD WAR II  RELICS

Japanese Occupation
Japanese flying boats bombed Rabaul beginning on January 4, 1941. Admiral Nagumo’s carrier force from Akagi, Kaga, Shokaku and Zuikaku struck on January 20th. On the January 22, the carrier planes returned, but found no targets and preformed aerobatics instead and the Japanese invasion force arrived via St. Georges Channel.

After midnight of January 23, 1942 the 144th Infantry Regiment ‘South Seas Detachment’ landed at Raluana Point and west of Kokopo. At Kerawun and north of Vulcan. At Malaguna, west of Praed Point and Nordup. Only the outnumbered Australian Army 2/22nd Battalion and New Guinea Volunteer Rifles opposed. By morning, the Japanese had occupied Rabaul.

Developed into a massive base and Army and Navy Headquarters in the South Pacific. The Navy controlled the eastern half of the town, with their HQ at the New Guinea Club building. The 8th Army HQ at four corners intersection. At the war’s peak, 97,000 Japanese troops were stationed in the vicinity, in addition to Allied POW’s, slave laborers and even reportedly 3,000 ‘comfort woman’ (prostitutes) including 800 from Korean and Japan.

here were six airfields used by the Japanese, and several seaplane anchorages in Simpson Harbor. Reportedly, 367 anti-aircraft weapons (192 Army, 175 Navy) were emplaced around Rabaul by late 1942. The harbors were defended by an estimated 43 costal guns and 20 searchlights according to US Strategic Bombing Survey in 1943. The Rabaul area was the most heavily defended target in the South-West Pacific area.


Click For EnlargementBypassed by the Allies, it remained in Japanese hands for the duration of the war and was subject to almost daily air raids, left to “wither on a vine” until the Japanese surrender. Americans dropped 20,000 tons of bombs on the town and vicinity. Conditions for the Japanese deteriorated once it was cut off from supply. They were forced to commandeer food from the natives and to fend for themselves by large scale gardening

Location
Lat 4° 12′ 0S Long 152° 10′ 60E  Rabaul means ‘mangrove’ in Tolia language. The town was built on reclaimed mangrove swamp land at the edge of Simpson Harbor.

History
The town was established by the German empire in the early 1900s as the capital of their colony Deutsch Neu Guinea. At the start of WWI, Allied forces, primarily Australian occupied the area on September 11, 1914 by assaulted the German Radio station at Bitapaka. After the war, the League of Nations mandated it to the Australians until attacked by the Japanese. Heavily damaged by a volcanic eruption of 1937 when volcanos Vulcan and Tavurvur exploded.

Japanese Occupation
Japanese flying boats bombed Rabaul beginning on January 4, 1941. Admiral Nagumo’s carrier force from Akagi, Kaga, Shokaku and Zuikaku struck on January 20th. On the January 22, the carrier planes returned, but found no targets and preformed aerobatics instead and the Japanese invasion force arrived via St. Georges Channel.

After midnight of January 23, 1942 the 144th Infantry Regiment ‘South Seas Detachment’ landed at Raluana Point and west of Kokopo. At Kerawun and north of Vulcan. At Malaguna, west of Praed Point and Nordup. Only the outnumbered Australian Army 2/22nd Battalion and New Guinea Volunteer Rifles opposed. By morning, the Japanese had occupied Rabaul.

Developed into a massive base and Army and Navy Headquarters in the South Pacific. The Navy controlled the eastern half of the town, with their HQ at the New Guinea Club building. The 8th Army HQ at four corners intersection. At the war’s peak, 97,000 Japanese troops were stationed in the vicinity, in addition to Allied POW’s, slave laborers and even reportedly 3,000 ‘comfort woman’ (prostitutes) including 800 from Korean and Japan.


At the end of the war, it took two years to transfer Japanese POWs back to Japan, and an Allied court and gallows dealt with war criminals. Some served prison sentences of hard labor in the area until the early 1950s.

Devastated by a volcanic eruption in 1994 that covered most of the town in ash, Rabaul has grown around the new airport, across the harbor at Kokopo and slowly life & commerce along the harbor and town returns to normal.

JAPANESE TUNNELS - Japanese barge in a tunnel along the coast. The Japanese would unload the ship's cargo into the barges then pull them into man-made caves to unload while protected from the Australian and American planes.

JAPANESE TUNNELS –
Japanese barge in a tunnel along the coast. The Japanese would unload the ship’s cargo into the barges then pull them into man-made caves to unload while protected from the Australian and American planes.

 

 

JAPANESE BARGE IN A TUNNEL

JAPANESE BARGE IN A TUNNEL

 

 

FROM INSIDE THE TUNNEL ONE CAN LOOK OUTSIDE

FROM INSIDE THE TUNNEL ONE CAN LOOK OUTSIDE

JAPANESE BETTY BOMBER RABAUL RELIC

JAPANESE BETTY BOMBER RELIC  RABAUL

 

 

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POEM

Sunday: New Guinea

The bugle sounds the measured call to prayers,
The band starts bravely with a clarion hymn,
From every side, singly, in groups, in pairs,
Each to his kind of service comes to worship Him.

Our faces washed, our hearts in the right place,
We kneel or stand or listen from our tents;
Half-naked natives with their kind of grace
Move down the road with balanced staffs like mendicants.

And over the hill the guns bang like a door
And planes repeat their mission in the heights.
The jungle outmaneuvers creeping war
And crawls within the circle of our sacred rites.

I long for our disheveled Sundays home,
Breakfast, the comics, news of latest crimes,
Talk without reference, and palindromes,
Sleep and the Philharmonic and the ponderous Times.

I long for lounging in the afternoons
Of clean intelligent warmth, my brother’s mind,
Books and thin plates and flowers and shining spoons,
And your love’s presence, snowy, beautiful, and kind.

Karl Shapiro
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VIDEOS:

Mt Tavurvur erupting in Rabaul, Papua New Guinea

Mount Tavurvur is a dramatic landscape, and despite the media hype, it is one of natures true wonders that has to be seen to be believed… yet, it’s not just about an erupting volcano, it’s also about the people that live in its shadow. Follow Morgan as he steps onto this ‘lunar like’ landscape and experiences nature’s raw power first hand.

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Mission to Rabaul – Nonstop action in the South West Pacific 1943

“This is one of the all time classic documentaries to come out of World War 2
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PHOTOS:
LEONARD EPSTEIN
JANELLE BIRGESS
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