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29 August 2014

PNG's Mount Tavurvur volcano erupts back to life

A major volcanic eruption in Rabaul on Papua New Guinea's East New Britain Island has left the local community concerned for their safety, as residents flee and businesses close. The eruption came from Mount Tavurvur, which destroyed the town of Rabaul when it erupted simultaneously to nearby Mount Vulcan in 1994. Authorities said the most recent eruption began in the early hours of Friday morning.

"An eruption commenced from Tavurvur form between 3:30am and 4:00am," a bulletin from the Rabaul Volcanological Observatory said.

"The eruption started slow and slowly developed in a stromblian eruption with incandescent projections accompanied by explosion noises and ongoing loud roaring and rumbling noises.

"Stronger explosions are generating air phases and rattling windows."

A strombolian eruption is characterized by short-lived, explosive outbursts of fluid lava ejected tens or hundreds of meters into the air. Local resident David Flinn described the eruption of lava and rocks as savage and said lightning strikes could be seen amongst the ash cloud. He said the volcano is currently emitting light steam and occasional booms, with about one centimetre of light brown ash covering surrounding areas. Mr Finn said locals on nearby Matupit Island, about one kilometre from Mt Tavurvur have fled and yachts have left the harbour. Authorities have not yet issued an evacuation order for Rabaul residents.

Schools and some shops have been closed, but Rabaul Hotel employee Susie McGrade said locals just want to get on with their lives. "People still live here, we have to get on with our daily lives," she said. "We're up on the roofs, cleaning off the ash, we've got to save our property, try and get back to normal, so what can we do? We've got no where else to go."

It is yet to be confirmed whether the eruption will disrupt local or international flight plans.

Rabaul was the provincial capital in 1994, but after the town was destroyed by volcanic ash the capital was moved to Kokopo. By comparison this eruption is a relatively small event.

Mount Tavurvur is considered one of the most active volcanos in the region, most recently erupting in early 2013 and recording other erruptions in 2011, 2010, 2006, 2005 and 2002, since the major 1994 explosion.

26 August 2014

Bougainville News

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25 August 2014

In the beginning

The MV Craestar, CRA's vessel, alongside the wharf in Kieta. Converted from a Japanese tuna fishing vessel into an exploration ship by the addition of an assay lab in the fish hold and a helicopter landing pad at the stern, the ship was used extensively used between 1967 and 1970 as a base for mineral exploration programs in the Solomon and Trobriand Islands and along the coastal belts of Papua New Guinea.


In the grey light of a tropical dawn on 6th July 1968, fifty men assembled at the government wharf, Sohano, on the south coast of Bougainville Island. They were members of the Royal Papua Nugini Constabulary, and they were armed with long wooden pick-axe handles. An inspector from Melbourne and a sergeant from Mt Hagen, with shotgun and side arms, led the uniformed force. In overall charge was a young Australian civilian Patrol Officer, known in PNG as a “Kiap”. Tied to the wharf behind the group, with its bizarre outlines becoming clearer as the sun slowly rose, was the MV Craestar, a 40 m exploration ship owned by Conzinc Rio Tinto of Australia Exploration (CRAE). From the Craestar, three company geologists in high-visibility vests and armed with geology hammers and -80 mesh sampling sieves joined the police group. By the time the sun had hauled above the horizon, all had boarded open-topped trucks or light four-wheel-drive vehicles and were bouncing along the rutted coast road. They faced two hours driving on ever smaller tracks followed by a two hour trek along jungle paths before they arrived at their destination – a group of villages deep in the interior, about 10km SE of the CRAE copper-gold prospect of Panguna, then at advanced feasibility stage. They were expecting trouble.

Read the rest of the story here.


21 August 2014

Pam and Ed Davis emailed from New Mexico:


I was doing some research today and came across your website on Bougainville. It brought back happy memories as well as sadness to see the "aftermath" pictures.

We were on Bougainville from 1978-82. My husband, Ed Davis, worked for Morgan Equipment during that time. We actually married in Arawa in the backyard of Christian Werner's home on June 24,1979 and celebrated our 35th anniversary this year.

After we left Bougainville, we moved to Anchorage, Alaska where my husband worked in the North Slope oil fields on a contract to maintain the equipment of ARCO oil company. We moved to Texas in 1984 after our children were born in 1983 (boy/girl twins - now 31). Then we moved back to Alaska in 1988-90. Finally moving back to Amarillo, TX in 1990. We remained there until 2008, when I took a job in New Mexico. Ed retired officially in 2005 and I retired this year. We are still living in Hobbs, New Mexico and enjoying life in the desert.

Ray Klein and his wife Jenny visited us 2012. Ray worked for BCL during the late 70's too. They live in Karana Downs, Queensland.

We have often thought of returning to Bougainville for a visit, but I understood the infrastructure was no longer in place. I doubt we will ever return except in our memories. Thanks for the pictures on your site. Do you know a way to find out if any of the Bougainvillians are still living? Peter Pana worked at Morgan Equipment for my husband and he and his family lived in an apartment at our house in Arawa. His wife worked for PNG bank.

Great to see so many of the old friends still around.

Pam Davis
email wontok2[AT]

18 August 2014

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