The eruption of Mount Tavurvur volcano on August 29th, 2014. Captured by Phil McNamara.
Klaus Neumann: “A volcanic eruption makes for good footage. More than any other natural disaster, it showcases the awesome force of nature, often without prompting the viewer to dwell on its human consequences. Unlike a storm, an earthquake, a bush fire or a flood, an eruption can appear spectacularly creative rather than merely destructive. And so it was no surprise that when Mount Tavurvur, on the Gazelle Peninsula in Papua New Guinea’s New Britain, began billowing molten rock, ash and smoke in late August 2014, it was reported around the world.”
But the 1994 eruption was far more dramatic.
Klaus Neumann: “We remember the 1994 eruption because it resulted in the destruction of what was considered one of the most beautiful towns in the South Pacific. Probably more so than any other town in Papua New Guinea, Rabaul was held in great affection by the people who lived there as well as by people living in surrounding villages. “Rabaul yu swit moa yet… maski mi go na mi tingim yu yet” (Rabaul, you are so sweet… even if I left I would still think of you), the Papua New Guinean band Barike sang in their 1994 hit “Rabaul Town.” Yet that affection did not translate into an effective resolve to protect the town – by clearing the roofs of buildings from ash to stop them from collapsing, and by stopping the looters.
Rabaul did not have a phoenix-like rebirth following the 1994 eruption. The provincial authorities moved to nearby Kokopo (once called Herbertshöhe, and the seat of the German colonial government before the establishment of Rabaul) and the airport was moved to the east of the Gazelle Peninsula. Much of Rabaul has been rebuilt, but the pre-1994 Rabaul has gone.
Read more of this article at: A volcano and its people • Inside Story.