Citation

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Taylor, G.A., 1983. The 1951 eruption of Mount Lamington, Papua. Bulletin  038. Bureau of Mineral Resources, Geology and Geophysics, Canberra.

Abstract

The Pelean type of volcanic eruption, with its swift and deadly cloud of hot, gas-charged particles, was first brought to the attention of a horrified world in 1902, when 29,000 people perished in a few minutes in the morning of May 8th, at St. Pierre on Martinique in the West Indies, only sixteen hours after an eruption of the same type at La Soufriere on nearby St. Vincent had killed 1,650 of the inhabitants and devastated a large area of that island. These eruptions were described by Lacroix, Hovey, Anderson, Flett, and others, and since then several eminent vulcanologists have studied and reported on this fortunately fairly rare type of volcanic activity and the phenomena associated with it. Notable amongst these later works are Fenner's description of the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes at Mt. Katmai in Alaska, Perret's masterly analysis of the eruptions of Mont Pelee in 1929-32, and the work Stehn and Neumann van Padang in the East Indies. The Mt. Lamington eruption which is the subject of this bulletin is one of the most outstanding examples of the Pelean type of eruption that has occurred in historic times. It was remarkable both as a: manifestation of volcanic violence and because of the character and calibre of the observations that were subsequently made. The area had no volcanic history; local native folk lore contained no legend of eruption, nor were any surface expressions of volcanic activity known in the area. Mt.Lamington was not merely regarded as extinct-it was not even considered as a volcano at all. The presence of a crater had not been recognized-it had never been examined by a geologist-and, being completely open on the northern side, it appeared only as one of the heads of the stream system of the Ambogo river, which rises in a series of rugged hills. It is doubtful if the violence of the eruption itself has been exceeded in modern times by any observed Pelean-type eruption, although Mount Pelee had a more impressive record of human destruction, owing to the particularly vulnerable position of the town of St. Pierre with respect to the crater. Opportunities for recording the phenomena associated with the Mt. Lamington eruption were exceptional: the main outburst was observed and photographed from a passing aircraft at close (almost too close) quarters. A qualified vulcanologist began recording events on the spot barely 24 hours after the main explosion, and observations were continuous from then onwards. A sensitive seismograph was installed at Sangara plantation, 8t miles from the crater, within eighteen days of the eruption. Skilfully manned aircraft were available for daily inspection, photography and recording of crater phenomena and dome growth. The full co-operation and support of the administrative authorities were accorded throughout the investigation to vulcanologist Taylor and the other scientists associated with him. Several reliable observers living 8 to 10 miles from the crater survived the blast and provided details of the eruption and of pre-eruption events. The author of this Bulletin, who combines a fearless devotion in the field to his fascinating but unruly subject with a considerable talent for narrative writing, has supplemented his detailed observations of the progress of the eruptive series with painstaking analysis of a mass of seismograph and other records. The results presented in this Bulletin constitute an important contribution to the literature of volcanoes and volcanic processes.
Google map showing geographic bounding box with values North bound -6.0 East bound 153.5 West bound 146.0 South bound -11.0
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Date (publication)

1983

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Bulletin
Earth Sciences

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English

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East bound
153.5
West bound
146.0
South bound
-11.0

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