Mt Lamington Volcano | John Seach


Oro Province, Papua New Guinea

8.95 S, 148.15 E
summit elevation 1680 m

Mt Lamington volcano is located within sight of the provincial capital Popondetta. Mount Lamington was not even recognized as a volcano by Australian government geologists before the 1951 eruption. The local Orakaiva people had no stories of any previous eruptions.

Mount Lamington is one of four large Quaternary stratovolcanoes on the north coast of southeastern New Guinea. The other three are Hydrographers Range, Mount Trafalgar, and Mount Victory.

Lamington is a major andesite volcano which is located in an area without a Benioff-Wadati zone. The magmas erupted from the volcano have unusually high levels of Nickel and Chromium.

1951 Eruption
Three days of tremor preceded the eruption at Mt Lamington volcano. Landslides, ash emission, glowing volcanic bombs and lightning were witnessed and ignored by the people living around the volcano. Media reports stated officials did not to tell the the volcanologists about the activity and discouraged locals from leaving the area.
The paroxysm at Lamington occurred at 10:40 am on the 21st January 1951. A roar was heard 320 km away and a catastrophic avalanche ripped apart the side of the mountain. Pyroclastic flows killed everything in a 325 km sq radius of Mt Lamington. At Higaturu District Station, 10 km from Mt Lamington, a jeep was thrown into the trees and wedged between branches. The greatest runout distance for the pyroclastic flow was 12 km to Avalanche Valley. The devastation around Mt Lamington volcano was not uniform with some areas being destroyed to a limit of 6 km while others out to 12 km. Loss of life was 3000 to 4000. Everyone within a 200 sq km area was killed. Many survivors suffered post traumatic stress disorder.
One media report, after the eruption, had the headline "Why no Official Warning?' There was a strong and persistent demand for a public inquiry into the tragedy, which was never granted by the administration. An official was quoted as saying after the tragedy "...As Mt. Lamington volcano was 8 miles from Higaturu, I  formed the opinion that there was no immediate danger to human life.

Further reading
Finlayson, D.M., Drummond, B.J., Collins, C.D.N. and Connelly, J.B., 1976. Crustal structure under the mount Lamington region of Papua New Guinea. Volcanism in Australasia, pp.259-274.

Taylor, G.A.M., 1983. The 1951 Eruption of Mount Lamington, Papua (Vol. 38). Australian Government Pub. Service.

Mt Lamington Volcano Eruptions