Ulawun Volcano | John Seach


East New Britain Province, Papua New Guinea

5.04 S, 151.34 E
summit elevation 2334 m

Ulawun is one of the most active volcanoes in Papua New Guinea and one of its most dangerous. It is the highest volcano in the 1000 km long Bismarck volcanic arc which stretches from Rabaul to Wewak. Ulawun volcano is composed of lava flows interbedded with tephra composed of basalt and andesite. Ulawun activity includes Strombolian and Pelean eruptions. Eruptions originate from a central crater.

Ulawun volcano photo by John Seach

Ulawun Volcano

The first recorded eruption of Ulawun was by Dampier in 1700. The next record was 178 years later. A large eruption in 1915 deposited 10 cm of ash at Toriu, 50 km northeast of the volcano. In 1970 a large eruption produced nuees ardentes and lava flows. The eruption devastated the NW flank of Ulawun and modified the summit crater.

An eruption in 1980 ejected ash to 60,000 ft and produced pyroclastic flows which swept all flanks of the volcano and devastated an area of 20 sq km. The most serious volcanic hazard at Ulawun volcano is catastrophic structural collapse, producing an eruption which could devastate hundreds of sq km in area.

Ulawun volcano is 400 m higher than most of the volcanoes in the Bismarck which indicates it may be at the limit of structural stability.

2010 Activity
On 14-15 February 2010 ash emissions from Ulawun volcano reached a height of 3.7 km and drifted 95 km.

2009 Earthquake
A magnitude 5.1 earthquake hit 10 km west of Ulawun volcano on 28th May 2009.

2008 Activity
Seismic activity remained high at Ulawun Volcano in July 2008.

Further reading
McKee, C.O., Almond, R.A., Cooke, R.J.S. and Talai, B., 1981. Basaltic pyroclastic avalanches and flank effusion from Ulawun volcano in 1978. Cooke-Ravian volume of volcanological papers, pp.153-165.

Melson, W.G. and WG, M., 1972. Basaltic nuées ardentes of the 1970 eruption of Ulawun volcano, New Britain.

McKee, C.O., 1983. Volcanic Hazards at Ulawun Volcano. Geological Survey of Papua New Guinea.

Ulawun Volcano Eruptions

2010-13, 2000-08, 1994, 1993, 1989, 1985, 1984-85, 1984, 1983-84, 1980, 1978, 1973, 1970, 1967, 1963, 1960-62, 1958, 1951?, 1941, 1937?, 1927, 1919, 1918, 1915, 1898, 1878, 1700.