Saturday 29 October 2022

From On Board: Heritage Expeditions in Melanesia - Rabaul, New Britain

#expeditioncruising .

 Some might say Rabaul is a town that can't turn a trick. Located in one of the most beautiful harbours anywhere in the Pacific, it has over time attracted the attention of several of the world's major powers. Britain, Germany, Japan, USA and Australia have all had dibs on this idyllic location for one reason or another.

Yet despite its many attractive qualities, Rabaul has one major drawback: it tends to blow up every so often. On my last visit in 2008, it was raining heavy ash from the continual eruptions, keeping everyone busy with their brooms. I had ash coming out of my suitcase for weeks.

The last truly catastrophic eruption occurred in 1994 and so comprehensively destroyed the township that it was decided to remove all critical infrastructure to Kokopo some 30kms to the SE.

The remains of Japanese tanks in the Kokopo museum (RE)

Rabaul, as the history buffs will recall, saw action in both world wars. In 1914, a ragtag Aussie force ousted the few Germans and in early 1942, the Japanese ousted the Aussies with overwhelming force, turning Rabaul into a giant forward base from which they launched attacks out into the theatre of war.

Today we landed on the black beaches in the shadow of Tavurvur, sulphurous steam pouring out of vents on the shore. We set off in cramped minibuses on cratered roads to do the rounds of the sights: observatory, barge tunnels, Yamamoto's bunker and the Kokopo museum with its collection of WWII relics.

Our local guides were particularly glad to see us as a sign that tourism was returning after the forced hiatus.

After lunch, some of us decided to stay aboard for a nap (yes, me) while the truly intrepid ventured out again for snorkelling and beach frivolities on the nearby Duke of York Islands.

Tomorrow we venture into Bougainville with our first landing at Green Island.

No comments:

Post a Comment