Known as a 'Guria' in Pidgin English, earthquakes are common in Bougainville and, especially, along the north coast of New Britain and on the Papua New Guinea mainland to its immediate west (Madang Province). This is also the area of greatest volcano activity being along the 'earthquake belt'.
The boatman very often does not know that an earthquake has occurred. He sleeps soundly through a nocturnal tremor unaware that the land has been shaking for a few minutes and that crockery and windows were shattered in different parts of town. He enjoys the cushioning effect of water and only if he is awake, or if the shake is a good one, will he be aware of its disturbance by the rumbling and possible lateral movement of the sea soon after. If he happens to be over the epi-centre there is an excellent chance of his vessel dropping twenty feet quite suddenly but this would indeed be a rare occurrence. Certainly it is too remote to worry about.
Most 'Gurias' are of a minor nature, doing little more than felling a few trinkets sitting on the mantelpiece of a European's house or frightening the dogs in a native village. But occasionally a strong quake occurs which does considerable damage, like the one in 1971 which bent Madang's new main wharf and sent a couple of metres of seawater across the waterfront road in Rabaul and flooded the Travelodge near the yacht club. People visiting Rabaul should go to the Travelodge foyer where colour photographs of that disturbance are displayed. It will be seen how the sea at first withdrew, baring mud flats that are normally two metres under water, before rushing back over the flats, up onto the bank, across the road and into waterfront properties like the Travelodge.
For those who have seen too many 'Superman' and 'Earthquake' movies, don't worry about the earth opening up like a giant tridacna to swallow screaming women and children. An earthquake, in reality, simply shakes things up and the degree of the shake-up is the' measure of its danger. Quite obviously, the most dangerous place to be during a bad tremor is in an old building where rafters and iron could start falling on the occupants. It is best to be out in the open or, better still, aboard your vessel.
Mount Munlulu on Cape Gloucester, New Britain, errupts regularly showering a nearby mission with debris. Here it is momentarily inactive. A cloud embraces the crater.
Lying on New Britain, to the south-west of the Gazelle Peninsula, is this well known and very active volcano, The Father. It is 7000 feet high.
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