Rabaul Part 3

Our 3rd day in Rabaul / Kokopo was devoted to a whirlwind tour of the Gazelle peninsula. Don’t be deterred by all the text following, it’s short and the rest is all pictures, but, before I get to the pictures, a very brief, mostly Wikipedia derived, history of PNG:

  • 60,000-ish years ago: first humans arrived – not very much known about this time, or the time between first arrival and arrival of Europeans.
  • Early 1500s: Portuguese explorer names the island ‘Papua’ after Malay word for frizzled hair (supposedly).
  • Mid 1500s: Spanish explorer calls it ‘New Guinea’ because of resemblance to PNG’ians and inhabitants of Guinea (Africa)
    • Side note: Thanks a lot for that dude, it’s a big issue when getting mail here since people tend to mix up Guinea / New Guinea / Guinea-Bissau…
  • Europeans continue to visit randomly, more in-depth knowledge comes in 1870s due to Russian anthropologist hanging out on the island for a while.
  • Late 1800s: German New Guinea (North-East quarter of PNG & islands)
  • Late 1800s: Colony of Queensland (Australia) annexes the southern coast of New Guinea (British New Guinea).
  • 1920: PNG becomes territory of commonwealth of Australia.
  • PNG & WWII
    • Here’s where people started to care about PNG.
    • PNG was very important during WWII. Rabaul was taken by the Japanese in January 1942 and established as a major Japanese base to launch their campaign.
    • The Japanese tried to reach Port Moresby via the Kokoda track (over the Owen Stanley Ranges), while the Austrailian and American troops tried to meet them from the other side to stop them. This particular was brutal and mostly won by exhaustion, dehydration, malaria, and cholera. At least read the Wikipedia entry, it’s fascinating: Kokoda Track Campaign
    • The Japanese surrendered in 1945, but approximately 200,000 Japanese, 7,000 Australian, and 7,000 American soldier lives were lost during the New Guinea campaign.
  • 1975: PNG Independence from Australia!

That’s all I’m going to say about the war, just enough to give the following pictures context. If you want to know more, at the very least you should check out Wikipedia (New Guinea Campaign) and it’s various sub-pages. And while you’re at it, why not check out the history of Kuru and PNG: Kuru)

Now on to the pictures!

Our first stop was Submarine Bay where many Japanese tunnels are located, some with goodies left behind.

Submarine in Japanese tunnel

Our second stop was Yamamotos Bunker! Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto was the commander of the Japanese fleet during WWII. He was responsible for Pearl Harbor and many other key Japanese attacks on allied forces.


Entrance to Yamamoto’s bunker


Various maps and writing on the walls of Yamamoto’s bunker


Gun outside Yamamoto’s Bunker

Third stop, up through some tunnels to overlook Blue Lagoon / Submarine Bay.


Even *I* had to duck


View out of a porthole in the tunnels


Another porthole view


A cannon with armamment storrage nooks overlooking Submanrine Bay

Fourth stop, the Kokopo Museum.


German New Guinea flag




Various plane debris


Tanks and nature prevailing



Fifth stop, a site overlooking Rabaul Harbour.


Rabaul Caldera and children selling flowers

Sixth, and my favourite, stop: Tavurvur volcano & hot springs (not the kind you can swim in…). As I mentioned in a previous post, Rabaul was devastated by a volcanic eruption in 1994., where 80% of it’s buildings collapsed. I didn’t really appreciate the devastation until we were standing right on top of it.


Bonnie and I sit on the top of a building.


Right: Mount Tavurvur smugly surveys the devastation it rained down upon Rabaul. All: The tops of buildings poke up from volcanic rubble.


Mount Tavurvur, volcanic rubble, and hot springs


Bonnie & I *not* dipping our toes in


Boiling hot springs


The steam was unbearably hot

Next we stopped at the Bita Paka war cemetary.

P3-Cem 1-3

Full of un-named graves

On the way back to town we saw cocoa and KFC!




KFC – sorry for the blur, we were driving by

Last stop of the day was the Kokopo market. While the market had higher prices / smaller bundles on a lot of things compared to Goroka, it had n0 mud or compost piles, and was much more organized.


Kokopo Market

The next day we bid farewell to Kokopo & Rabaul and headed for Port Moresby. The first thing we did in POM was stop at the parliament, which is designed to mimic many traditional PNG structures. We weren’t allowed to take photos inside, but there was a small museum nearby as well. A large triple totem depicting traditional culture inside the parliament was being dismantled to be replaced by a unity candle… It is being blamed for some of the corruption that plagues PNG…


Top: Traditional Canoe. Bottom Left: Me and a small totem. Bottom Right: Front of parliament.


Totems around the museum near parliament

Next we went to the nature park near UPNG and walked around.


Plants in the nature park. Left: Orchid of some kind, PNG is host to a gazillion orchid species, with new ones being discovered constantly. Right: Unknown.


Fruit bats suspended above us everywhere


Birds! Top: Cassowary. Bottom Left: Toucan. Bottom Mid: Cockatoo. Bottom Right: Crowned pigeon.


Other animals of note. Left: Bonnie and a statue. Top Left: Crocodile. Bottom Right: Sad Tree Kangaroo.

And then we went to a mall so I could buy GF flour and cheese.

It was an incredible trip and I’m glad Bonnie came to share it with me!

4 thoughts on “Rabaul Part 3

  1. The pictures are still amazing! It’s on my list to make my complete photo album of the trip…still :). It looks like I’ll be around the Australian countryside quite regularly now, so we will have to make future plans. More trips around the area, perhaps?

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