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Remains of an internal staircase in Rabaul. Note the depth of the ash.

WWII Japanese landing barges near Rabaul

Rabaul was the capital of East New Britain province, Papua New Guinea until the volcanoes Tuvurvur and Vulcan erupted in September 1994, destroying the airport and most of the town with heavy ashfall. The new capital, Kokopo, is just 20km away, so the region (and new airport) is still most often refered to as Rabaul.

Rabaul has good diving and snorkeling sites and a spectacular harbour, and so was slowly becoming a popular tourist destination before the eruptions. There are still several diving operators based there.

During World War II Rabaul was a major Japanese base and there is still much military debris in the harbour, on the land and under the hills—the occupying Japanese army dug many kilometeres of underground tunnels as shelter from the Allied air forces.