R. Wally Johnson

Wally Johnson is an honorary associate professor in the Department of Pacific Affairs, College of Asia and the Pacific, at The Australian National University. He worked for many years for the Australian Government’s geoscientific agency in Canberra, Geoscience Australia. Most of his research career has focused on the volcanology of Papua New Guinea, much of which was undertaken in close association with colleagues at the Rabaul Volcanological Observatory, headquarters of the national volcanological service of Papua New Guinea.

Roars from the Mountain »

Colonial Management of the 1951 Volcanic Disaster at Mount Lamington

Authored by: R. Wally Johnson
Publication date: 2020
Mount Lamington broke out in violent eruption on 21 January 1951, killing thousands of Orokaiva people, devastating villages and destroying infrastructure. Generations of Orokavia people had lived on the rich volcanic soils of Mount Lamington, apparently unaware of the deadly volcanic threat that lay dormant beneath them. Also unaware were the Europeans who administered the Territory of Papua and New Guinea at the time of the eruption, and who were uncertain about how to interpret the increasing volcanic unrest on the mountain in the preceding days of the disaster. Roars from the Mountain seeks to address why so many people died at Mount Lamington by examining the large amount of published and unpublished records that are available on the 1951 disaster. The information sources also include the results of interviews with survivors and with people who were part of the relief, recovery and remembrance phases of what can still be regarded as one of Australia’s greatest natural-hazard disasters.

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Fire Mountains of the Islands »

A History of Volcanic Eruptions and Disaster Management in Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands

Authored by: R. Wally Johnson
Publication date: December 2013
Volcanic eruptions have killed thousands of people and damaged homes, villages, infrastructure, subsistence gardens, and hunting and fishing grounds in Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands. The central business district of a town was destroyed by a volcanic eruption in the case of Rabaul in 1994. Volcanic disasters litter not only the recent written history of both countries—particularly Papua New Guinea—but are recorded in traditional stories as well. Furthermore, evidence for disastrous volcanic eruptions many times greater than any witnessed in historical times is to be found in the geological record. Volcanic risk is greater today than at any time previously because of larger, mainly sedentary populations on or near volcanoes in both countries. An attempt is made in this book to review what is known about past volcanic eruptions and disasters with a view to determining how best volcanic risk can be reduced today in this tectonically complex and volcanically threatening region.