Simpson Harbor is the flooded caldera of an ancient volcano that forms the eastern tip New Britain bordering Rabaul along its north shore and Matupit Island to the southeast. To the west are the Dawapia Rocks "The Beehives". Simpson Harbor is connected to Karavia Bay and Blanche Bay to the south. Many docks and wharf provided ships access to Rabaul including Toboi wharf, Komaki Maru (Wreck Wharf) and others.
After midnight of January 23, 1942
the 144th Infantry Regiment 'South Seas Detachment' landed at several locations: Raluana Point and to the west of Kokopo and Kerawun and north of Vulcan. Also Malaguna, west of Praed Point and Nordup. By morning, the Japanese occupied Rabaul.
Immediately, the Japanese developed Simpson Harbor into their principal
anchorage in the South Pacific, and developed seaplane bases at Sulpher Creek and Matupit Island.
During the war, Rabaul and Simpson Harbor were subjected to Allied attacks starting in early February 1942 until 1945. These included high altitude bombing missions and later medium bombing missions, low level strafing and aerial mining missions.
Allied missions against Simpson Harbor
February 3, 1942 - 1945
The last Japanese cargo ship to enter Simpson Harbor was the Kokai Maru on February 19, 1944 that unloaded barges, ammunition and food, then departed February 25, 1944. After that date, only submarines managed to land small quantities of essential cargo.
On the September 6, 1945, the Japanese surrendered
all remaining Japanese Forces in New Guinea, New Britain and the Solomon
Islands. The ceremony took place aboard
aircraft carrier HMS Glory. Representing the Japanese were General
H. Imamura, Commander 8th Army Area, Admiral J. Kusaka, Commander
South East Area Fleet.
Reportedly 54 ships were sunk into Simpson Harbor and the surrounding
area, but only 10 are accessible or known to SCUBA divers. At least two former submersible barges abandoned after the war survived,
tankers around East New Britain and Duke
of York Islands well into the 1990s. But, they remained strictly on the surface
after the war, by expatriate Pat Roberts who ran an inter-island shipping business
Brian Bennett recalls:
"Pat Roberts (his place
was known just as Pat's wharf and is situated at the end of Dawapia
Road. Also known as Rabaul Shipping. Pat and his wife from
Buka are long gone now. After
the war a chap named Pat Roberts who ran a fuel and fresh
water provider business for many years for visiting ships acquired
several of these vessels and at least one was still in
use at the time of the eruption in 1994. Pat
also did metal salvage and his place was always a delight to search
for old brass fuse and stuff. I remember that after
he died his house became a bit run down and out in the front yard he had the
glass reflector dish out of the biggest of the Japanese Naval search lights."
Don Robinson adds:
"From 1952 to 1962, I operated a transport in Rabaul and transported
all of the scrap out of Rabaul, including hundreds of Japanese planes cut up for scrap. They were sold back to Japan to make cars. It was so common, I took no photos."
Dawapia Rocks "The Beehives"
Pair of volcanic rock outcroppings in Simpson Harbor, that look like a pair of beehives. Located in roughly the center of the harbor, west of Matupi Island and east of Malaguna.
Maru (Wreck Wharf)
Japanese ship confirmed sunk by Allied aircraft in Simpson
Sunk January 5, 1943
Sunk by B-25s on January 17, 1943. Covered by the 1994 volcano eruption
Sunk on January 17, 1944 covered by the 1994 volcano eruption
Salvaged post war
Sunk near the present day wharf area
Largest ship sunk in the harbor
Sunk on November 11, 1943. Hit by air attack, exploded loading torpedoes
Sunk April 18, 1943
Pilot Boyden crashed February 14, 1943 near the present day Yaght Club
Oogata Unkato No. 1 (Large Type Cargo Transporting Tube)
Japanese submersible fuel barges survived the war and was in use until the early 1980s
Do you have photos or additional information to add?
January 8, 2014