Sunday, 26 August 2007


On 26th August 1883 Krakatoa erupted with increasingly large explosions killing over 36,000 people.

An early Nineteenth century print of the island

Krakatoa is a volcanic island in the Sunda Strait between Java and Sumatra in Indonesia. (Interestingly it is to the West of Java despite the 1969 film being entitled ‘Krakatoa East of Java’). The name is used for the whole island group, the main island (also called Rakata), and the volcano as a whole. It has erupted repeatedly, massively and with disastrous consequences throughout recorded history. The best known eruption culminated in a series of massive explosions on August 26-27, 1883.

The 1883 eruption ejected more than 25 cubic kilometres of rock, ash, and pumice, and generated the loudest sound in recorded history: the cataclysmic explosion was distinctly heard as far away asPerth, Australia, approx. 1,930 miles (3,110 km), and on the island of Rodrigues near Mauritius approx. 3,000 miles (5,000 km) away. Near Krakatoa, according to official records, 165 villages and towns were destroyed and 132 seriously damaged, at least 36,417 (official toll) people died, and many thousands were injured by the eruption, mostly from the tsunamis which followed the explosion.

Photo of the volcano of Krakatau taken in 1883 before the major eruption

The eruption destroyed two thirds of the island of Krakatoa. Eruptions at the volcano since 1927 have built a new island in the same location, called Anak Krakatau (child of Krakatoa).
The tsunamis reached heights of 40 m above sea level, devastating everything in their path and hurling ashore coral blocks weighing as much as 600 tons. Every recording barograph in the world documented the passage of the airwave, some as many as 7 times as the wave bounced back and forth between the eruption site and its antipodes for 5 days after the explosion. Tide gauges also recorded the sea wave's passage far from Krakatoa. The wave "reached Aden in 12 hours, a distance of 3800 nautical miles, usually traversed by a good steamer in 12 days". The volcanic dust veil created unusual sunsets across the globe for the next three years.

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