- Captain Woolridge, Aug. 25, 1883
“There came an explosion so loud, so violent, and with such far-reaching effects, that it made all that had gone before seem as child’s play in comparison, and made all other explosions known to earth in historic times dwindle into insignificance.” - Local Historian, Aug. 27, 1883
As these two eyewitness accounts make clear, the eruption of the Volcanic Island of Krakatoa on August 27, in the year 1883 was no small affair. In fact, even though it had been giving off warning blasts of no small intensity for some days prior, as the second account makes clear, the blast which finally occurred on the 27’th of August was far beyond anything previously seen or recorded by man. And it shot volcanic ash high into the air which proved to be a menace to navigation. But this ash also produced strange effects around the world for months after.
Krakatoa - Ready to Blow...
Krakatoa, a large volcanic island lying in the Sunda Strait that is between Sumatra and Java, in Indonesia, was discovered in the 1500’s, and it’s first recorded eruption was in 1680. By the time of it’s eruption of two centuries later, it was covered with lush jungle vegetation, and while it was uninhabited, it was frequently visited by local islanders from Java. As was noted above, Krakatoa had been giving off signals of impending eruption for some time prior to the big eruption. But these signs had been coming and going for a long time, and nobody could know what was coming next.
Then on August 27 four vast explosions occurred at 5:30, 6:44, 10:02, and 10:41 a.m. local time. These blasts were so violent that they could be heard 2,200 miles away in Perth, Australia and the Indian Ocean island of Rodrigues near Mauritius, 3,000 miles away, where they were thought to be cannons being fired from a nearby ship. In fact the sounds reported as coming from Krakatoa were many times described in just that way. The pressure wave caused by the huge final explosion
(Above: The tsunami(s) from the August 27, 1883 explosions and collapse of the volcano of Krakatoa as recorded by the tide gauge at Jakarta. Superimposed on the tide gauge record is a barograph record, recorded by the tide gauge prior and after the arrival of the tsunami.)
about a jump of more than two and half inches of mercury in pressure gauges attached to gasometers in the Jakarta gasworks, causing them to go off their normal scale. This huge and powerful pressure wave radiated around the world and was recorded on barographs all over the globe, which continued to register it for a full five days following the explosion. Barograph recordings show that the shockwave from the last and most violent explosion reverberated around the world a total of seven times. And of course the tsunami that came about as a result of Krakatoa’s eruption proved to be highly lethal indeed. This killer wave which was variously estimated to have been 50, 90, even 135 feet high and which was moving at a speed of 600 mph, wiped out the towns of Negery Babawang and Negerey with a total of 15,000 inhabitants.
Tsunami Kills Thousands
More than 300 villages and towns throughout the East Indies were totally flooded and obliterated. The ship “Loudon” was near Java when Krakatoa erupted, and was just barely able to turn her keel into the path of the wave, and ride it out as it tossed her into the air like a toy. But the coastal towns of Java were not so fortunate as to survive. As N. van Sandick, the engineer on board the “Loudon” recorded, the villages
Volcanic Ash "Screams" Around the Globe
Volcanic ash, pumice and black smoke was propelled into the air to a height of over fifty miles. For months after the blast, this pumice settled onto the sea, and floating on the water sometimes as much as seven feet thick, thus causing a definite hazard to navigation of the sea lanes. Further, the fine dust which was shot into the air from the eruption of Krakatoa remained there for more than two years,
The Eruption Literally Changes the Map
As to the island of Krakatoa itself and the immediate region around it, the results were more serious. The combined effects of lava flows, volcanic ashes and tsunamis had results for the region which were clearly disastrous. There were no survivors from 3,000 people who lived on the island of Sebesi, about 8 miles from Krakatoa. Lava flows killed around 1,000 people at Ketimbang on the coast of Sumatra
“Darkest Hours” by Jay Robert Nash, Wallaby Books, New York, 1977.