Sunday June 6, 2021’s Smile of the Day: Eruption of Mount Tambora
On this Day:
In 1816, 10″ of snow fell in New England, which was part of the “year without a summer” which followed the eruption of Mount Tambora in Indonesia.
Mount Tambora, or Tomboro, is an active stratovolcano in West Nusa Tanagra, Sumbawa, Indonesia in one of the Lesser Sunda Islands of Indonesia. It was formed due to the active subduction zones beneath it, and before its 1815 eruption, it was more than 4,300 metres (14,100 feet) high, making it one of the tallest peaks in the Indonesian archipelago.
Tambora’s 1815 eruption was the largest in recorded human history and the largest of the Holocene (10,000 years ago to present). The magma chamber under Tambora had been drained by previous eruptions and underwent several centuries of dormancy as it refilled. Volcanic activity reached a peak that year, culminating in an explosive eruption. The explosion was heard on Sumatra island, more than 2,000 kilometres (1,200 miles) away. Heavy volcanic ash rains were observed as far away as Borneo, Sulawesi, Java and Maluku islands, and the maximum elevation of Tambora was reduced from about 4,300 metres (14,100 ft) to 2,850 metres (9,350 feet). Although estimates vary, the death toll was at least 71,000 people. The eruption contributed to global climate anomalies in the following years, while 1816 became known as the “year without a summer” due to the impact on North American and European weather. In the Northern Hemisphere, crops failed and livestock died, resulting in the worst famine of the century.
Before 1815, Mount Tambora was dormant for several centuries as hydrous magma cooled gradually in a closed magma chamber. Inside the chamber, at depths of 1.5 to 4.5 kilometres (0.93 to 2.80 mi), cooling and partial crystallization of the magma exsolved high-pressure magmatic fluid. Overpressure of the chamber of about 4,000 to 5,000 bars (58,000 to 73,000 psi) was generated as temperatures ranged from 700 to 850 °C (1,292 to 1,562 °F). In 1812, the crater began to rumble and generated a dark cloud.
A moderate-sized eruption on 5 April 1815 was followed by thunderous detonation sounds that could be heard in Makassar on Sulawesi, at a distance of 380 kilometres (240 mi), Batavia (now Jakarta) on Java, 1,260 kilometres (780 mi) away, and Ternate on the Molucca Islands at 1,400 kilometres (870 mi) from Mount Tambora. On the morning of 6 April 1815, volcanic ash began to fall in East Java, with faint detonation sounds lasting until 10 April. What was first thought to be the sound of firing guns was heard on 10 and 11 April on Sumatra island (more than 2,600 kilometres (1,600 mi) away).
The eruptions intensified at about 7:00 p.m. on the same day. Three columns of flame rose and merged as the mountain became a flowing mass of liquid fire. Pieces of pumice of up to 20 centimetres (7.9 in) in diameter rained down at approximately 8 p.m., followed by ash at around 9–10 p.m. The eruption column collapsed, producing hot pyroclastic flows that cascaded down the mountain and towards the sea on all sides of the peninsula, wiping out the village of Tambora. Loud explosions were heard until the next evening, 11 April. The veil of ash spread as far as West Java and South Sulawesi, while a “nitrous odor” was noticeable in Batavia. The heavy tephra-tinged rain did not recede until 17 April. Analysis of various sites on Mount Tambora using ground-penetrating radar has revealed alternations of pumice and ash deposits covered by the pyroclastic surge and flow sediments that vary in thickness regionally.
The eruption is estimated to have had a Volcanic Explosivity Index of 7. It had 4–10 times the energy of the 1883 Krakatoa eruption. An estimated 100 cubic kilometres (24 cu mi) of pyroclastic trachyandesite was ejected, weighing approximately 1.4×1014 kg. This has left a caldera measuring 6 to 7 kilometres (3.7 to 4.3 mi) across and 600 to 700 metres (2,000 to 2,300 ft) deep. The density of fallen ash in Makassar was 636 kg/m3. Before the explosion, Mount Tambora was approximately 4,300 metres (14,100 ft) high, one of the tallest peaks in the Indonesian archipelago. After the eruption of 1815, the maximum elevation has been reduced to 2,851 metres (9,354 ft).
The 1815 Tambora eruption is the largest and most devastating observed eruption in recorded history. The explosion was heard 2,600 kilometres (1,600 mi) away, and ash deposits were registered at a distance of at least 1,300 kilometres (810 mi). A pitch of darkness was observed as far away as 600 kilometres (370 mi) from the mountain summit for up to two days. Pyroclastic flows spread to distances of about 20 kilometres (12 mi) from the summit and an estimated 9.3–11.8 × 1013 g of stratospheric sulfate aerosols were generated by the eruption.
The island’s entire vegetation was destroyed as uprooted trees, mixed with pumice ash, washed into the sea and formed rafts of up to 5 kilometres (3.1 mi) across. One pumice raft was found in the Indian Ocean, near Calcutta, on 1 and 3 October 1815. Clouds of thick ash still covered the summit on 23 April. Explosions ceased on 15 July, although smoke emissions were still observed as late as 23 August. Flames and rumbling aftershocks were reported in August 1819, four years after the event.
On my trip towards the western part of the island, I passed through nearly the whole of Dompo and a considerable part of Bima. The extreme misery to which the inhabitants have been reduced is shocking to behold. There were still on the road side the remains of several corpses, and the marks of where many others had been interred: the villages almost entirely deserted and the houses fallen down, the surviving inhabitants having dispersed in search of food.
Since the eruption, a violent diarrhoea has prevailed in Bima, Dompo, and Sang’ir, which has carried off a great number of people. It is supposed by the natives to have been caused by drinking water which has been impregnated with ashes; and horses have also died, in great numbers, from a similar complaint.
—per Lt. Philips, ordered by Sir Stamford Raffles to go to Sumbawa.
A moderate tsunami struck the shores of various islands in the Indonesian archipelago on 10 April, with waves reaching 4 metres (13 ft) in Sanggar at around 10 p.m. A tsunami causing waves of 1 to 2 metres (3.3 to 6.6 ft) was reported in Besuki, East Java before midnight and another exceeded 2 metres (6.6 ft) in the Molucca Islands. The eruption column reached the stratosphere at an altitude of more than 43 kilometres (141,000 ft). Coarser ash particles fell one to two weeks after the eruptions, while finer particles stayed in the atmosphere for months to years at an altitude of 10 to 30 kilometres (33,000 to 98,000 ft). There are various estimates of the volume of ash emitted: a recent study estimates a dense-rock equivalent volume for the ash of 23 ± 3 cubic kilometres (5.52 ± 0.72 cu mi) and a dense-rock equivalent volume of 18 ± 6 cubic kilometres (4.3 ± 1.4 cu mi) for the pyroclastic flows. Longitudinal winds spread these fine particles around the globe, creating optical phenomena. Between 28 June and 2 July, and between 3 September and 7 October 1815, prolonged and brilliantly coloured sunsets and twilights were frequently seen in London, England. Most commonly, pink or purple colours appeared above the horizon at twilight and orange or red near the horizon.
The number of fatalities has been estimated by various sources since the nineteenth century. Swiss botanist Heinrich Zollinger traveled to Sumbawa in 1847 and recollected witness accounts about the 1815 eruption of Tambora. In 1855, he published estimates of directly killed people at 10,100, mostly from pyroclastic flows. A further 37,825 were numbered having died from starvation on Sumbawa island. In Lombok, another 10,000 died from disease and hunger. Petroeschevsky (1949) estimated that about 48,000 and 44,000 people were killed in Sumbawa and Lombok, respectively. Several authors have used Petroeschevsky’s figures, such as Stothers (1984), who estimated 88,000 deaths in total. However, Tanguy et al. (1998) considered Petroeschevsky’s figures based on untraceable sources, so developed an estimate based solely on two primary sources: Zollinger, who spent several months on Sumbawa after the eruption, and the notes of Sir Stamford Raffles, Governor-General of the Dutch East Indies during the event. Tanguy pointed out that there may have been additional victims on Bali and East Java because of famine and disease, and estimated 11,000 deaths from direct volcanic action and 49,000 from post-eruption famine and epidemics. Oppenheimer (2003) estimated at least 71,000 deaths, and numbers as high as 117,000 have been proposed.
The 1815 eruption released 10 to 120 million tons of sulphur into the stratosphere, causing a global climate anomaly. Different methods have been used to estimate the ejected sulfur mass: the petrological method, an optical depth measurement based on anatomical observations, and the polar ice core sulfate concentration method, which calibrated against cores from Greenland and Antarctica.
In the spring and summer of 1816, a persistent stratospheric sulfate aerosol veil, described then as a “dry fog”, was observed in the northeastern United States. It was not dispersed by wind or rainfall, and it reddened and dimmed sunlight to an extent that sunspots were visible to the naked eye. Areas of the northern hemisphere suffered extreme weather conditions and 1816 became known as the “year without a summer”. Average global temperatures decreased about 0.4 to 0.7 °C (0.7 to 1.3 °F), enough to cause significant agricultural problems around the globe. After 4 June 1816, when there were frosts in Connecticut, cold weather expanded over most of New England. On 6 June 1816, it snowed in Albany, New York and Dennysville, Maine. Similar conditions persisted for at least three months, ruining most crops across North America while Canada experienced extreme cold. Snow fell until 10 June near Quebec City, accumulating to 30 centimetres (12 in).
That year became the second-coldest year in the northern hemisphere since 1400, while the 1810s were the coldest decade on record, a result of Tambora’s eruption and other suspected volcanic events between 1809 and 1810. Surface-temperature anomalies during the summers of 1816, 1817 and 1818 were −0.51, −0.44 and −0.29 °C, respectively. Along with a cooler summer, parts of Europe experienced a stormier winter, and the Elbe and Ohře Rivers froze over a period of twelve days in February 1816. As a result, prices of wheat, rye, barley and oats rose dramatically by 1817.
This climate anomaly has been cited as a reason for the severity of the 1816–19 typhus epidemic in southeast Europe and the eastern Mediterranean. In addition, large numbers of livestock died in New England during the winter of 1816–1817, while cool temperatures and heavy rains led to failed harvests in the British Isles. Families in Wales travelled long distances as refugees, begging for food. Famine was prevalent in north and southwest Ireland, following the failure of wheat, oat and potato harvests. The crisis was severe in Germany, where food prices rose sharply. Demonstrations at grain markets and bakeries, followed by riots, arson and looting, took place in many European cities. It was the worst famine of the 19th century (per Wikipedia).
First, a Story:
Geologists who study volcanoes lack interpersonal skills due to the fact that they only date rocks.
Second, a Song:
James William Buffett (born December 25, 1946) is an American singer-songwriter, musician, author, actor, and businessman. He is best known for his music, which often portrays an “island escapism” lifestyle. Together with his Coral Reefer Band, Buffett has recorded hit songs including “Margaritaville” (ranked 234th on the Recording Industry Association of America’s list of “Songs of the Century”) and “Come Monday”. He has a devoted base of fans known as “Parrotheads”.
Aside from his career in music, Buffett is also a bestselling author and was involved in two restaurant chains named after two of his best-known songs; he currently owns the Margaritaville Cafe restaurant chain and co-developed the now defunct Cheeseburger in Paradise restaurant chain. Buffett is one of the world’s richest musicians, with a net worth of $950 million.
Buffett began his musical career in Nashville, Tennessee, during the late 1960s as a country artist and recorded his first album, the country-tinged folk rock record Down to Earth, in 1970. During this time, Buffett could be frequently found busking for tourists in New Orleans. Fellow country singer Jerry Jeff Walker took him to Key West on a busking expedition in November 1971. Buffett then moved to Key West and began establishing the easy-going beach-bum persona for which he is known. He started out playing for drinks at the Chart Room Bar in the Pier House Motel. Following this move, Buffett combined country, rock, folk, calypso and pop music with coastal as well as tropical lyrical themes for a sound sometimes called “Gulf and Western” (or tropical rock). Today, he is a regular visitor to the Caribbean island of Saint Barts and other islands where he gets inspiration for many of his songs and some of the characters in his books.
With the untimely death of friend and mentor Jim Croce in September 1973, ABC/Dunhill Records tapped Buffett to fill his space. Earlier, Buffett had visited Croce’s farm in Pennsylvania and met with Croce in Florida.
Buffett’s third album was 1973’s A White Sport Coat and a Pink Crustacean. Albums Living & Dying in 3/4 Time and A1A both followed in 1974, Havana Daydreamin’ appeared in 1976, and Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes followed in 1977, which featured the breakthrough hit song “Margaritaville”.
During the 1980s, Buffett made far more money from his tours than his albums and became known as a popular concert draw. He released a series of albums during the following 20 years, primarily to his devoted audience, and also branched into writing and merchandising. In 1985, Buffett opened a “Margaritaville” retail store in Key West, and in 1987, he opened the Margaritaville Cafe.
In 1994, Buffett dueted with Frank Sinatra on a cover of “Mack the Knife” on Sinatra’s final studio album, “Duets II”. In 1997, Buffett collaborated with novelist Herman Wouk to create a musical based on Wouk’s novel, Don’t Stop the Carnival. Broadway showed little interest in the play (following the failure of Paul Simon’s The Capeman), and it ran only for six weeks in Miami. He released an album of songs from the musical in 1998.
In August 2000, Buffett and the Coral Reefer Band played on the White House lawn for then-President Bill Clinton.
In 2003, he partnered in a partial duet with Alan Jackson for the song “It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere”, a number-one hit on the country charts. This song won the 2003 Country Music Association Award for Vocal Event of the Year. This was Buffett’s first award in his 30-year recording career.
Buffett’s album License to Chill, released on July 13, 2004, sold 238,600 copies in its first week of release according to Nielsen Soundscan. With this, Buffett topped the U.S. pop albums chart for the first time in his career.
Buffett continues to tour every year, although he has shifted recently to a more relaxed schedule of around 20–30 dates, with infrequent back-to-back nights, preferring to play only on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. This schedule provided the title of his 1999 live album.
In the summer of 2005, Buffett teamed up with Sirius Satellite Radio and introduced Radio Margaritaville. Until this point, Radio Margaritaville was solely an online channel. Radio Margaritaville has remained on the service through Sirius’ merger with XM Radio and currently appears as XM 24. The channel broadcasts from the Margaritaville Resort Orlando in Kissimmee, Florida.
In August 2006, he released the album Take The Weather With You. The song “Breathe In, Breathe Out, Move On” on this album is in honor of the survivors of 2005’s Hurricane Katrina. Buffett’s rendition of “Silver Wings” on the same album was made as a tribute to Merle Haggard. On August 30, 2007, he received his star on the Mohegan Sun Walk of Fame.
On April 20, 2010, a double CD of performances recorded during the 2008 and 2009 tours called Encores was released exclusively at Walmart, Walmart.com, and Margaritaville.com.
Buffett partnered in a duet with the Zac Brown Band on the song “Knee Deep”; released on Brown’s 2010 album You Get What You Give, it became a hit country and pop single in 2011. Also in 2011, Buffett voiced Huckleberry Finn on Mark Twain: Words & Music, which was released on Mailboat Records. The project is a benefit for the Mark Twain Boyhood Home & Museum and includes Clint Eastwood as Mark Twain, Garrison Keillor as the narrator, and songs by Brad Paisley, Sheryl Crow, Ricky Skaggs, Vince Gill, Emmylou Harris, and others.
Of the over 30 albums Jimmy Buffett has released, as of October 2007, eight are Gold albums and nine are Platinum or Multiplatinum. In 2007, Buffett was nominated for the CMA Event of the Year Award for his song “Hey Good Lookin'” which featured Alan Jackson and George Strait.
On June 25, 2019, The New York Times Magazine listed Jimmy Buffett among hundreds of artists whose material was reportedly destroyed in the 2008 Universal fire.
In 2020 Buffett released Songs You Don’t Know by Heart, a fan-curated collection of his lesser-known songs rerecorded on his collection of notable guitar (per Wikipedia).
“Volcano” is a song performed by American popular music singer-songwriter Jimmy Buffett. It was written by Jimmy Buffett, Keith Sykes, and Harry Dailey and released as a single (b/w “Stranded on a Sandbar”) on MCA 41161 in November 1979.
Written in a calypso/reggae style, the song was first released on his 1979 album Volcano and reached No. 66 on the Billboard Hot 100, as well as peaking at No. 43 on the Easy Listening chart.
The song and album are named for the then-dormant Soufrière Hills volcano on the island of Montserrat in the British West Indies where Buffett recorded the album in May 1979 at AIR Studios. The studio was destroyed by Hurricane Hugo in 1989 and Soufrière Hills erupted again in 1995.
The lyrics describe the narrator’s anxiety about his possible whereabouts following the impending eruption of a volcano. The bridge before the final chorus mentions a number of placenames, some important largely in the context of 1979:
But I don’t want to land in New York City,
I don’t want to land in Mexico.
I don’t want to land on no Three Mile Island,
I don’t want to see my skin a-glow.
Don’t want to land in Camanche Skypark,
or in Nashville, Tennessee.
I don’t want to land in no San Juan Airport
or the Yukon Territory.
Don’t want to land no San Diego.
Don’t want to land in no Buzzards Bay.
I don’t want to land on no Ayatollah.
I got nothin’ more to say.
“Volcano” is one of Buffett’s more popular songs with fans, and is part of “The Big 8” that he has played at almost all of his concerts. Recorded live versions of the song appear on Feeding Frenzy, Buffett Live: Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays, and the video Live by the Bay. The placenames in the final bridge are often altered in concert to reflect more recent news. The song was also re-recorded and released for Rock Band on June 3, 2008, with the last two lines listed above changed to, “I want to be a couch potato / Just play Rock Band everyday.”
Volcano was recorded at AIR Studios in Montserrat and was played at the London benefit concert “Music for Montserrat”, arranged by Sir George Martin to support the island after the twin disasters of hurricane Hugo and the eruptions of the Soufrière Hills volcano. The lyrics were changed to fit the context. For example, the phrase “We’ve got to help our friends in Montserrat” appeared in the song.
When performed at concerts, a video of the song on Rock Band is shown (per Wikipedia).
Here is “Volcano” sung by Jimmy Buffet set to images of volcanic eruptions by Swimvolly on Youtube. I hope you enjoy this!
Thought for the Day:
“Zeal is a volcano, the peak of which the grass of indecisiveness does not grow.” – Khalil Gibran
Have a great day!
Dave & Colleen
© 2021 David J. Bilinsky and Colleen E. Bilinsky