a short recording of the actual 1883 explosion of Krakatoa.

Friday August 27, 2021’s Smile of the Day: Krakatoa

On this Day:

In 1883, Krakatoa volcano, west of Java in Indonesia, erupted with a force of 1,300 megatons and killed approximately 40,000 people. However, this wasn’t the first eruption from this volcano.

The most notable eruptions of Krakatoa culminated in a series of massive explosions over 26–27 August 1883, which were among the most violent volcanic events in recorded history.

With an estimated Volcanic Explosivity Index (VEI) of 6, the eruption was equivalent to 200 megatons of TNT (840 PJ)—about 13,000 times the nuclear yield of the Little Boy bomb (13 to 16 kt) that devastated Hiroshima, Japan, during World War II, and four times the yield of Tsar Bomba, the most powerful nuclear device ever detonated at 50 Mt.  However, this was still only the 9th largest volcanic eruption in history. Mount Tambora at Sunda Arc, Sumbawa is the largest volcanic eruption in recorded history which occured on 10 Apr 1815,  and caused the year without a summer, which caused crops to fail and killed over 100,000-200,000+ people.

The 1883 eruption of Krakatoa ejected approximately 25 km3 (6 cubic miles) of rock. The cataclysmic explosion was heard 3,600 km (2,200 mi) away in Alice Springs, Australia, and on the island of Rodrigues near Mauritius, 4,780 km (2,970 mi) to the west. It was also responsible for the loudest sound in recorded history.

According to the official records of the Dutch East Indies colony, 165 villages and towns were destroyed near Krakatoa, and 132 were seriously damaged. At least 36,417 people died, and many more thousands were injured, mostly from the tsunamis that followed the explosion. The eruption destroyed two-thirds of the island of Krakatoa.

Eruptions in the area since 1927 have built a new island at the same location, named Anak Krakatau (which is Indonesian for “Child of Krakatoa”). Periodic eruptions have continued since, with recent eruptions in 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2012, and a major collapse in 2018. In late 2011, this island had a radius of roughly 2 kilometres (1.2 mi), and a highest point of about 324 metres (1,063 ft) above sea level,growing five metres (16 ft) each year. In 2017, the height of Anak Krakatau was reported as over 400 m (1,300 ft) above sea level; following a collapse in December 2018, the height was reduced to 110 meters (361 ft).

David Keys, Ken Wohletz, and others have postulated that a violent volcanic eruption, possibly of Krakatoa, in 535 was responsible for the global climate changes of 535–536. Keys explores what he believes to be the radical and far-ranging global effects of just such a putative 6th-century eruption in his book Catastrophe: An Investigation into the Origins of the Modern World. This eruption was believed to have been even more violent than Krakatoa’s 1883 eruption, and also the one that created Krakatoa’s original caldera, which resulted in the creation of Verlaten Island and Lang Island. However, there are other explanations for the climate change, including an eruption of Ilopango in El Salvador, in Central America.

Thornton mentions that Krakatoa was known as “The Fire Mountain” during Java’s Sailendra dynasty, with records of seven eruptive events between the 9th and 16th centuries. These have been tentatively dated as having occurred in 850, 950, 1050, 1150, 1320, and 1530.

In February 1681, Johann Wilhelm Vogel, a Dutch mining engineer at Salida, Sumatra (near Padang), on his way to Batavia (now Jakarta) passed through the Sunda Strait. In his diary he wrote:

…I saw with amazement that the island of Krakatoa, on my first trip to Sumatra [June 1679] completely green and healthy with trees, lay completely burnt and barren in front of our eyes and that at four locations was throwing up large chunks of fire. And when I asked the ship’s Captain when the aforementioned island had erupted, he told me that this had happened in May 1680 … He showed me a piece of pumice as big as his fist.

Vogel spent several months in Batavia, returning to Sumatra in November 1681. On the same ship were several other Dutch travellers, including Elias Hesse, a writer. Hesse’s journal reports:

…on the 19th [of November 1681] we again lifted anchor and proceeded first to the north of us to the island of Sleepzie (Sebesi), uninhabited, … and then still north of the island of Krakatou, which erupted about a year ago and also is uninhabited. The rising smoke column of this island can be seen from miles away; we were with our ship very close to shore and we could see the trees sticking out high on the mountain, and which looked completely burned, but we could not see the fire itself.

The eruption was also reported by a Bengali sea captain, who wrote of the event later, but had not recorded it at the time in the ship’s log. Neither Vogel nor Hesse mention Krakatoa in any real detail in their other passages, and no other travellers at the time mention an eruption or evidence of one. (In November 1681, a pepper crop was being offered for sale by inhabitants.) In 1880, Verbeek investigated a fresh unweathered lava flow at the northern coast of Perboewatan, which could not have been more than two centuries old.

While seismic activity around the volcano was intense in the years preceding the cataclysmic 1883 eruption, a series of lesser eruptions began on 20 May 1883. The volcano released huge plumes of steam and ash lasting until late August.

On 27 August, a series of four huge explosions almost destroyed the island. The explosions were so violent that they were heard 3,110 km (1,930 mi) away in Perth, Western Australia, and the island of Rodrigues near Mauritius, 4,800 km (3,000 mi) away. The pressure wave from the third and most violent explosion was recorded on barographs around the world. Several barographs recorded the wave seven times over the course of five days: four times with the wave travelling away from the volcano to its antipodal point, and three times travelling back to the volcano; the wave rounded the globe three and a half times. Ash was propelled to a height of 80 km (260,000 ft). The sound of the eruption was so loud it was reported that if anyone was within 16 kilometres (10 mi), they would have gone deaf.

The combined effects of pyroclastic flows, volcanic ashes, and tsunamis had disastrous results in the region and worldwide. The death toll recorded by the Dutch authorities was 36,417, although some sources put the estimate at more than 120,000. There are numerous documented reports of groups of human skeletons floating across the Indian Ocean on rafts of volcanic pumice and washing up on the east coast of Africa up to a year after the eruption. Summer temperatures in the northern hemisphere fell by an average of 0.4 °C (0.72 °F) in the year following the eruption (per Wikipedia).

First, a Story:

What happens when you try to kick a volcano’s lava? You Krakatoa…

Second, a Song:

Today is a twofer:

First, per Youtube.com: “Second Thought is a YouTube channel devoted to education and analysis of current events from a Leftist perspective.”

Here is Second Thought’s video on the Loudest Sound in Recorded History.


and to round this out is a short recording of the actual 1883 explosion of Krakatoa.  It is one of the earliest recorded sounds ever. Unfortunately I can’t seem to find out who recorded the explosion and from where. Oh well – I hope you enjoy this!


Thought for the Day:

“Obviously people want social calm, but if you do not let clever and ingenious people to participate, obviously there must be some dormant volcano that will erupt, sooner or later.” – Lech Walesa

Further to the Kindergarten Smile, Frank Fowlie of Richmond, BC, Canada writes:

“Kindergarten was my favourite 5 years of school.”

Best regards,

Dr. Frank Fowlie

Have a great day!

Dave & Colleen

© 2021 David J. Bilinsky and Colleen E. Bilinsky

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