Volcanoes: Krakatoa Blows its Top Part 2

About the natural disaster in 1883 when the volcano Krakatoa erupted, the history of the event and destruction that followed.


The clock in the Batavia Observatory stopped at 11:32 P.M. From midnight on, lowlands near the sea were submerged by huge waves. Ships at sea rode out the confusion with little difficulty except for the total blackness and some frightened sailors. At 1 A.M., the village of Sirik, 6 mi. south of Anjer, was washed away. Telok Betong was destroyed at 1:30 A.M. Waves that followed came within 6' of refugees perched atop a 125' hill. On the decks of the Berbice, 15 mi. from Krakatoa, ash piled to a height of 3'.

At 6:30 A.M. a 33' wave struck Anjer and penetrated 6 mi. inland. Merak was hit about the same time. The biggest wave rushed shoreward at 7:45 A.M. It picked up the gunboat' Berouw and deposited it more than a mile inland, 30' above sea level. All of the crew were killed. Still the eruptions continued, the earth shook, and waves from the sea assisted the grim reaper.

At 10:02 A.M., August 27, after 22 hours of eruptions, a roar that paled all others burst from Krakatoa. Three quarters of the island, 11 sq. mi. (an area almost as large as Manhattan) collapsed into the sea. The sound was heard 3,000 mi. away. The Encyclopaedia Britannica later reported, "The noise was the loudest in history." People in Texas reported that they heard what sounded like cannons.

The force of the explosion created winds that circled the globe 7 times. Outward from Krakatoa swirled a wall of water that rampaged over beaches, buried plains and villages, and clawed at hilltops to destroy everything in its path. Through the straits gigantic tidal waves escaped into the Indian Ocean to reach Cape Horn, then pushed into the Atlantic to lap at the shores of the English Channel, 11,500 mi. from Krakatoa.

At 10:32 A.M. the big killer wave hit Tjaringin, 30 mi. from Krakatoa, killing 10,000 people. When it hit the wide plains of Pepper Bay, the town of Penimbang, 10 mi. inland, was submerged. Tjeringur, Karang Antoe, Telok Betong, Beneawany, and Batavia were littered with corpses. Hundreds more were washed into the sea entangled in debris.

Krakatoa's death knell came at 10:52 A.M. when Mount Danan collapsed into the caldera 600' beneath the sea. The true death count was never known, but the most conservative estimate was 36,417 or more.

Aftermath: When it was all over and ships were dispatched to the devastated area, the Algeeman Dagblad reported, "The gloomiest forebodings fell short of reality." From the capital of Bantam came the message: "All gone. Plenty lives lost."

The 1st landing party on what was left of the island found not a tree, shrub, or blade of grass growing. They did find one tiny red spider spinning a web that would attract no living fly or insect.

Tomorrow: By 1923 Krakatoa was green again. In early 1928 a new island 600' long by 10' wide rose out of the sea, then disappeared. On February 3, and June 25, new explosions and eruptions were recorded. In October, 1952, a 200' cinder cone emerged from the waters. The child of Krakatoa had been born. In one year, the cone grew 300'. In 1960 the island was 1,500' wide by 3,000' long. How big will it be in the year 2000? When will Krakatoa erupt again? These are unanswerable questions.

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