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Daily History

August 27 1883 Krakatau explodes


On August 27th 1883, the most powerful volcanic eruption in recorded history occurred on Krakatau (also called Krakatoa), a small, uninhabited volcanic island located west of Sumatra in Indonesia. Heard 3,000 miles away, the explosions threw five cubic miles of earth 50 miles into the air, created 120-foot tsunamis and killed 36,000 people.

Krakatau exhibited its first stirrings in more than 200 years on May 20, 1883. A German warship passing by reported a seven-mile high cloud of ash and dust over Krakatau. For the next two months, similar explosions would be witnessed by commercial liners and natives on nearby Java and Sumatra. With little to no idea of the impending catastrophe, the local inhabitants greeted the volcanic activity with festive excitement.

On August 26 and August 27, excitement turned to horror as Krakatau literally blew itself apart, setting off a chain of natural disasters that would be felt around the world for years to come. An enormous blast on the afternoon of August 26 destroyed the northern two-thirds of the island.

As it plunged into the Sunda Strait, between the Java Sea and Indian Ocean, the gushing mountain generated a series of pyroclastic flows (fast-moving fluid bodies of molten gas, ash and rock) and monstrous tsunamis that swept over nearby coastlines.

Four more eruptions beginning at 5:30 a.m. the following day proved cataclysmic. The explosions could be heard as far as 3,000 miles away, and ash was propelled to a height of 50 miles. Fine dust from the explosion drifted around the earth, causing spectacular sunsets and forming an atmospheric veil that lowered temperatures worldwide by several degrees.

Of the estimated 36,000 deaths resulting from the eruption, at least 31,000 were caused by the tsunamis created when much of the island fell into the water. The greatest of these waves measured 120 feet high, and washed over nearby islands, stripping away vegetation and carrying people out to sea. Another 4,500 people were scorched to death from the pyroclastic flows that rolled over the sea, stretching as far as 40 miles, according to some sources.

In addition to Krakatau, which is still active, Indonesia has another 130 active volcanoes, the most of any country in the world.

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Discussion

3 thoughts on “August 27 1883 Krakatau explodes

  1. I clearly remember this.

    Posted by Mona | August 27, 2012, 05:42
  2. Saw this in the movie and also read in class text book. Biggest explosion recorded ever? Earthshaking…

    Posted by sarfarazar | August 27, 2012, 10:57
  3. Simon Winchester, the British geologist / science writer wrote a fascinating book, “Krakatoa,” about the event a few years ago using primary sources in British Museum and other London-based scientific institutes. After Krakatoa ‘blew’ and caused massive damage, loss of life, and changed world wide weather, a number of scientific reports reviewed the documents and issued reports back in 1880’s.
    Winchester used these primary sources very rich in detail to write a fascinating history going back to first 17th century Portugese and Dutch explorers who sailed to the East Indies and brought back spices.
    Winchester then writes about development of the area and many scientists, explorers, traders who went to Indonesia. By the time his book reaches the eruption of Krakatoa, readers understand the background and scientific explanation of why Krakatoa was one of the world’s most significant geological event.
    Highly recommend the book if you like to know why science matters.

    Posted by jackandmarilynerickson | August 28, 2012, 00:08

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