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Issue 974

KRAKATOA

• Krakatoa is a volcanic island in Indonesia, between Java and Sumatra. Its original name was Krakatua, which may come from the local word for crab or lobster, “karkataka.” The name of the island was misspelled by a reporter and it’s been Krakatoa ever since.

• Krakatoa is located where two tectonic plates meet at a point on what is known as the Ring of Fire. These two plates constantly collide, resulting in much volcanic activity.

• Krakatoa was an uninhabited jungle island formed by a ring of three volcanoes which had not erupted for over 200 years. But in the spring of 1883, one of the volcanoes sputtered to life. For months there were earthquakes and minor eruptions of gas and steam.

• On August 26, 1883, clouds of ash and pumice rose to spectacular heights. It’s thought that an earthquake opened a vent in the side of the volcano which allowed sea water to pour into the magma chambers. This resulted in a series of cataclysmic eruptions and catastrophes that lasted two days.

• The initial blast created a caldera almost four miles wide. The sound of the largest blast, thought to be the loudest sound in recorded history, was heard in Perth, Australia, some 1,930 miles away. On the island of Rodrigues some 3,000 miles away, citizens thought there were ships firing cannons in the bay. That would be like people in New York City hearing explosions in Dublin, Ireland. It was so loud that it ruptured the eardrums of sailors on ships 40 miles away. A ship 15 miles away was covered in three feet of ash.

• The blast was equal to 10,000 Hiroshima-size atom bombs, and 18 times more powerful than the Mount St. Helens blast.

• Pyroclastic flows reached the Sumatran coast 25 miles away, moving across the water on a cushion of superheated steam at 62 mph. Under-sea pyroclastic flows reached 10 miles from the volcano. Pumice hurled 34 miles into the atmosphere fell 3,313 miles away ten days later. Ash fell as far away as New York City 10,000 miles away.

• The shock wave radiated out at 675 mph and circled the earth seven times over the next five days, measurable on barometers around the globe.

• Most devastating were the giant tsunamis generated by the explosion. Reaching heights of 100 feet they fanned out in all directions. The people closest to Krakatoa lived five miles away, and the entire population of 3,000 people was swept away. In all, 165 villages were obliterated and 132 others were nearly destroyed.

• The waves exited from the Indian Ocean below Cape Horn at the southern tip of South America, and radiated into the English Channel, 11,500 miles away. The waves circled the Earth three times.

• A one-ton iron buoy hurled onto a hill a mile inland can still be seen today. Waves carried a steamship a mile inland on Sumatra. A 600-ton chunk of coral was tossed on shore.

• Over 36,000 people died. Of those, 90% were killed by the tsunami. The rest were burned to death by super-heated gasses or killed by falling debris. Humans bones were carried 4,500 miles across the Indian ocean to the shores of Africa.

• The island had originally been 2,625 feet high and 3 miles long by 5 miles wide. After the eruption, only 30% of the island remained.