Event: Volcanic Eruption, Krakatoa, Sunda Strait between Sumatra and Java
Date: 27 August 1883
Thought to be extinct, the volcano on the island of Krakatoa erupted with such force that it caused a 120-foot tidal wave. Five cubic miles of rocks flew 17 miles in the air. The shockwaves circled the earth seven times. The mountain, which had been 3,000 feet high, sank into a crater on the ocean floor 800 feet deep. Up to 100 miles away, people were kept awake all night by the noise. The water in the Sunda Strait was 60 degrees hotter than normal. People up to 3,000 miles away in Australia and the US heard the final explosion, although the sound took four hours to reach some destinations. Some people in Borneo were reported to have been so frightened that they jumped off cliffs. The air in Great Britain, 10,000 miles away, reverberated with shockwaves. The three-foot tsunami travelled at 350 miles per hour and hit land at Cape Horn, 5,000 miles away. The dust created red sunsets around the world for two years. They were so intense that Connecticut fire-fighters were called out on several occasions to put out what some people thought were fires. Seven feet of pumice floated on the sea near Krakatoa for months. Five months later, ash washed up on Madagascar beaches.
Between 36,000 and 80,000 dead.
Beyond nature’s power, this is one of the first times in recorded history that we learned we were all breathing the same air and occupying the same sphere in space. This attests to the environmentalists’ contentions and to German sociologist Ulrich Beck’s concept of the ‘risk society’ in which we all bear the burden of risk.