32. The Horror of Krakatoa
The 1883 Krakatoa disaster is one of the best attested major volcanic eruptions of modern times. It took place on Krakatoa Island, in the Sunda Strait between Java and Sumatra in the Dutch East Indies – today’s Indonesia. Krakatoa, which had three linked volcanic peaks, began erupting on the afternoon of August 26th, 1883, and peaked the following morning. When it stopped, most of Krakatoa Island and its surrounding archipelago had disappeared, collapsing into a caldera. Minor seismic activity continued for months afterward, before the volcano finally fell silent.
While the intensity of the eruption was surprising, the eruption itself was not: there had been plenty of warnings. Krakatoa had experienced intense seismic activity for years, with earthquakes felt as far away as Australia. Starting in May, 1883, three months before the dramatic explosion, the volcano began venting steam. It spewed ash columns up to 20,000 feet into the air, and gave off explosions that were heard in Jakarta, 100 miles away.