"In 1883, Krakatoa suddenly sprang into notoriety. Insignificantly though it had hitherto seemed the little island was soon to compel by its tones of thunder the whole world to pay it instant attention. It was to become the scene of a volcanic outbreak so appalling that it is destined to be remembered throughout the ages." - Sir Robert Ball
Volcanic eruptions have amazed people for millennia, and notorious ones like the eruption of Mount St. Helens can still be immediately recalled even by some who weren't alive at the time. But perhaps the most famous and most destructive eruption in modern history was the 1883 eruption of Krakatoa. Even without the instantaneous forms of communication that are now available, the world watched in wonder for new updates about a tiny South Pacific island. And though few of them would ever go there, Krakatoa remained a source of fascination for the much of the world for the next 50 years.
Krakatoa had already been the scene of volcanic activity for hundreds of years, and some of the eruptions had been documented by early European explorers in the 17th century. In 1681, one Dutchman named Johann Wilhelm Vogel noted, "I saw with amazement that the island of Krakatoa, on my first trip to Sumatra [June 1679] completely green and healthy with trees, lay completely burnt and barren in front of our eyes and that at four locations was throwing up large chunks of fire. And when I asked the ship's Captain when the aforementioned island had erupted, he told me that this had happened in May 1680. He showed me a piece of pumice as big as his fist."
Nonetheless, nobody could have prepared for the scope of the 1883 eruption, which was so violent that it destroyed most of the island of Krakatoa and could be heard about 3,000 miles away.
©2012 Charles River Editors (P)2015 Charles River Editors