The 27th of August 1883 AD
Earth’s destructive power has rarely been seen to greater effect than in the 1883 eruption of the volcano system on the Indonesian island of Krakatoa, situated between Java and Sumatra. A series of relatively minor eruptions began in May of that year (reported by the local Lloyd’s Insurance representative by telegraph), more took place in June, but on August 26 the power of the volcanic activity changed beyond all recognition, and the following morning four explosions occurred after which most of the island was found to have disappeared.
A pyroclastic flow wiped out whole villages on the Sumatran coast; a Tsunami radiating from the island is said to have reached 30m in height. The Dutch colonial government reported about 36,000 deaths from the event, but it is probable that in fact three or even four times that number perished.
The sound of those explosions carried to Australia and to the British colony of Diego Garcia 2000 miles distant; the pressure wave of the greatest travelled around the earth seven times. Here the English Channel saw a tiny remnant of the Tsunami, but far more significantly the sky changed radically for months and years to come (the orange and blood red sunsets famously captured in paintings by Chelsea-based artist William Ashcroft), volcanic ash blown 50 miles into the atmosphere leading to a short period of colder weather worldwide. Climatic conditions globally were abnormal for five years. Krakatoa’s awesome demise prompted a Royal Society study of the phenomenon, a significant moment in climate study and vulcanology.
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