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A beautiful island deceptively resides within Indonesia. You’d never suspect that this paradise was home to one of the most violent volcanoes in history. In 1883, Krakatoa’s climactic eruption qualified as on the worst geologic disasters (and the loudest) in history. The volcano is on the verge of another major blow.
1. Location: Krakatoa is located in the Sunda Straight, right in between the Javan and Sumatra islands in Indonesia.
2. 416 AD: This year saw the first recorded instances of volcanic activity on Krakatoa. The Javanese Book of Kings told of “a great glowing fire, which reached the sky” out of the mountain Batuwara. The mountain Kapi also erupted, “burst into pieces and sank into the deepest of the earth.” The thundering volcanoes caused tsunamis that swept into Sumatra, killing thousands of people.
3. 535 AD: Archaeologists David Keys and Ken Wohletz believe that another eruption did, in fact, happen and had far-reaching geographic and global climatic effects.
4. 1620 AD: Dutch peoples built a naval station on the island. They also attempted to launch a pepper plantation, but the project was quashed by the Dutch East India Company.
5. 1681 AD: A Dutch engineer, Johann Wilhelm Vogel, observed what he previously knew to be a lush, green paradise. In its place, was a “burnt and barren” stretch of land on fire. Vogel witnessed a chunk of pumice as big as a man’s fist plus a rising smoke column and fires stemming from four locations on the island.
6: 1809: The Dutch opened a penal colony, which lasted for about a decade until it was abandoned.
7. 1880: Krakatoa existed as a deserted island without permanent residents. The closest people resided about 5 miles away on the island of Sebisi (population 3000).
8. 1883: After 200 years of dormancy, the most climactic eruption in Krakatoa history began on August 26 around noon (it lasted all day and night). A cloud of black ash and pumice vaulted 20 miles into the air.
9. Krakatoa mostly gone: By the next morning, four gigantic eruptions — which produced “the loudest sound ever recorded on the planet” and could be heard 3000 miles away) had blown away 70% of the island. In its place? A 4-mile wide caldera.
10: Tsunamis 90% of the people on the islands of Java and Sumatra were killed by tsunamis caused by the pyroclastic flow of lava across the ocean. The water flowed onto the island while filled with hot gasses that burned many people to death.
11. Death toll: About 35,000 people died during Krakatoa’s two major days of 1883 eruptions (after water from tsunamis pushed inland).
12. Immediate atmospheric effects: The sun was blocked out for several days, thanks to the volcanic fallout (ash, rock, and pumice) in the atmosphere.
13. After a few months: So much debris launched into the sky that sunsets glowed orange and red all over the world. A neighborhood in Poughkeepsie, New York, panicked and called the fire department, as they grew certain of a fire on the horizon.
14. “The Scream” Edvard Munch’s famous painting of 1893 was likely inspired by the Norwegian sunsets affected by Krakatoa’s 1883 eruption.
15. Climate change: Krakatoa’s fury and fallout caused global temperatures to plummet for at least a few years.
16. 1927: The caldera created in 1883 spit out a new island called Anak Krakatau (“Child of Krakatoa”). The island continues to grow an average of 5 inches per week into modern times. Scientists studied this island to watch how the ecosystem rebuilt itself.
17: 2007: New eruptions began on Krakatoa and continue to this date. Residents remained optimistic but wary. Lava and gases began to flow from the volcanoes in 2008. In 2009, the Volcanological Survey of Indonesia warned of a Level III eruption alert status. And so we wait.
Here’s a photo of Krakatoa experiencing reawakened volcanic activity in 2008.