Krakatau killed over 36,000 in 1883; now its 'child' is roaring

Anak Krakatau unleashing a massive ash plume on Sunday as it erupted, in a photo obtained from social media.
Anak Krakatau unleashing a massive ash plume on Sunday as it erupted, in a photo obtained from social media.PHOTO: REUTERS
Krakatau's eruption on Aug 26 and 27 in 1883 was heard as far away as Singapore. Here are images of two reports in The Straits Times on Aug 28, 1883 that describe what observers then saw and heard.
Krakatau's eruption on Aug 26 and 27 in 1883 was heard as far away as Singapore. Here are images of two reports in The Straits Times on Aug 28, 1883 that describe what observers then saw and heard.
Krakatau's eruption on Aug 26 and 27 in 1883 was heard as far away as Singapore. Here are images of two reports in The Straits Times on Aug 28, 1883 that describe what observers then saw and heard.
Krakatau's eruption on Aug 26 and 27 in 1883 was heard as far away as Singapore. Here are images of two reports in The Straits Times on Aug 28, 1883 that describe what observers then saw and heard.

Krakatau's eruption on Aug 26 and 27 in 1883 was heard as far away as Singapore.

Here are images of two reports in The Straits Times on Aug 28, 1883 that describe what observers then saw and heard.

The sky was clear and the moon had risen high, but Captain W.J. Watson of the British ship Charles Bal noticed that the Java Sea had "suddenly assumed a milky-white appearance".

Capt Watson commented that the sky that night - Aug 22, 1883 - took on a pinkish hue, "as when the Aurora is showing faintly".

Then, four days later, the volcanic island of Krakatau was "enveloped in heavy blackness".

"At 3.30, we heard above us and about the island a strange sound, as of a mighty crackling fire," Capt Watson wrote, "or the discharge of heavy artillery at one or two seconds' interval... To us, it looked like blinding rain, and had the appearance of a furious squall, of ashen hue."

The volcano's eruption was one of the most catastrophic disasters of modern times. It began in May 1883 and lasted nine months, killing more than 36,000 people.

 
 
 

Most of Krakatau was destroyed in the cataclysm, but another island - Anak Krakatau, or "Child of Krakatau" - began forming in 1927, and has erupted several times.

The latest was on Saturday and potentially caused the tsunami that hit coastlines along Indonesia's Sunda Strait, killing more than 200 people.

At the peak of the 1883 eruption, which Capt Watson witnessed from Aug 26 to 28, Krakatau shot ash 80km into the sky and was heard 3,500km away in Australia.

A black cloud covered the region and plunged everything into darkness for 21/2 days.

Smaller eruptions were reported through February 1884.

The whole world felt the effects of Krakatau. The volcanic debris in the air absorbed sunlight, causing global temperatures to plunge more than 1.1 deg C.

The particles in the atmosphere also caused extraordinary sunsets.

British poet Gerard Manley Hopkins wrote of an evening sky "more like inflamed flesh than the lucid reds of ordinary sunsets".

In Poughkeepsie, New York, firefighters were dispatched after one resident mistook the striking sunset for a fire in the distance.

Some scholars believe that the famous painting, The Scream, by Norwegian artist Edvard Munch, depicts one of the vivid sunsets that resulted in the aftermath of Krakatau's eruption.

Only a portion of Krakatau remained after the explosion. But within decades, Anak Krakatau formed in its remnants.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 25, 2018, with the headline 'Krakatau killed over 36,000 in 1883; now its 'child' is roaring'. Print Edition | Subscribe