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Krakatau/Krakatoa/Krakatou

120e Verjaardag

Het periodiek TsuInfo Alert besteedde onlangs aandacht aan Simkin en Fiske, Krakatau 1883. Zoals met evenveel verwondering vastgesteld op de pagina over Krakatoa, the day the world exploded, de geciteerde ‘N.H. van Sandick’ heette voluit Rudolf Adriaan naar de vader van zijn moeder Rudolf Adriaan Mees, en hij tekende zijn werk dan ook als ‘R.A. van Sandick’. Hier kan worden toegevoegd dat de naam van de heldhaftige kapitein Lindeman in het Nederlands wordt gespeld met een enkele ‘n’, en eigenlijk ook in het Engels.

Na de ooggetuigeverslagen volgt een transcript van het artikel ‘The Eruption of Krakatoa’ door Sir Robert Ball uit 1902 en tenslotte een selectie gerelateerde links.

Bron: TsuInfo Alert, v. 5, no. 4, August 2003, www.dnr.wa.gov/geology/tsuinfo/2003-04.pdf.

On August 26, 1883, the Krakatau volcano erupted explosively, creating one of the deadliest tsunamis in human history. Waves were more than 100 feet [=30 meters] high and more than 36,000 people perished. The following materials are presented in recognition of the 120th anniversary of that event.

Eyewitness Accounts

  1. An Elderly Dutch Pilot
  2. Report from Captain T. H. Lindemann, of the ship Governor General Loudon
  3. Public Works Engineer N. H. van Sandick, a passenger on the Loudon, is less constrained
  4. Telegram from Lloyd's of London agent Mccoll in the week following the eruption

An Elderly Dutch Pilot

“An elderly Dutch pilot, employed in guiding ships through the Straits, gave this account of his experience.”.

"I have lived in Anjer all my life, and little thought the old town would have been destroyed in the way it has. I am getting on in years, and quite expected to have laid my bones in the little cemetery near the shore, but not even that has escaped, and some of the bodies have actually been washed out of the graves and carried out to sea. The whole town has been swept away, and I have lost everything except my life. The wonder is that I escaped at all. I can never be too thankful for such a miraculous escape as I had.

The eruption began on the Sunday afternoon [August 26, 1883]. We did not take much notice at first, until the reports grew very loud. Then we noticed that Krakatoa was completely enveloped in smoke. Afterwards came on the thick darkness, so black and intense that I could not see my hand before my eyes. It was about this time that a message came from Batavia [Jakarta, ed.] inquiring as to the explosive shocks, and the last telegram sent off from us was telling you about the darkness and smoke. Towards night everything became worse. The reports became deafening, the natives cowered down panic-stricken, and a red fiery glare was visible in the sky above the burning mountain. Although Krakatoa was twenty-five miles away, the concussion and vibration from the constantly repeated shocks was most terrifying. Many of the houses shook so much that we feared every minute would bring them down. There was little sleep for any of us that dreadful night. Before daybreak on Monday, on going out of doors, I found the shower of ashes had commenced, and this gradually increased in force until at length large pieces of pumice-stone kept falling around. About six a.m. I was walking along the beach. There was no sign of the sun, as usual, and the sky had a dull, depressing look. Some of the darkness of the previous day had cleared off, but it was not very light even then. Looking out to sea I noticed a dark black object through the gloom, travelling towards the shore.

At first sight it seemed like a low range of hills rising out of the water, but I knew there was nothing of the kind in that park of the Soenda [Sunda] Strait. A second glance—and a very hurried one it was—convinced me that it was a lofty ridge of water many feet high, and worse still, that it would soon break upon the coast near the town. There was no time to give any warning, and so I turned and ran for my life. My running days have long gone by, but you may be sure that I did my best. In a few minutes I heard the water with a loud roar break upon the shore. Everything was engulfed. Another glance around showed the houses being swept away and the trees thrown down on every side. Breathless and exhausted I still pressed on. As I heard the rushing waters behind me, I knew that it was a race for life. Struggling on, a few yards more brought me to some rising ground, and here the torrent of water overtook me. I gave up all for lost, as I saw with dismay how high the wave still was. I was soon taken off my feet and borne inland by the force of the resistless mass. I remember nothing more until a violent blow aroused me. Some hard firm substance seemed within my reach, and clutching it I found I had gained a place of safety. The waters swept past, and I found myself clinging to a cocoanut palm-tree. Most of the trees near the town were uprooted and thrown down for miles, but this one fortunately had escaped and myself with it.

The huge wave rolled on, gradually decreasing in height and strength until the mountain slopes at the back of Anjer were reached, and then, its fury spent, the waters gradually receded and flowed back into the sea. The sight of those receding waters haunts me still. As I clung to the palm-tree, wet and exhausted, there floated past the dead bodies of many a friend and neighbor. Only a mere handful of the population escaped. Houses and streets were completely destroyed, and scarcely a trace remains of where the once busy, thriving town originally stood. Unless you go yourself to see the ruin you will never believe how completely the place has been swept away. Dead bodies, fallen trees, wrecked houses, an immense muddy morass and great pools of water, are all that is left of the town where my life has been spent. My home and all my belongings of course perished—even the clothes I am wearing are borrowed—but I am thankful enough to have escaped with my life, and to be none the worse for all that I have passed through."

Bron: Simkin, Tom; Fiske, R. S., 1983, Krakatau 1883—The volcanic eruption and its effects: Smithsonian Institution Press

Report from Captain T. H. Lindemann, of the ship Governor General Loudon, anchored at Telok Betong

Monday, August 27th. Finding that at midnight on the evening of our arrival [Aug. 26, 7:30 p.m.] there was still no boat come off to us from the shore, and as the weather was now much calmer, I sent the first mate in the gig with a crew of six men to find out what was the reason of this. About 1 a.m. he returned, and stated that it had been impossible to land on account of the heavy current and surf; also that the harbour pier-head stood partly under water.

 De SS Barouw.
De radarstoomboot Barouw, door de vloedgolf in de bedding van de rivier Koeripan achtergelaten, 3,3 km landinwaarts, 18 m boven het zeeniveau (of 9 m, afhankelijk van de bron). Gravure door Edmond Cotteau uit 1884.

The Government steamer Berouw, which lay anchored near the pier-head, hailed the mate as he was returning on board, and the people on board her then stated to him that it was impossible to land anywhere, and that a boat which had put off from the shore had already been wrecked. That by 6 p.m. on Sunday evening it had already begun to be stormy, and that the stormy weather had been accompanied by a current which swept round and round (apparently a sort of whirlpool). When the mate had come on board, we resolved to await daylight before taking any further steps; however, for the sake of security, we steamed several ships' lengths outwards, because the sound of a ship's bell which seemed to be approaching us made us suspect that the ship must be adrift, and wishing therefore to avoid a collision we re-anchored in nine fathoms with thirty fathoms shackle outside the hawsepipe. We kept the ordinary sea-watch, and afterwards heard nothing more of the bell. When day broke, it appeared to us to be still a matter of danger to send a boat ashore; and we also discovered that a revenue cutter was foul of a sailing-vessel which lay in the roadstead, and that the Berouw was stranded. However, owing to the violent winds and currents, we did not dare to send a boat to her assistance.

About 7 a.m. we saw some very high seas, presumably an upheaval of the sea, approaching us up the roadstead. These seas poured themselves out upon the shore and flowed inland, so that we presumed that the inhabitants who dwelt near the shore must be drowned. The signal beacon was altogether carried away, and the Berouw then lay high upon the shore among the cocoanut trees. Also the revenue cutter lay aground, and some native boats which had been lying in the neighborhood at anchor were no more to be seen.

Since it was very dangerous to stay where we were, and since if we stayed we could render no assistance, we concluded to proceed to Anjer under steam, and there to give information of what had taken place, weighed anchor at 7:30 a.m., and following the direction of the bay steered thereupon southwards. At 10 a.m. we were obliged to come to anchor in the bay in 15 fathoms of water because the ash rain kept continually growing thicker and thicker, and pumice-stone also began to be rained, of which some pieces were several inches thick. The air grew steadily darker and darker, and at 10:30 a.m. we were in total darkness, just the same as on a very dark night. The wind was from the west-ward, and began to increase till it reached the force of a hurricane. So we let down both anchors and kept the screw turning slowly at half speed in order to ride over the terribly high seas which kept suddenly striking us presumably in consequence of a "sea quake," and made us dread being buried under them.

Awnings and curtains from forward right up the main-mast, three boat covers, and the uppermost awning of the quarter deck were blown away in a moment. Some objects on desk which had been lashed got loose and were carried overboard; the upper deck hatchways and those on the main deck were closed tightly, and the passengers for the most part were sent below. Heavy storms. The lightning struck the mainmast conductor six or seven times, but no damage. The rain of pumice-stones changed to a violent mud rain, and this mud rain was so heavy that in the space of ten minutes the mud lay half a foot deep.

Kept steaming with the head of the ship as far as possible seawards for half an hour when the sea began to abate, and at noon the wind dropped away entirely. Then we stopped the engine. The darkness however remained as before, as did also the mud rain."

Bron: Simkin, Tom; Fiske, R. S., 1983, Krakatau 1883—The volcanic eruption and its effects: Smithsonian Institution Press

Public Works Engineer N. H. van Sandick, a passenger on the Loudon, is a little less constrained in his account

(abridged; this is a translation of passage in his book ‘In het Rijk van Vulcaan’ about the eruption and its aftermath)

"On Aug 26, 1883, the steamer Governor General Loudon, Captain Lindemann, left in the morning from Batavia, destination Kron, Benkoelen, Padang, and Atjeh [Sumatra]. Among the passengers all categories were represented. The majority however consisted of 300 exiles. For the uninformed, be it remarked that with this term are meant persons who have been condemned to forced labor in or outside the chain. Locally they are called "chain boys"; and, especially in the outer colonies, they perform valuable services in the execution of public works, military expeditions, etc.

In the afternoon at 3 o'clock the Loudon dropped anchor in the roadstead of Anjer. There 100 Bantammers, which were hired as coolies for the building of a lighthouse on the island of Bodjo [off the west coast of central Sumatra], came aboard. The weather then was beautiful. The white plastered houses of Anjer glittered in the sunshine near the seashore, in the background the mountains, and in front of it the deep blue sea. Clearly the lighthouses of Java's Fourth Point silhouetted itself against the sky. The Dutch flag on the grounds of the Assistant Resident flapped happily; every house could be distinguished and subconsciously the thoughts wander back to the first arrival in the Indies from Europe. Anjer is then the first place which brings welcome greetings from a distance. If we, who were aboard the Loudon in the roads of Anjer, would have declared that the last day of Anjer's existence had already begun, we definitely would have been considered deranged.

When our coolies were aboard, the Loudon set course past Dwars-in-Weg and Varkenshoek into the Bay of Lampong toward Telok Betong. To portside we saw in the distance the island of Krakatau, known for its first volcanic eruption several months ago [May 1883]. Krakatau is an old acquaintance of the Loudon. When, after the first eruption, a pleasure trip was made to see the volcano, the Loudon brought passengers to the island for 25 guilders each. Many landed that time and climbed the volcano; and all experienced a festive and pleasant day.

The volcano on Krakatau gave us a free performance. Although we were far away from the island, we saw a high column of black smoke rise above the island; the column widened toward the top to a cloud. Also there was a continual ash fall. Toward evening, at 7 o'clock, we were in the Bay of Lampong, in the roads of Telok Betong, where anchor was dropped and it soon became night.

The ashfall increased steadily, while the sea was stormy. The Loudon telegraphed to shore for a sloop to land the passengers, but neither sloop nor load proa arrived. The Loudon itself lowered a boat to make connection with shore. However it was impossible to land, since there was a high surf at the coast, so the boat returned without accomplishing its purpose.

The harbor light on the light tower continued to burn, although something unusual seemed to occur: now and then alarm signals were observed from the proas laying in the roadstead. Instead of the ash, we received meanwhile a rain of pumice. Fortunately, the night had passed and it became light, so that we could see Telok Betong. While all of Anjer is located near the seashore, at Telok Betong the military encampment and the house of the Resident are built on a hill farther away from the coast. The largest part of Telok Betong, however, is located near the seashore. The European houses, some covered with tiles, some with atap [palm thatch], could be distinguished from the native houses, which on Sumatra completely differ in building style from the Javanese houses seen at Anjer…

However, the last hour of Telok Betong had already sounded. The government steamer Berouw and the cruise boat had already been beached by the sea during the night and the harbor light continued to burn, although the sun already had risen above the houses.

Suddenly, at about 7 a.m., a tremendous wave came moving in from the sea, which literally blocked the view and moved with tremendous speed. The Loudon steamed forward in such a way that she headed right into the wave. One moment... the wave had reached us. The ship made a tremendous tumbling; however, the wave was passed and the Loudon was saved. The wave now reached Telok Betong and raced inland. Three more similar colossal waves followed, which destroyed all of Telok Betong right before our eyes. The light tower could be seen to tumble; the houses disappeared; the steamer Berouw was lifted and got stuck, apparently at the height of the cocoanut trees; and everything had become sea in front of our eyes, where a few minutes ago Telok Betong beach had been. The impressiveness of this spectacle is difficult to describe. The unexpectedness of what is seen and the tremendous dimensions of destruction, in front of one's eyes make it difficult to describe what has been viewed. The best comparison is a sudden change of scenery, which in fairy tales occurs by a fairy's magic wand, but on a colossal scale and with the conscious knowledge that it is reality, and that thousands of people have perished in an indivisible moment, that destruction without its equal has been wrought, and that the observer is in threatening danger of life. Taking all these things together the impression caused by such a natural scene can possibly be described, but it stops short of reality…

Meanwhile we steamed forward and soon the roads of Telok Betong were lost from view, and we hoped soon to be out of the Bay of Lampong. But we would not get away that easily. It became darker and darker, so that already at 10 a.m. there was almost Egyptian darkness. This darkness was complete. Usually even on a dark night one can still distinguish some outlines of, for instance, white objects. However, here a complete absence of light prevailed. The sun climbed higher and higher, but none of her rays reached us. Even on the horizon not the faintest light could be seen and not a star appeared in the sky.

This darkness continued for 18 hours. It is self-evident that the Loudon during this pole-night had to "winter over" in the bay. Meanwhile a dense mud rain fell, covering the deck more than half a meter thick and penetrating everywhere, which was especially bothersome to the crew, whose eyes, ears, and noses were liberally filled with a material which made breathing difficult. Off and on again, ash and pumice fell. The compass showed the strangest deviations. Fierce sea currents were observed in diverging directions. The barometer meanwhile read very high, which certainly was difficult to explain. Breathing, however, was not only made difficult by ash, mud, and pumice particles, but the atmosphere itself had also changed. A devilish smell of sulphurous acid spread. Some felt buzzing in the ears, others a feeling of pressing on the chest and sleepiness. In short, the circumstances left something to be desired, since it would have been quite natural if we all had choked to death.

However, the Loudon was exposed to entirely different dangers. After the darkness had fallen for some time the sea became stormy. The wind increased and became a flying hurricane. Following, there were a series of sea tremors. These evidenced themselves by very high waves, which formed suddenly. A few of these hit the Loudon sideways, so that she was lifted up and leaned sideways to the extent that danger of capsizing threatened. The ship then made motions, so that everything rolled over and resembled being in the Gulf of Biscay. Also during these tremors lightning hit the mast up to seven times, moving first along the lightning rod and then after that, still above the ship, jumping over to the water with a demonical, snapping noise. At such a moment, everything was suddenly clearly lit, showing how everything had been tinted ash gray by the mud rain, making one impulsively think of a ghost ship."

Bron: Simkin, Tom; Fiske, R. S., 1983, Krakatau 1883—The volcanic eruption and its effects: Smithsonian Institution Press

Telegram from Lloyd's of London agent Mccoll in the week following the eruption/tsunami

"We shall probably not be in possession of full particulars for some days yet, as telegraph lines are damaged and roads destroyed, but so far we can give the following particulars. The island of Krakatoa, the summit of which peak was 2,600 feet above water level, has totally disappeared beneath the sea… and the sea bottom in the Straits of Sunda has completely changed. In fact the Admiral Commanding-in-Chief has issued a circular stating that until new soundings have been taken the navigation of the Straits of Sunda is likely to be extremely dangerous. Anjer and lighthouse and the other lights of southwest Java have all been destroyed. The subsidences and upheavals we have alluded to caused a large wave about 100 feet in height to sweep down on the southwest coast of Java and south of Sumatra. This was swept in for a great distance, thereby doing great injury both to life and property. We are here only twelve miles away from one of the points on which the wave spent its fury. The whole coastline to the southwest has changed its configuration. The inhabitants of the island of Onrust were only saved from the flood which swept over the island by taking refuge on board two steamers. At Merak government establishment the inhabitants took refuge on a knoll, fifty feet high, but were all swept off and drowned, with the exception of one European and two Malays, who were saved. Mauk and Kramat, on the west side of Batavia roads, have been laid waste, and about 300 lives lost. In Tjeringin only one house has been left standing. Both the native and European officials have perished. A rain of mud also fell at the above place, which is situated opposite to where Krakatoa once lay. Anjer seems to have been completely destroyed. Lloyd's sub-agent there wires from Serang: “All gone. Plenty lives lost.”

Bron: Winchester, Simon, 2003, Krakatoa, the day the world exploded: HarperCollins, p. 257-258.

The Eruption of Krakatoa

By Sir Robert Ball

Published in The National Geographic Magazine Vol xiii, June 1902 Nº 6, page 200; taken from his book, “The Earth's Beginning”, published by D.Appleton.

Until the year 1883 few had ever heard of Krakatoa. It was unknown to fame, as are hundreds of other gems of glorious vegetation set in tropical waters. It is not inhabited, but the natives from the surrounding shores of Sumatra and Java used occasionally to draw their canoes up on its beach while they roamed through the jungle in search of the wild fruits that are abounded. Geographers in early days hardly condescended to notice Krakatoa. The name of the island on their maps would have been far longer than the island itself. It was known to the mariner who navigated the Straits of Sunda, for it was marked on his charts as one of the perils of the intricate navigation in those waters. It was no doubt recorded that the locality had been once or more than once, the seat of an active volcano. In fact the island seemed to owe its existence to some frightful eruption by bygone days. But for a couple of centuries there had been no fresh outbreak. It almost seemed as if Krakatoa might be regarded as a volcano that had become extinct. In this respect it would only be like many other similar objects all over the globe, or like the countless extinct volcanoes all over the moon.

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. In the spring of that year were symptoms that the volcanic powers in Krakatoa were once more about to wake from the slumber that had endured for many generations. Notable warnings were given. Earthquakes were felt and deep rumblings proceeded from the earth, showing that some disturbances was in preparation, and that the old volcano was again to burst forth after its long period of rest. At first the eruption did not threaten to be of any serious type. In fact the good people of Batavia, so far from being terrified at what was in progress in Krakatoa, thought the display was such an attraction that they chartered a steamer and went forth for a pleasant picnic to the island. Many of us, I am sure, would have been delighted to have been able to join the party who were to witness so interesting spectacle. With cautious steps the more ventmesome of the excursion party clambered up the sides of the volcano guided by the sounds, which were issuing from its summit. There they beheld a vast column of steam pouring forth with terrific noise from a profound opening about thirty yards width.

As the summer of this dread year advanced, the vigor of Krakatoa steadily increased. The noises became more and more vehement. There were presently audible on shores ten miles distant, and then twenty miles distant and still those noises waxed louder and louder, until the great thunders of the volcano, now so rapidly developing, astonished the inhabitants that dwelt over an area at least as large as Great Britain, and there were other symptoms of the approaching catastrophe. With each successive convulsion a quantity of fine dust was projected aloft into the clouds. The wind could not carry this dust away as rapidly as it was hurled upwards by Krakatoa, and accordingly the atmosphere became heavily charged with suspended particles. A pall of darkness thus hung over the adjoining seas and islands. Such was the thickness and the density of these atmospheric volumes of Krakatoa dust that for hundred miles around the darkness of midnight prevailed at midday. Then the awful tragedy of Krakatoa took place. Many thousands of the unfortunate inhabitants of the adjacent shores of Sumatra and Java were destined never to behold the sun again. They were presently swept away to destruction in an invasion of the shore by the tremendous waves with which the seas surrounding Krakatoa were agitated.

Gradually the development of the volcanic energy proceeded and gradually the terror of the inhabitants of the surrounding coast rose to a climax. July had ended before the manifestations of Krakatoa had attained their full violence. As the days of August passed by, the spasm of Krakatoa waxed more and more vehement. By the middle of that month the panic was widespread, for the supreme catastrophe was at hand.

On the night of Sunday, August 26, 1883, the blackness of the dust clouds, now much thicker than ever in the Straits of Sunda and adjacent parts of Sumatra and Java was only occasionally illuminated by lurid flashes from the volcano. The Krakatoa thunders were on the point of attaining their complete development. At the town of Batavia, a hundred miles distant, there was no quiet that night. The houses trembled with the subterranean violence and the windows rattled as if heavy artillery were being discharged in the streets, ands still these efforts seemed to be only rehearsing for the supreme display. By ten o’clock on the morning of Monday, August 27, 1883, the rehearsals were over and the performance began. An overture consisting of two or three introductory explosions was succeeded by a frightful convulsion, which tore away a large part of the island of Krakatoa and scattered it to the winds of heaven. In that final effort all records of previous explosions on this earth were completely broken.

This supreme effort it was which produced the mightiest noise that so far as we can ascertain has ever been heard on this globe. It must have been indeed a loud noise, which could travel from Krakatoa to Batavia and preserve its vehemence over so great distance but should form a very inadequate conception of the energy of the eruption of the Krakatoa we thought that its sounds were heard by those merely a hundred miles off. This would be little indeed with what is recorded on testimony which it is impossible to doubt.

Westward from Krakatoa streches the wide expanse of the Indian Ocean. On the opposite side from the Straits of Sunda lies the Island of Rodriguez, the distance from Krakatoa being almost 3,000 miles. It has been proved by evidence, which cannot be doubted that the thunders of the great volcano attracted the attention of an intelligent coastguard on Rodriguez, who carefully noted the character of the sounds and the time of their occurrence. He had heard them just four hours, after the explosion, for this is the time the sound occupied on its journey.

We shall better realize the extraordinary vehemence of this tremendous noise if we imagine a similar event to take place in localities more known to most of us than are the far Eastern seas.

If Vesuvius were vigorous enough to emit a roar like Krakatoa, how great would be the consternation of the world!. Such a report might be heard by King Edward at Windsor, and by the Czar of all Russias at Moscow. It would astonish the German emperor and all his subjects; It would penetrate to the seclusion of the Sultan at Constantinople. Nansen would still have been within its reach when he was furthest north near the Pole. It would have extended to the sources of the Nile, near the Equator. It would have been heard by Mohammedan pilgrims at Meca. It would have reached the ears of exiles in Siberia. No inhabitant of Persia would have been beyond its range while passengers on half the liners crossing the Atlantic would also catch the mighty reverberation. Or to take another illustration, let us suppose that a similar earth-shaking event took place in a central position in the United States. Let us say, for example, that an explosion occurred at Pike’s Peak as resonant as that from Krakatoa. It would certainly startle not a little the inhabitants of Colorado far and wide. The ears of dwellers in the neighbouring states would receive a considerable shock. With lessening intensity the sound would spread much farther around-indeed it might be heard all over the United States. The sonorous waves would roll over to the Atlantic Coast: they would be heard on the shores of the Pacific. Florida would not be too far to the south, nor Alaska too remote to the north. If indeed we could believe that the sound would travel as freely over the great continent as it did across the Indian Ocean, then we may boldly assert that every ear in North America might listen to the thunder from Pike’s Peak, if it rivalled Krakatoa. The reverberations might even be audible by skin clad Eskimos, amid the snow of Greenland and by the naked Indians sweltering on the Orinoco. Can we doubt that Krakatoa made the greatest noise that has ever been recorded?

Among many the many other incidents connected with this explosion, I may specially mention the wonderful system of divergent ripples that started in our atmosphere from the point at which the eruption took place. I have called them ripples from the obvious resemblance, which they bear to the circular expanding ripples produced by raindrops, which fall upon the still surface of water. But it would be more correct to say that these objects were a series of great undulations, which started from Krakatoa and spread forth in enlarging circles through our atmosphere. The initial impetus was so tremendous that these waves spread for hundreds and thousands of miles. They diverged, in fact, until they put a mightily girdle round the earth, on a great circle of which Krakatoa was the pole. The atmospheric waves, with the whole earth now well in their grasp, advanced into the opposite hemisphere. In their farther progress they had necessarily to form gradually contacting circles until at least they converged to a point in Central America, at the very opposite point of the diameter of our earth, 8,000 miles from Krakatoa. Thus the waves completely embraced the earth. Every part of our atmosphere had been set into a tingle by the great eruption. In Great Britain the waves passed over our heads, the air in our streets, the air in our houses, trembled from the volcanic impulse. The very oxygen supplying our lungs was responding also to the supreme convulsion, which took place 10,000 miles away. It is needless to object that this could not have taken place because we did not feel it. Self-registering barometers have enabled these waves to be followed unmistakably all over the globe.

Such was the energy with which these vibrations were initiated at Krakatoa, that even the waves thus arising had converged to the point diametrically opposite in South America their vigour was not yet exhausted. The waves were then, strange to say, reflected back to retrace their steps to Krakatoa. Starting from Central America, they again described a series of enlarging circles until they embraced the whole earth. Then, advancing into the opposite hemisphere they gradually contracted until they had regained the Straits of Sunda from which they had set forth about thirty-six hours previously. Here was indeed a unique experience. The airwaves had twice gone from end to end of this globe of ours. Even then the atmosphere did not subside until, after some oscillations of gradually fading intensity, at last they became evanescent.

But besides these phenomenal modulations, this mightily almost says nothing, as to the conditions prevailing above the height of ten miles overhead. We were almost ignorant of what the wind might be at an altitude of, let us say, twenty miles. It was Krakatoa, which first give us a little information, which was greatly wanted. How could we learn what winds were blowing at a height four times as great as the loftiest mountain on the earth and twice as great as the loftiest altitude to which a balloon has ever soared. We could neither see these winds not feel them. How could we learn whether they really existed? No doubt, a straw will show the way the wind blows: but there was nothing to render the winds perceptible into Krakatoa came to our aid. Krakatoa drove into those winds prodigious quantities of dust. Hundreds of cubic miles of air was thus deprived of that invisibility which they had hitherto maintained. They were thus compelled to disclose those movements about which neither before nor since, have we had any opportunity of learning.

With eyes full of astonishment, men watched those vast volumes of Krakatoa dust start on a tremendous journey. Westward the dust of Krakatoa took its way. Of course every one knows the so-called trade winds on our earth’s surface, which blow steadily in fixed directions and which are of such service to the mariner; but there is yet another constant wind. We cannot call it a trade wind for it has never rendered and never will render any service to navigation. It was first disclosed by Krakatoa. Before the occurrence of that eruption no one had the slightest suspicion that far up aloft, twenty miles over our heads a mighty tempest is incessantly hurrying with a speed greater than that of the awful hurricane which once laid so large a part of Calcutta on the ground and slew so many of its inhabitants. Fortunately for humanity, this new trade winds does not come within less then twenty miles of the earth surface. We are thus preserved from the fearful destruction that it’s unintermittent blast would produce—blast against which no tree could stand and which would in ten minutes, do as much damage to a city as would the most violent earthquake. When this great wind has become charged with the dust of Krakatoa then for the first and, I may add, for the only time, it stood revealed to human vision. Then it was seen that this wind circled round the earth in the vicinity of the equator and completed its circuit in about thirteen days.



sandick in "Krakatoa: The Day the World Exploded"
vanSandick.com