Krakatoa by Simon Winchester

Krakatoa by Simon Winchester

Author:Simon Winchester
Language: eng
Format: epub
Publisher: HarperCollins

The elegant copperplate and exquisitely courteous tone of Consul Cameron’s lengthy Krakatoa dispatch to Lord Granville, in London.

The error is understandable. Kennedy had in fact been consul in Sumatra, and was called in to replace Cameron when the latter asked for leave in November 1883. Kennedy wrote a summary of the terrible events for the Royal Society in September 1883. His name is known to what might be called the Krakatoa community today as a result, and most indexes of most books will have a reference or two to him. Alexander Cameron, on the other hand, remains forgotten and unsung. What he wrote, though, seems today a model of diplomatic felicity, as perfect a summary of the events as could be imagined, considering the awful circumstances of the moment.

His report is dated Batavia, September 1, 1883, and is addressed to Gladstone’s foreign secretary, Earl Granville:

My Lord:

Enclosed I have the honour to hand Tour Lordship a copy of my telegram of yesterday, giving notice of the volcanic disturbances which have lately taken place in the neighbourhood of my Consular district.

The spot where the subterranean forces have found vent is the island of Krakatau* lying in Longitude 105° 27E, Latitude 6° 7S, at the southern entrance to the Straits of Sunda. This island was the scene of a volcanic eruption of less importance on the 20th May last which, although on that occasion an entirely new crater was formed, had no such disastrous results to life and property as have attended the explosions which commenced on the 27th inst.

The present outburst commenced on Sunday last, and on that night the inhabitants of nearly the whole of Java and Sumatra were alarmed by loud noises resembling the reports of heavy artillery, which continued throughout the night and at rarer intervals during Monday 28th inst. It soon became known that these noises were produced by a fresh eruption of Krakatau and since Monday intelligence has been slowly reaching Batavia from various quarters apprising us of the extent of damage done, and proving by the loss of life and property that this is one of the greatest calamities of this century.

The residencies of Bantam and Batavia were darkened throughout the early hours of last Monday by a thick cloud of grey ashes, the light diminishing gradually, as the cloud progressed from west to east, from twilight to almost total darkness at midday, and a continuous shower of ash fell during the forenoon giving the ground an appearance as if covered by snow. At about 11.30 a.m. at Batavia and at earlier periods of the day in the more immediate vicinity of Krakatau the sea suddenly rose, presumably owing to the subsidence of part of Krakatau and other islands or to a submarine upheaval, and a wave of considerable height advanced with great rapidity on the shores of western Java and southern Sumatra, causing greater or less damage according to its distance from the centre of disturbance. A second wave higher than the previous one followed the first at an interval of about an hour with even more serious results.


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