Krakatoa: The Day the World Exploded by Simon Winchester

Krakatoa: The Day the World Exploded by Simon Winchester

Author:Simon Winchester
Language: eng
Format: mobi
Tags: Non-Fiction, Science, History
ISBN: 9780060838591
Publisher: Harper Perennial
Published: 2003-01-01T00:00:00+00:00

Krakatoa's final twenty hours and fifty-six minutes were marked by a number of phases. First, from early afternoon on Sunday until about 7 p.m. there was a series of explosions and eruptions of steadily increasing frequency and vigour. From early evening the ash falls and the deluge of pumice began. By 8 p.m. the water had become the next medium of transmission of the volcanic energy, and as night fell the temper of the sea in the Sunda Strait became one of unbridled ferocity.

Then, just before midnight, a series of air waves – fast-moving, low-frequency shocks sent out invisibly and inaudibly by the detonations – began arriving in Batavia. The time-ball on the astronomical clock down at Batavia's harbour stopped dead at eighteen seconds after 11.32 p.m. because of the ceaseless vibrations. Audible evidence of the explosions began to radiate outwards too, and there was a report from Singapore and Penang* that thudding sounds could be heard at about the same time. In Batavia a large number of people, kept awake by the explosions and for want of something better to do, were walking around the Koningsplein; they noticed that the gas lanterns suddenly dimmed at about 1.55 a.m. Along Rijswijk, the main shopping street, several shop windows suddenly and inexplicably shattered at about the same time.

Then at about 4 a.m. the nature of the explosions reportedly changed, very slightly, becoming less continuous but more explosive. Someone described the sounds as like a steam-engine, emitting full-throated whoomphs as it gathered speed. At about 4.56 a.m. an enormously powerful air wave was detected at the Batavia gasworks – suggesting, if travel time over the ninety miles to the volcano is allowed for, that something else had just happened deep within Krakatoa's heart. The culminating explosion – though no one on the ground at the time knew it – was soon about to happen.

There were four gigantic explosions still to come. The first was noted at 5.30 a.m. The Sumatran town of Ketimbang was then destroyed at 6.15 a.m., and Anjer, her Javan sister-port across the Strait – according to the few who survived to tell the tale – was inundated and wrecked very shortly thereafter. The second mighty explosion came at 6.44 a.m. – forty-one minutes after a dawn that, to those in all of western Java, never arrived that day. Ashes began to fall on Batavia at 7 a.m. – although Oscar Hatfield, the American consul in Batavia, reported seeing them falling in the consulate grounds two hours later.* At 8.20 a.m. a third, quite terrible explosion was felt in Batavia, and many of the buildings started to make what were described as ‘crackling’ noises. And then finally, at 10.02 a.m., came the culminating, terrifying majesty of it all.

Two minutes to go and, according to simultaneous reports: the sky was completely darkened in all of southern Sumatra; the Loudon was weathering heavy ash falls in Lampong Bay; the nearby Marie reported ‘three heavy seas came after each other; at once a fearful detonation; sky in fire; damp’.


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