Since Eyjafjallajökull is grounding me and providing thousands of people in Northern Hemisphere with the Icelandic volcano excuse for flaking out on their commitments, I thought I would just lay in bed and blog. This explosion is not even the biggest (Volcanic Explosively Index of probably 2 to 3) we have seen.
In May 1883, after having been dormant for more than two centuries, the volcano of Krakatoa in Indonesia erupted — and kept on erupting for another 4 months. The explosions peaked with four blasts on the 26th and 27th August, when the above picture was taken. One of the explosions — heard 3500 miles away from Perth and Mauritius and considered the loudest sound ever made in history — had the force of 100.000 hydrogen bombs and created an acoustical equivalent of an earthquake. (Every barograph in the world ducumented this wave, which bounced back and forth between the eruption site and its antipodes for nine days).
The island itself sank into water, unleashing tsunamis that reached 10 miles inland and killed more than 36,000 people. The waves travelled at the speed up to a 350 miles per hour and reached height of 135 feet, and were detected even in the English Channel. Twenty cubic kilometers of ash were erupted some thirty kilometres creating “blue suns” and “orange moons” in Europe and North America. It cooled the global temperatures by 1.2 degrees C in five years that followed.
The explosions were one of the first photographically recorded natural disasters. Spectacular sunsets and cloud formations were painted by artists all over the world, including Edvard Munch who painted the celebrated The Scream. The Royal Society formed Krakatoa Committee and invited responses from the public. They received “wagonloads” of material for their 494-page report, two-thirds of which was devoted to unusual visual phenomena of the atmosphere. A lithographic copy of the above photo was included in their final report in 1888.