It was a 200 megaton explosion, 13,000 times the power of the Hiroshima bomb. Vesuvius was a hiccup by comparison.
40,000 people along the coasts of Java and Sumatra were killed by the resultant tsunamis. The sound of the explosion was heard 2,000 miles away in Perth, Australia. The shockwave traveled the planet seven times.
The plume rose more than 80,000 feet in the air and the dust cloud that circled the world over the next few months resulted in such stunning sunsets that a British artist devoted all his time to painting them.
All of Krakatoa’s statistics are mind-boggling but this tops the list: the next year average temperatures around the world fell in some places as much as 1.2 degrees Celsius – that’s 34 degrees Fahrenheit.
Krakatoa is actually the name of the Indonesian island group where the volcano was located – but the volcano on the island of Rakata came to be called Krakatoa. The explosion consumed half the island, but on the edge of the caldera, a new island was born. It appeared in 1930 and was named Anak Krakatoa – Child of Krakatoa -and it is now about a mile in diameter, growing at the rate of five meters a year.
Because of Anak, Krakatoa is not exactly history – the new island is also a volcano and erupts continuously. It began a series of major eruptions in the 1990s and last May its threat level was raised to Level Orange by the Indonesian government. A three kilometer warning zone encircles the island.
The complete story of Krakatoa past and present is available in Simon Winchester’s book of the same name. To keep up with volcanic activity worldwide on a weekly basis, you can check with the Smithsonian’s volcano project here.
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Of note: the 19th Amendment giving women the vote was passed on this day in 1920. In 1899, Mexican painter Rufino Tamayo was born and among others celebrating today are Ben Bradlee and Will Shortz.