A Brief History
On August 26, 1883, the Indonesian volcano Krakatoa began its 2-day eruption that was so massive that its effects were felt around the world. Krakatoa is also the name of the island the volcano is situated on. The explosive eruption was so great that 2/3 of the island is no longer there.
Prior to the eruption, the island was about 9 kilometers long by 5 kilometers wide. After the eruption, the remaining island was only 3 kilometers long by 5 kilometers wide. The mighty blast was heard by people as much as 3,000 miles away. There were 4 main explosions, and the largest explosion alone was the equivalent of 150 Megatons of TNT exploding. In total, the equivalent of 200 Megatons of TNT exploded. For comparison’s sake, the Hiroshima atom bomb was the equivalent of 15 to 20 Kilotons of exploding TNT. History and Headlines Note: Mega = 1,000,000, whereas Kilo = 1,000.
Since a Megaton is 1,000 times more powerful than a Kiloton, that means the main explosion could have been 10,000 times more powerful than the Little Boy atomic bomb!
The shock wave of the mighty blast circled the earth 7 times and filled the upper atmosphere with volcanic ash. The sun glowed different colors through the ash, and colorful sunsets were seen for several years afterward. There was so much ash in the atmosphere that it blocked enough sunlight to affect the climate of the Earth for the following 5 years.
Local islands were covered in ash, and some villages were burned by hot chunks of rock.
At least 36,000 people were killed by the ensuing tsunamis.
Amazingly, this eruption was not the most powerful in human history.
The Vesuvius eruption of 79 A.D. was still more powerful, and the massive eruption of Santorin (Thera) around 1,500 B.C. was several times more powerful!
The big questions are when and where will a volcano erupt again. It will for sure happen. As of now the technology to stop such an eruption does not yet exist, so all that can be done is to monitor seismic activity and to try to predict it. Another thing that can be done is prepare disaster plans for dealing with the aftermath.
Question for students (and subscribers): Where do you think the next big one will hit? When? Please let us know in the comments section below this article.
For another interesting even that happened on August 26, please see the History and Headlines article: “10 Extremely Effective Weapons That Do Not Require Gunpowder or Explosives.”
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For more information, please see…
Winchester, Simon. Krakatoa: The Day the World Exploded: August 27, 1883. Harper Perennial, 2005.