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Review: Krakatoa – The day the world exploded

In 1883 the Indonesian island volcano of Krakatoa erupted in one of the most violent volcanic eruptions ever witnessed by man. The eruption vaporised the island and its inhabitants, created a tsunami and resulted in over 36,000 deaths.

The explosion was so loud it was reported to have been heard 4,800 km away in Australia and India. This is the most distant sound that has ever been heard in recorded history.

In Krakatoa: The day the world exploded best selling author Simon Winchester provides a well researched, detailed account of this mega eruption.

A geologist by education and a journalist by profession, Winchester’s book is a beautiful marriage of both science and social history. The early chapters focus on the history of plate tectonics and the state of geological knowledge before the 1883 eruption. While the latter focus on the eruption itself and the societal impacts on the then Dutch East Indies.

In painstaking beautiful detail Winchester brings to life the events leading up to, during and after the disaster through eyewitness reports and ship’s logs.

Horrible was the view of that sombre and empty landscape, which
portrayed itself as a picture of total destruction rising from the sea.
T. H. Lindeman, Captain of The Loudon

What I love about this book is that it portrays the science of the eruption alongside the views and beliefs of the people who witnessed it. From those who thought it was the onset of Armageddon to the speechless ship’s crews on the Indian Ocean, no one had ever witnessed such a cataclysmic event.

So violent are the explosions that the ear-drums of over half
my crew have been shattered. My last thoughts are with my
dear wife. I am convinced that the Day of Judgement has come.

Captain Sampson of Norham Castle

The societal impact in the Dutch East Indies were profound. The eruption helped to trigger a wave of murderous anti-Western militancy among fundamentalist Muslims, one of the first outbreaks of Islamic-inspired killings anywhere.

Krakatoa provides an entirely new perspective on this fascinating and iconic event.