Learn about the Krakatoa volcanoe and the destruction it wreaked in the Sunda Straight.
Between the Indonesian Islands of Java and Sumatra lies a small group of islands, lying in what is known as the Sunda Straight. Here can be found the beautiful Carita Beach resort. Yet, the calm of Carita Beach stands in stark contrast to the tragic history of that small corner of the earth. The smoke that can be seen still rising from an island volcano not far from Carita Beach gives a clue as to the nature of that history. This island is Anak Krakatoa, or Child of Krakatoa, and a century ago its father brought terror to this region of the world.
Krakatoa today refers to 4 islands but in former times it was the island of Rakata that was known as the center of volcanic activity. Rakata grew immensely when two nearby volcanic cones pushed up nearby and gradually merged with Rakata to form the sleeping giant Krakatoa. By 1883 it was an uninhabited volcanic island covered with lush green vegetation. On May, 20 1883, Krakatoa rumbled to life as it began to eject pumice, ash and clouds of smoke into the atmosphere. This volcanic activity continued over the next two months as all three of Krakatoa's volcanic cones became active. On August 26, these minor explosions combined into one continual, ominous roar. A day later Krakatoa was ready to explode, not once but four times!
The third blast, which occurred at 10:02 am, was the strongest of the four, with an impact that has been said to dwarf that of the atomic explosions at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This blast has also been estimated to have had the power of 100,000 hydrogen bombs. That blast was heard over 3,000 miles away on the island of Rodrigues. The pressure waves in the atmosphere circled the earth seven and a half times before fading away. For two and a half days, the whole region was clouded in darkness. And then there were the tsunamis.
The Krakatoa explosions caused huge seismic waves, or tsunamis, which reached a height of 50 feet in the open seas. These tidal waves devastated many of the inhabited islands of Indonesia. The Javanese town of Merak was completely washed away by a tsunami that reached 135 feet in height. In that first day, some 37,000 people were killed by tsunamis.
By the time it had completed its devastating display, Krakatoa had spewed more than five miles of magma and other debris from out of its three craters. Krakatoa's now empty chamber collapsed, causing two thirds of the island to fall below the surface of the waters. Only half of the tallest cone, Rakata, remained above sea level. Not surprisingly, all forms of life had been wiped from the island. In fact, a scientific examination of the island nine months later revealed just one living thing on Krakatoa, a tiny spider.
In the 1940s a new volcanic cone pushed up between the three existing cones of Krakatoa. This is the child of Krakatoa and it is still very active today. Only about 5% of this island grouping now are covered with vegetation and plant growth. However the surrounding islands of Sertung, Panjang and, of course, Carita beach, have been largely healed in the 120 years since that terrible eruption and now exhibit a rich tropical growth of native bushland.
The quietly smoking crater of the child of Krakatoa, however, serves as a constant reminder that manÆs calm can be shattered at any time by the awesome forces of nature.