The most terrifying and destructive volcanic cataclysm in modern recorded history took place in August 1883, when a series of incredibly powerful detonations destroyed the landmark island of Krakatoa, in the Sunda Strait, five miles off the western tip of Java. The impact of the explosions was utterly destructive in the immediate region, destroying 200 Javan villages and 40,000 people. The explosions had a dramatic effect that was felt and heard for thousands of miles, over fully ten per cent of the earth's surface - in central Australia, in East Africa, in India and in China. Ships sailing as far away as the Red Sea were covered with thick volcanic ash and immense rafts of pumice, some big enough to support trees and animals, floated in the seas clear across to Africa. Even more amazingly, the explosions were experienced around the whole world - by way of a substantial ten year burst of global warming - by the brilliance of sunsets and by the presence of fine suspended ash in the air. Using contemporaneous reports, this text recounts the events that led up to the cataclysm, as well as those occurring immediately after. Above all, Simon Winchester writes about how the Americans, English, Chinese and Dutch - and also the Javanese and Sumatrans to whom this land belonged - dealt with the unforgettable events of the day that their world exploded.
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