Nina's Reading Blog

Comments on books I am reading/listening to

Krakatoa: The Day the World Exploded, August 27, 1883

Posted by nliakos on March 15, 2008

by Simon Winchester (Audio Adventures, narrated by the author)

This book is a compendium of everything remotely connected to the gigantic explosion of the volcanic island of Krakatoa in 1883: vulcanism, plate tectonics, history, geography, biology… The books is lovingly and throroughly researched (and narrated) by Simon Winchester.

I was aware of Krakatoa but knew few details, and I read Winchester’s account with fascination. One might wonder why anyone stayed around once it became clear that the volcano was going to erupt; but after weeks and then months of more or less spectacular smaller explosions, people became inured to the danger they were in. It seemed likely to go on spouting on and off indefinitely; could they leave their homes, farms, schools, and jobs? Thus it was that when the big eruption (which obliterated the island itself as well as generating tsunamis that wreaked havoc on the surrounding islands) came, over 30,000 people were within range of its deadly force. Winchester describes how floating bodies clogged the strait of Sunda and washed up as far away as Zanzibar! Yet, unbelievably, people on boats in the middle of the Sunda Strait survived, and Winchester reports the accounts of several survivors who actually outran the tsunamis. Today, the volcano is rebuilding itself; Anak Krakatoa, the “Child of Krakatoa,” is rising out of the water at an ominous rate, situated as it is over the most active subduction zone on the planet. Whether in our lifetime or not, Krakatoa will explode again in the future. And the population within view of it continues to grow. An incredible tale.

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