Alan: The island of Krakatoa is situated in the Sunda Strait between Java and Sumatra , Indonesia. Indonesia is the world’s largest island country, and is made up of more than thirteen thousand islands.
Sarah: In the year 1883, when our story takes place, no people live on Krakatoa. Spanning nine kilometres long and five kilometres wide, the island is small and inhospitable as most of it is taken up by a volcano.
Alan: Although smoke and fire are sometimes seen rising from the crater of the volcano, Krakatoa hasn’t erupted in more than two hundred years. Ships pass through the Sunda Strait without paying much attention to the smoking hill on the small island. After all, there are hundreds of dormant volcanoes in this part of the world and Krakatoa is no different from these.
Sarah: In May 1883, there were reports of strange activities in the area. Some days, there were heavy black clouds hovering over Krakatoa. The sea around the island was rougher than usual. The tides were higher, and a red glow could be seen around the crater of the volcano.
Alan: In villages in Java and Sumatra, there were reports of windows breaking without any reason, and plates falling off shelves and crashing onto the floor. In the night, dogs would begin barking and howling. People knew something strange was happening, but no one suspected what was about to take place. It wasn’t long before they found out.
Sarah: On August 26, 1883, just after noontime, Krakatoa suddenly erupted, blasting large clouds of steam, gases and rocks into the sky. Black soot and ash rained down on the islands of Java and Sumatra. Small eruptions continued for the rest of the day and the following night. Then at half past five on the morning of August 27, there was a massive explosion. Three more gigantic explosions followed at 6.42 am, 8.20 am and 10.02 am.
Alan: The island of Krakatoa blasted itself into the air and down into the sea. The sound of the final explosions, heard thousands of kilometres away, is the loudest in recorded history.
Sarah: Krakatoa’s final blast was equal to two hundred megatons of explosives and a total of 25 cubic kilometres of ash and rock were thrown into the air. It was more powerful than the combined sounds of both nuclear bombs that destroyed the Japanese city of Hiroshima during the Second World War and Tsar Bomba, the most destructive nuclear device ever detonated by man. Shock waves from Krakatoa travelled around the world seven times and lasted for five days.
Alan: According to official records, one hundred and sixty-five villages and towns near Krakatoa were destroyed and one hundred and thirty-two others were seriously damaged. The explosion created multiple tsunamis and at least 36 thousand people died. Many more thousands were injured.
Sarah: Krakatoa no longer exists but it will forever be remembered for the world’s loudest sound. This is the island that blew itself out of existence on a day in August a hundred and thirty four years ago.