Captain Ferzenaar was, as it happened, the last human soul ever to set foot on Krakatoa. As a reasonably familiar example, consider that which runs along the western edge of South America, and which has created the chain we know as the Andes. The distribution of the ash-fall would be over an area at least as large as Germany… One by one the other ships in the neighbourhood reported their news. ‘The palace was magnificently decorated and illuminated.

The imperial purpose, quite coincidentally, seemed to be faltering. 14 day loan required to access EPUB and PDF files. Disputes raged between the on-board merchants and the ships' masters: one merchant was locked in his cabin in chains for the entire voyage, another was poisoned in India, a master fell victim to a mutiny. Some visitors had reported seeing a large monitor lizard, and said that coconut palms had returned and were lining Rakata's southern shore. In 1985 a small eruption of a Colombian volcano called Nevado del Ruiz melted a glacier near the summit: the resulting river coursed down a valley that was quite unused to such huge flows, and the mud sea that was eventually created drowned an entire village below, killing 23,000 people.

Since the message was marked URGENT, the duty officer sat down at his wood-and-brass Morse tapper and register, and, with the lightning speed (and near-total accuracy, aside from reading Schuit's handwritten Krakatau as Krakatan) for which good operators were renowned, dispatched the signal to his opposite number in Batavia.

Fires might have lit the sky, and torrents of ash and pumice rained down from the clouds, but the people of Nusantara (the old Malay word meaning ‘the islands between’) who saw and heard and were duly astonished, horrified or hurt, were villagers only, artless country folk whose descriptions of those early and startling events were inevitably vague and imaginative. There was usually a flag-signal flying from the pilot-station that spelt out: CALL HERE FOR MAIL; and the inbound ocean-going ships would indeed invariably call, giving with their presence an air of vibrancy to the town; and, because they were stopping for orders and not for stevedores, Anjer was free of the slums and squalor of a cargo port.

The foul smells from the coast,* brought in by the sea-breezes that usually began to blow at breakfast-time, prompted everyone in the city to keep their doors and windows firmly shut until dusk; and then to shut them once more soon after, to keep out the evening mosquitoes. Both processes seem to have begun with the making of films of bacteria, which clung to the beds of volcanic ash and coated the ragged, burned ruins of once-hot rock. In 1999, as a response to the wide interest over the remarkable suggestions made in Catastrophe, the resident specialist on Krakatoa at the University of Rhode Island, Haraldur Sigurdsson, went on an expedition to Krakatoa* to use the magic of modern chemistry to try to find a definitive answer to the puzzle that Ranggawarsita had set. Ferzenaar found a bewildering variety of signs that the island might be readying itself anew for something quite spectacular. In the late 1980s Lorne and Lawrence Blair, two seemingly indefatigable and irrepressibly enthusiastic British explorers,* produced a series of extraordinary television documentaries about the island of Indonesia called Ring of Fire. And, just like the birds, they all met – collided, even – somewhere among the maze of jungles of the myriad islands of the Dutch East Indies. Extraordinary stresses can build up if this movement is somehow hindered – by friction, for example.

101–7, 106, 109, 306 ‘A New Class of Faults and Their Bearing on Continental Drift’ 105 Typhon 303 Tyringin, Java 246, 250, 259 Ujung Kulon National Park 379n United States Coast Guard 93 United States Geological Survey 207, 375 United States Government 93 United States Navy 93, 107, 107 United States of America 197 evidence of crustal movement 91, 93 makes peace with Britain 139n and Diego Garcia 263n high number of volcanoes 308 Universit of Auckland 290 University of Graz, Austria 76 University of Hawaii 290 University of Melbourne 290 University of Rhode Island 133, 290, 397 Universit of Toronto 101 Unzen, Mount 244, 266, 378 uranium isotopes 109 Usk, south Wales 57 Utrecht 37 Vail, Alfred 146 van den Broecke, Mr (storekeeper) 35 van der Stok, Dr J.P. 162–4, 216 van der Stok, Mrs 162 Varanus salvator (five-banded swimming monitor lizard) 389–91, 390 Vava'u Group 384n Venice 13, 34 Vening Meinesz, Felix 88–90 Verbeek, Dr Rogier Diederik Marius 170, 250n employment 169–70, 171 misses first part of eruption 171 sees Krakatoa in July 1883 176 and van der Stok 216 on renewed activity of Krakatoa 347, 348 the first on to Krakatoa Island after 1883 eruption 356 Krakatau 169, 266–7, 313–14, 315, 347, 367, 397 Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie (VOC) 48, 50, 119, 138, 144 chartered by the Dutch government 30, 31 rights 30 and capitalism 30 joint-stock company 30 ‘Gentlemen Seventeen’ 31, 33 rules most of East Indies for two centuries 31 Coen and 35 corporate logo 38, 38 formative years 38–9 and Batavia 42, 47, 135, 139 hat rule 44n courts 45 harsh treatment by security officers 47 employee care 48 buildings reportedly damaged by earthquake (1681) 50 and naval blockades 139 collapse in 1799 31, 141, 143 Vereker, Captain Hon. And though the arguments promoting such ideas appear at times more than a little speculative, everything eventually distils into a single fact: something enormous did take place somewhere in the world in the first half of the sixth century AD, and it had a staggering effect on the world's climate. What they found was that the computed polar positions suggested by the spinels in these rocks varied wildly – so much so that it looked not like the poles were wandering, but rather like there were scores of North Poles, all existing at the same time. Plants came next: fifteen months after the emergence of the fourth Anak Krakatoa the northern coast of the island was littered with floating tree stumps, bamboo stems, roots and decaying fruit – eighteen seeds were discovered, and of these ten had already taken root. His ideas, it was almost universally agreed, were the results of bad science at best, wishful thinking at worst. The way that Krakatoa's immense outpouring of thermal energy was converted into mechanical energy – for this conversion is what essentially determines both the immensity and the enormity of any volcanic eruption – was altered. I saw with amazement that the island Cracketovv, on my first trip to Sumatra completely green and healthy with trees, lay completely burned and barren in front of our eyes and that at four locations was throwing up large chunks of fire. to all you do. The pressure records are being taken constantly, but they can in fact record the minute fluctuations in the atmospheric pressure The invisible and inaudible pressure wave from Krakatoa's cataclysmic final explosion, measured – until it blows off scale – at the Jakarta Gasworks.

So it seems clear from scientific evidence that no volcano of consequence erupted in the world during the first quarter of the fifth century; that much appears certain, the Shaka year, those glaring fires, the inundations of the sea and the explosion of the mountain Kapi notwithstanding. It was thought more appropriate to have the formal report of a major event like this come from the agent – in this case a Scotsman, a Mr McColl – who was based in the nation's heart, even if he were only transmitting second-hand information about an event he himself did not see. Other books I found useful and interesting included: Abeyasekere, Susan, Jakarta: A History (Singapore, Oxford University Press, 1987) Angelino, A. D. A. de Kat, Colonial Policy. One of them, Arthur Louis Day, proposed in 1925 that volcanic heat was due to a series of complex chemical reactions between gases, and he won support from the redoubtable and influential Sir Harold Jeffreys,* while at the same time dismissing vulcanism generally as a phenomenon that was merely ‘local and occasional, not perpetual and worldwide’. It was a series of stunts like this – as well as his agency's reputation for factual reliability – that enabled Reuter to win contract after contract to supply news, from all the world and to all the world.

The five plants sent on the Berbice were free of blight, and the plantations of South-East Asia have still not yet been infected, which many regard as akin to a miracle. And further: though this substance that made cables work so well just happened to be found in Java, it was twenty years after the technology was first used that it was employed to connect Java with a rest of the world that was already using it. The Krakatoa Committee had, even if only in these respects, fully justified its existence. The population of Batavia, like that of other favoured Eastern cities, began to grow, and fast: it jumped from half a million in 1866 to well over a million at the time of the eruption (merely 12,000 of those were Europeans, 80,000 Chinese, the rest all native East Indians understandably eager to take advantage of the growing wealth around them). [My italics.] Forests on the flanks of Krakatoa were seen to be ablaze. * Backer had himself been at first easily and lazily convinced of the likelihood of total annihilation of all life. The question that has occupied the minds of many specialists in recent years is this: was it the fact that seawater managed to get into this chamber at the moment of collapse that was the primary cause of the deafening explosion and the tidal waves? A Mulatto (as they call those that are betwixt a Black-aMoor and a White) was Hang'd for Theft. For when Anak Krakatoa rose from the sea it was in all probability totally empty, * devoid of life and, in essence, quite sterile.

He specialized in the exotic, the colourful, the tropical, the odd. One of the pilots waiting for orders at the Anjer pilotstation, a Mr de Vries, swore it alternated in colour, from white (when presumably it was largely made up of steam) to black (when it was composed largely of eruptive smoke). But the lighter material, the finest particles of all, were thrown up right through the troposphere until, almost defying the pull of gravity, they were caught up for months in the lower reaches of the stratosphere† itself. Mr Foley insisted that he heard the banging cannonades, and that they happened in rapid succession on the Sunday. Krakatoa: The Day the World Exploded: August 27, 1883, Krakatoa: The Day the World Exploded, August 27, 1883, Land Degradation: Creation and Destruction.

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