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Thursday, August 26, 2010

A boom heard 'round a good portion of the world

Aug. 26, 1883: Krakatau Erupts, Changes World … Again
Krakatau (aka Krakatoa) had been rumbling and sending up puffs of ash since May 1883. The eruption turned deadly on the afternoon of Aug. 26, with the first explosion coming at 1 p.m. A column of black ash soon rose 17 miles into the sky above the Sunda Strait between Java and Sumatra.

The earth around and under the volcano continued to move, sending a tsunami out around 5 p.m. Others would follow.

Explosions continued at night, and lightning jumped between the ash column and the island. St. Elmo’s Fire played on a ship’s yardarms and rigging 25 miles away, ash fell on its deck, and explosions deafened its crew.

Just after 10 a.m. on the morning of Aug. 27 came the final, cataclysmic explosion with 26 times the power of the biggest H-bomb test. As Krakatau’s underground magma chamber emptied, the sea rushed in, at first sucking ships toward it in an inbound current. Then the 2,600-foot-high volcanic cone collapsed into the center, leaving little of the island above water and sending out a truly colossal tsunami.

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