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Krakatoa: The Day the World Exploded: August…
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Krakatoa: The Day the World Exploded: August 27, 1883 (2003)

by Simon Winchester

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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August 1883. Events happening on a tiny island in the Sunda Strait between the Indonesian islands of Sumatra and Java were about to dramatically change the world. On the morning of August 27 the volcanic island of Krakatoa erupted in an earth-shattering explosion. Krakatoa’s eruption was dramatic on many scales. Tsunami and volcanic ash devastated many of the villages that sat on the coastline of the Sunda Strait on both Java and Sumatra. In the capital of the Dutch colony Batavia (present day Jakarta) day turned into night from ash. The sound of Krakatoa’s explosion was heard in Bangkok, Manila, Perth, and Rodriguez Island - nearly 3000 miles from its source! The pressure wave caused by the eruption displaced barometers in dozens of fashionable gentlemen’s clubs across Europe and was later found to have traveled around the globe at least seven times! Once it was over nothing but two small islands remained of the once mighty volcanic island. Krakatoa was the largest volcanic eruption in recorded human history and the recent connection of many countries by telegraph cable made it one of the first truly global events.

Winchester takes the reader on a wonderful journey, looking not only at the eruption of the volcano but also at the events that shaped the world at the time of the eruption. Winchester’s story focuses on the geology of Krakatoa and on the history of Indonesia and the lasting effects of Dutch colonization. The book begins with a look at the history of Indonesia. The islands of Indonesia, that today make up the most populous Islamic country in the world, were key to the ambitions of European countries during the height of the Colonial Era due to the riches brought by its spices – pepper, clove, and nutmeg, what Winchester calls the “holy trinity of the Asian spice trade.”

Winchester’s back-story and history of colonization set the stage for the dramatic events of 1883. Through this set-up the reader learns a great deal of geology. Indonesia sits at one of the crucial sites found on our Earth, located at a junction between two tectonic plates. To the south sits the Australian plate that is traveling north and subducting under the Eurasian plate. The results create one of the most tectonic and volcanically active regions on Earth. Winchester takes the reader through the thought processes that led to the unifying theory of geology, plate tectonics, and is the key to understanding how and why Krakatoa erupted.

As in Winchester’s other books his style is straightforward and easy to read. For many readers the thought of reading a book that covers both geology and history may seem daunting and dry, but Winchester envelopes the reader with a rich and vibrant writing style combined with over 50 illustrations, maps, and photos that keeps you turning page after page. We experience the eruption of Krakatoa from many perspectives, those of sailors traveling through the Sunda Strait at the time of the eruption, to colonial administrators living along the Straits. We are immersed in the lives of those people that experienced the eruption first hand and those that struggled to interpret and study the volcano’s activities. In the end Winchester takes us up to the summit of Anak Krakatoa – the child of Krakatoa, the volcano reborn from the sea to experience the rebirth of this amazing island first hand.

I highly recommend Krakatoa, The Day the World Exploded to anybody interested in geology, or history, or with a passion for both (like me). You will come away with a deeper understanding of the geology of plate tectonics and the area of the Java Trench as well as the history of Indonesia and how events on a small island on the morning of August 27, 1883 started us down a path to a connected, global community. ( )
  GeoffHabiger | Jun 13, 2018 |
much more historical and textbook-like than 'river at the center of the world' which the author narrated his travels through china. i wish it would have painted more of a picture of java/sumatra culture rather than scientific volcanic research. interesting about the natives and muslims revolting against the dutch colonialists after the eruption ( )
  mtdewrock | Dec 30, 2017 |
All in all, quite a good book. I found the first chapters on botony and colonial history a little boring but once we got into the geology and the actual event it was very interesting. I enjoyed the author's rather dry narrative voice too. I would recommend to anyone interested in volcanoes and the mechanisms through which our planet is regenerated. ( )
  KatiaMDavis | Dec 19, 2017 |
So much I didn't know - from science to global politics of the 19th century. What a terrifying ordeal and how fascinating that it was really the first time in human history that people could connect with a swiftness that helped explain global phenomena. I am consistently amazed and thrilled with Mr. Winchester's broad and encompassing histories. ( )
  lissabeth21 | Oct 3, 2017 |
The day the world exploded: August 27, 1988
  jhawn | Jul 31, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 92 (next | show all)
Most controversially, Winchester attempts to credit Krakatoa with the rise of militant Islamism in Indonesia.
 

» Add other authors (2 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Simon Winchesterprimary authorall editionscalculated
Chinami, ToshihikoCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
de Cumptich, Roberto de VicqJacket designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Jay, ConeyCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vannithone, SounIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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I dedicate this book, with pleasure and with thanks, to my mother and father.
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(Prelude) It was early on a warm summer's evening in the 1970's, as I stood in a palm plantation high on a green hillside in western Java, that I saw for the first time, silhouetted against the faint blue hills of faraway Sumatra, the small gathering of islands that is all that remains of what was once a mountain called Krakatoa.
Though we think first of Java as an eponym for coffee (or, to some today, a computer language), it is in fact the trading of aromatic tropical spices on which the fortunes of the great island's colonizers and Western discoverers were first founded.
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Indonesia itself has and has had more volcanoes and more volcanic activity than any other political entity on the earth, in all recorded history.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0060838590, Paperback)

It may seem a stretch to connect a volcanic eruption with civil and religious unrest in Indonesia today, but Simon Winchester makes a compelling case. Krakatoa tells the frightening tale of the biggest volcanic eruption in history using a blend of gentle geology and narrative history. Krakatoa erupted at a time when technologies like the telegraph were becoming commonplace and Asian trade routes were being expanded by northern European companies. This bustling colonial backdrop provides an effective canvas for the suspense leading up to August 27th, 1883, when the nearby island of Krakatoa would violently vaporize. Winchester describes the eruption through the eyes of its survivors, and readers will be as horrified and mesmerized as eyewitnesses were as the death toll reached nearly 40,000 (almost all of whom died from tsunamis generated by the unimaginably strong shock waves of the eruption). Ships were thrown miles inshore, endless rains of hot ash engulfed those towns not drowned by 100 foot waves, and vast rafts of pumice clogged the hot sea. The explosion was heard thousands of miles away, and the eruption's shock wave traveled around the world seven times. But the book's biggest surprise is not the riveting catalog of the volcano's effects; rather, it is Winchester's contention that the Dutch abandonment of their Indonesian colonies after the disaster left local survivors to seek comfort in radical Islam, setting the stage for a volatile future for the region. --Therese Littleton

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:19:31 -0400)

(see all 8 descriptions)

In August 1883, a catastrophic volcanic eruption off the coast of Java was followed by a tsunami that killed nearly 40,000 people. The author brings new perspective to this iconic event, showing how it marked a change in East-West relations.

» see all 11 descriptions

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