The eruption of Krakatoa, in August 1883 was one of the deadliest volcanic eruptions of modern history. It is estimated that more than 36,000 people died. Many died as a result of thermal injury from the blasts and many more were victims of the tsunamis that followed the collapse of the volcano into the sea. The eruption also affected the climate and caused temperatures to drop all over the world. The island of Krakatau is in the Sunda Strait between Java and Sumatra. In May 1883, the captain of the Elizabeth, a German warship, reported seeing clouds of ash above Krakatau. He estimated them to be more than 6 miles high. For the next two months, commercial vessels and chartered sightseeing boats frequented the strait and reported thundering noises and incandescent clouds. At 12:53 p.m. on August 26, 1883, the initial blast of the eruption sent a cloud of gas and debris an estimated 15 miles into the air. The following morning, four tremendous explosions, heard as far away as Perth, Australia, some 2,800 miles away cracked the dawn. The initial explosion ruptured the magma chamber and the water flash-boiled, creating a cushion of superheated steam that carried the pyroclastic flows up to 25 miles at speeds in excess of 62 mph. The eruption is estimated to have had the explosive force of 200 megatons of TNT, or nearly ten thousand times more explosive than the nuclear bomb that destroyed Hiroshima. Volcanic rock fragments and hot volcanic gases overcame many of the victims in western Java and Sumatra, and thousands more were killed by a devastating tsunami. The wall of water, nearly 120 feet tall, was created by the volcano's collapse into the sea. It completely overwhelmed small nearby islands. Inhabitants of the coastal towns on Java and Sumatra fled toward higher ground. One hundred sixty-five coastal villages were destroyed. The steamship Berouw was carried nearly a mile inland on Sumatra; all 28 crewmembers were killed. Another ship, the Loudon, had been anchored nearby. The ship's captain Lindemann succeeded in turning its bow to face the wave, and the ship was able to ride over the crest. The explosions hurled an estimated 11 cubic miles of debris into the atmosphere, darkening skies up to 275 miles from the volcano. In the immediate vicinity, the sun light did not return for three days. Ash fell as far away as 3,775 miles (landing on ships to the northwest. Barometers around the globe documented that the shock waves in the atmosphere circled the planet at least seven times. Within 13 days, a layer of sulfur dioxide and other gases began to filter the amount of sunlight able to reach Earth. The atmospheric effects made for spectacular sunsets all over Europe and the United States. The impact of the weather was profound as average global temperatures were as much as 1.2 degrees cooler for the next five years.
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