Krakatoa Geopolitical Reaction

Krakatoa's Eruption - The Impact!

One of the most cataclysmic events of recent history may not have just a geological impact but a geopolitical one, as suggested by renowned author Simon Winchester.

Winchester's premise is twofold: that the blasting out of existence of the island of Krakatoa was a catastrophe that gave birth to the concept of global village while triggering a revolt that gave birth to modern-day Islamic fundamentalism.

The eruption, in August 1883, was not only of a volcano but an explosion of social, political, religious and economic forces in the Dutch colony of Java. Krakatoa set the scene for the rise of such entrenched anti-colonial and anti-Christian sentiment that it is intrinsically linked to the fanaticism of Osama bin Laden.

The anti-colonial mullahs used Krakatoa as a sign to the peasantry of the revenge of Allah against not only the infidel Dutch and their allies, but also those Muslims who supported them.

Some 24 European civilians were massacred in a revolt that erupted five years later. Although ruthlessly put down by the Dutch in one of the world's first wars on terror, the Bantan Peasants' Revolt of 1888 is still regarded as the first step leading to the expulsion of Europeans and the creation of the modern state of Indonesia in 1949. The revolt was inspired by letters from Arabia (Yemen, apparently), which may be the dim outlines of the first global terrorist network.

More immediately plausible is Krakatoa's relationship to the global village. The tectonic collision that gave rise to the volcanic blast caused the first tremors on May 10, and first serious concerns that something terrible was afoot on May 15. London knew all about it on May 24.

Krakatoa explosion

The speed of communication - you could actually get a Morse message between Asia and London in just three hours by the quickest route - was a product of the newly invented electric telegraph and submarine cable.

The telegraph arrived in the East Indies in 1856 and submarine cable - the fastest means of getting a message around the world - in 1870.

By 1872, London could speak directly to Sydney.

To give an idea of the improvement in speed of message transmission, just 50 years earlier it had taken two months for news of Napoleon's death on St Helena to reach London.

While the physical tremors from Krakatoa were felt as far as 4500km from the source, the emotional tremors were felt around the civilized world.

The news must have been received with the same trepidation as that sparked by the Chernobyl nuclear accident 100 years later. The scale of the disaster is still awesome.

At 10.02am on August 27, more than nine cubic kilometers of rock were literally blasted out of existence, a massive ash plume headed skyward, some reaching the fringes of space. The noise was heard more than 4500km away, including in parts of western and northern Australia.

More than 160 villages ceased to exist as a series of volcano-inspired tidal waves up to 35m high swept across the coast. Such was the force of the waves that the steamer Berouw was lifted and unceremoniously dumped more than 2km up the Koeripan River from its original position in its estuary.

The human toll was staggering for the time: the final death count was 36,417. The world's atmospheric temperature dropped by one degree.

It sparked weeks of blood-red sunsets from China to South Africa and by its vividness tricked firemen at Poughkeepsie on the Hudson River into thinking the bush outside town was alight.

Read some other interestng Facts about Krakatoa.