Books: Krakatoa, the Day the World Exploded

Last week I read Krakatoa, the Day the World Exploded, by Simon Winchester.

When I picked it off the shelf, I was looking mainly for the science and info-porn behind the disaster … how big, how much, how hot, how loud, etc. etc., but the book delivered a lot more.

Winchester situates the event in a historical, cultural, and geopolitical milieux that is fascinating. Example: he ties together the volcanic explosion itself with the state of the Dutch colonial presence in what is now called Indonesia, the rise of Islam in Java and Sumatra, and the slowly growing independance movement.

But the disaster itself takes centre stage, of course, with nice tidbits, fully explained, such as:

– the sound of the final, gigantic explosion travelled up to 3000 miles away (unbelievable!)
– the pressure wave from the explosion travelled around the world 7, yes 7 times
– the highest wave (there were several) caused by the explosion was probably around 130 feet high

Krakatoa was probably the first “global village” disaster, as it was the first to be quickly reported around the world, mostly as a result of recently laid telegraph cables.

Good book; perhaps a bit tedious at points.