Krakatoa 1883

[ Med anledning av nyligen timade vulkanutbrott, och i synnerhet den uppmärksamhet dessa fenomen väckt, återger jag här en artikel ur New York Times från den 22 oktober 1883, vari läsarna får ta del av vulkanen Krakatoas utbrott. Detta ägde rum den 27 augusti, artikeln är skriven någon vecka efteråt, och hamnade alltså inte i nämnda tidning förrän nästan två månader senare. Man kan föreställa sig hur ett motsvarande naturfenomen skulle beskrivas i media idag; i ett samhälle som tycker att några askpuffar är något att göra väsen av. ]

The Krakatoa Eruption

First signs of the great volcanic disturbance.

Cities obscured by "a cloud of darkness which might be felt" - disppearance of Anjer

Singapore, Sept. 4. - The details of the Krakatoa eruption of last Sunday week read like a page from the earthquake of Lisbon [1755, som förstörde stora delar av staden och hade ihjäl uppemot 100 000] or the yet blacker horror which Lord Lytton's genius cast around the fall of Pompeii [författare till "Pompeji sista dagar" (1834) som gjorde händelsen känd för en bredare publik]. Even in this grim region, whose very soil seems forever quaking with the struggles of the unquenchable fires below, so wide-spread and overwhelming a ruin has had no parallel since the Island of Sumbawa exploded like a powder mine in 1815, shaking land and sea for hundreds of miles around, and hurling forth ashes and lava enough to "cover two feet deep the whole surface of Germany". [vet inte om exakta siffror spelar någon roll, men Deutscher Bund av 1814 var något mindre än dagens enade Tyskland]

On the night of Sunday, the 26th of August, various sea Captains far away from land paused in their measured pacing of the deck to listen in wonder to the sound of a heavy canonade (as they thought) coming from the direction of the Sunda Strait, at the western extremity of Java. During the same night several residents in Singapore were surprised by the appearance of a floating black dust, pungent, stifling, and so fine that even a mosquito-net was not proof against it.

In Java itself the tokens of evil were even more awfully manifest. The sun rose in vain for Batavia [dåtidens namn på Jakarta] on the morning after that fatal Sabbath. A thick black cloud - a cloud of "darkness which might be felt" - encompassed the affrighted city. In that tainted air the flickering lamp quivered and died. The few men who returned to grope their way about the darkened town fell fainting in its streets. Houses and shops were shut and barred, and the inhabitants sat trembling within, thinking that the last day was at hand.

But the real nature of the calamity soon became terribly clear. The volcanic system of the Malay Archipelago may be best compared to an electric cable traversing the whole length of Sumatra and Java, continued to the eastward through the smaller islands of Lombok and Sumbawa to Floris [Flores, idag mest känd för hobbitarna] and Timor, and thence making a sudden bend northward to Amboyana and the Moluccas.

One of the most important links in this great explosive chain is the volcanic islet of Krakatoa, in the strait dividing Java from Sumatra, which was quickly discovered to be in a state of furious eruption. And now tidings of disaster began to come thick and fast from every side. Miles of flourishing plantations had been blasted by the burning ashes, and the labors of years were destroyed in one night. The sea, shaken to its lowest depths, rose and fell like a fountain jet, flinging boats and even large ships far up the shore. Neither chart nor compass could save the bewildered seamen, who, voyaging over perfectly familiar water, found sea in the place of land and land in the place of sea. In Batavia itself the streets were heaped with volcanic ashes and lava-dust, while a succession of mountain waves, bursting upon the shore, rendered any approach from that side impossible.

But worse was still to come. The fatal mountain stood right in the centre of a group of native towns and villages lying along either side of the strait, and upon these fell the utmost fury of the destruction. One great wave sufficed to lay in ruins the Javanese village of Tieringin. The district inspector of telegraphs, while engaged in repairing the broken wires between Serang and Anjer, a few miles further up the Javanese coast, suddenly descried far out to seaward a piled-up wall of water "standing up like a high column." and coming in upon the shore with inconceivable swiftness. When it subsided, Anjar was gone.

Even worse did it fare with Teluk Betong, a large Malay town on the Sumatran side of the channel. One line in a telegram formed its dismal epitaph: "Teluk Betong has disappeared, with 10,000 inhabitants."

The Miltonic battle [efter John Milton, i vars Paradise Lost han beskriver kampen mellan Gud och djävulen] ended as suddenly as it began, but its grim work had been thoroughly done. All the light-houses had disappeared from the Sunda Strait. Three populous towns were gone as if they had never been. Upward of 30,000 human beings lay buried under the falling ashes or in the depths of the devouring sea. The dust and volcanic cinders descended thickly all over Western Java as far as Cheribon. The flashes of the successive fire-spouts through the gloom were distinctly seen many leagues away, and, according to the concurrent testimony of several trustworthy witnesses, some of the explosions were plainly heard at a distance of 480 miles. The whole conformation of the Sunda Strait has been altered in one night, and bold indeed will he be who shall dare to pass through it for many a day to come.

Compared with the havoc of that fatal Sunday all the destruction wrought by the overthrow of Pompeii and Herculaneum is as nothing. But with the destroyed has perished the destroyer. One sentence of a recent bulletin rounds off with the tragic fitness this battle of the giants: "The sea now plays where Mount Krakatoa once stood."

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