On This Day, August 27, 1883 – Krakatau Erupts with Biggest Volcanic Blast in History

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1883 – The most powerful volcanic eruption in recorded history occurs on Krakatau (also called Krakatoa), a small, uninhabited volcanic island located west of Sumatra in Indonesia, on this day in 1883. Heard 3,000 miles away, the explosions threw five cubic miles of earth 50 miles into the air, created 120-foot tsunamis and killed 36,000 people.

Krakatau exhibited its first stirrings in more than 200 years on May 20, 1883. A German warship passing by reported a seven-mile high cloud of ash and dust over Krakatau. For the next two months, similar explosions would be witnessed by commercial liners and natives on nearby Java and Sumatra. With little to no idea of the impending catastrophe, the local inhabitants greeted the volcanic activity with festive excitement.

On August 26 and August 27, excitement turned to horror as Krakatau literally blew itself apart, setting off a chain of natural disasters that would be felt around the world for years to come. An enormous blast on the afternoon of August 26 destroyed the northern two-thirds of the island; as it plunged into the Sunda Strait, between the Java Sea and Indian Ocean, the gushing mountain generated a series of pyroclastic flows (fast-moving fluid bodies of molten gas, ash and rock) and monstrous tsunamis that swept over nearby coastlines. Four more eruptions beginning at 5:30 a.m. the following day proved cataclysmic. The explosions could be heard as far as 3,000 miles away, and ash was propelled to a height of 50 miles. Fine dust from the explosion drifted around the earth, causing spectacular sunsets and forming an atmospheric veil that lowered temperatures worldwide by several degrees.

Of the estimated 36,000 deaths resulting from the eruption, at least 31,000 were caused by the tsunamis created when much of the island fell into the water. The greatest of these waves measured 120 feet high, and washed over nearby islands, stripping away vegetation and carrying people out to sea. Another 4,500 people were scorched to death from the pyroclastic flows that rolled over the sea, stretching as far as 40 miles, according to some sources.

In addition to Krakatau, which is still active, Indonesia has another 130 active volcanoes, the most of any country in the world.


1660 – The books of John Milton were burned in London due to his attacks on King Charles II.

1789 – The Declaration of the Rights of Man was adopted by the French National Assembly.

1828 – Uruguay was formally proclaimed to be independent during preliminary talks between Brazil and Argentina.

1858 – The first cabled news dispatch was sent and was published by “The New York Sun” newspaper. The story was about the peace demands of England and France being met by China.

1859 – The first oil well was successfully drilled in the U.S. by Colonel Edwin L. Drake near Titusville, PA.

1889 – Charles G. Conn received a patent for the metal clarinet.

1889 – Boxer Jack “Nonpareil” Dempsey was defeated for the first time of his career by George LaBlanche.

1892 – The original Metropolitan Opera House in New York was seriously damaged by fire.

1894 – The Wilson-Gorman Tariff Act was passed by the U.S. Congress. The provision within for a graduated income tax was later struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court.

1921 – The owner of Acme Packing Company bought a pro football team for Green Bay, WI. J.E. Clair paid tribute to those who worked in his plant by naming the team the Green Bay Packers. (NFL)

1928 – The Kellogg-Briand Pact was signed by 15 countries in Paris. Later, 47 other nations would sign the pact.

1938 – Robert Frost, in a fit of jealousy, set fire to some papers to disrupt a poetry recital by another poet, Archibald MacLeish.

1939 – Nazi Germany demanded the Polish corridor and Danzig.

1945 – American troops landed in Japan after the surrender of the Japanese government at the end of World War II.

1962 – Mariner 2 was launched by the United States. In December of the same year the spacecraft flew past Venus. It was the first space probe to reach the vicinity of another planet.

1972 – North Vietnam’s major port at Haiphong saw the first bombings from U.S. warplanes.

1981 – Work began on recovering a safe from the Andrea Doria, a luxury liner that had sank in 1956 in the waters off of Massachusetts.

1984 – U.S. President Ronald Reagan announced that the first citizen to go into space would be a teacher. The teacher that was eventually chosen was Christa McAuliffe. She died in the  Challenger disaster on January 28, 1986.

1984 – Diane Sawyer became the fifth reporter on CBS-TV’s “60 Minutes.”

1985 – The Space Shuttle Discovery left for a seven-day mission in which three satellites were launched and another was repaired and redeployed.

1989 – The first U.S. commercial satellite rocket was launched. A British communications satellite was on board.


1990 – Stevie Ray Vaughan and three members of Eric Clapton’s band were killed in a helicopter crash in Wisconsin. 


1990 – The U.S. State Department ordered the expulsion of 36 Iraqi diplomats.

1991 – The Soviet republic of Moldavia declared its independence.

1996 – California Governor Pete Wilson signed an order that would halt state benefits to illegal immigrants.

1998 – “Titanic” became the first movie in North America to earn more than $600 million.

1999 – The final crew of the Russian space station Mir departed the station to return to Earth. Russia was forced to abandon Mir for financial reasons.

2001 – The U.S. military announced that an Air Force RQ-1B “Predator” aircraft was lost over Iraq. It was reported that the unmanned aircraft “may have crashed or been shot down.”

2001 – Work began on the future site of a World War II memorial on the U.S. capital’s historic national Mall. The site is between the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial.

 

Source: On-This-Day.com; History.com

 

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