Krakatoa and Indonesian Volcanoes

Most Indonesians live and die within sight of a volcano.

The islands of Indonesia are a volatile part of the “ring of fire” that spans across the Pacific from Japan, California, Hawaii, and Southeast Asia. Indonesia is the sight of two of the world’s greatest volcanic eruptions, Krakatoa, and Tambora – which still have major eruptions 10 times a year. The volcanoes provide Java with some of the most fertile soil in the world! Why do you think the coffee is “java”, or it is part of the “spice islands”?

On a clear day, I can look around and see a ring of volcanoes in the distance – only 20 miles from my home. That’s a bit disconcerting if you stop to think about it!

Actually, I live only about 80 miles from Krakatoa – the site of the largest eruption in recorded history. It erupted in 1883, killing more than 36,000 people – it was heard 5000km away in India, Australia, and Southeast Asia. The rumbles were felt in France and England. The ash from the volcano caused such unusual blues, greens, and colors of red in the atmosphere that even in the States, firemen were called thinking that a fire was burning. The world experienced unusual sunsets for 3 more years after the eruption.

Actually there’s a bestselling book out right now about this volcano – I’ve only glanced at it, but it seems interesting.

In September, a group of 10 of my friends and I took a four hour boat ride to Krakatoa. We spent the first day snorkeling and camping. The next morning we climbed one of the volcanoes that is part of Krakatoa – an absolutely awesome experience! To be able to hike on the site of such a powerful force was breathtaking. The hike was difficult through the ash, but well worth the effort. The volcano is still smoldering, and is still considered very active; in recent years visitors hiking have been killed by eruptions.

I’ve visited other volcanoes in the area – the photo above this post was taken in Bandung – about 3 hours east of me. It was still very much alive and active. Unfortunately, no photo can capture the feeling of peering down into an active volcano.

For all my bitching about Indonesia – I still appreciate its raw, visceral, and often stunning beauty.