Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Krakatoa: a new documentary on PBS


Although the History Channel aired a report on Karatoa in 2007, PBS stations are now airing a 90 minute British film directed by Jeremy Hall and Stuart Everett and narrated by John Shrapnel. The website for the film is this. The film "Krakatoa" (2008, with a docudrama format) dramatizes the events (with actors in period costumes) in the four months leading to the great explosion eruptions in Aug. 26-27 1883, starting with earthquakes felt 23 miles away in Ketimbang. The third of those eruptions was the largest blast ever to occur on the planet. Businessmen and merchants from the Netherlands worked there and communicated by telegraph. The Dutch expected the employees to visit the volcano by canoe or small shop to monitor it.

The great explosions destroyed a lighthouse and produced briefly-lived tsunamis (caused by landslides from pyroclastic flows) over 100 feet high, capable of destroying any skyscraper city in the area today. There are some comparisons to the tsunami of Dec. 26, 2004. The original mountain was over 5000 feet high and it was almost entirely eliminated (in comparison to St. Helens, which lost about 1300 feet of “mountaintop removal”).

The film uses real footage and simulations to show what the great eruptions must have looked like. The film also shows some of the drawings of a British artist who sketched the effect of the eruption on sunsets in London for a year. During this era, all photography was in black and white.

At the end, the film shows the replacement volcano Anak Krakatau which has grown at an amazing rate, and has already caused a few injuries and deaths with spit-ups.

Krakatoa apparently did not produce as high a plume as Tambora in 1815, also in Indonesia, responsible for the "year without a summer." See the comparative chart in this Wikipedia article on Tambora.

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