What Mortals We Humans Be?

a contemplation by Don R. Hender

    While not quite Shakespeare, the full dependence upon God may be felt by such events as Tambora and Krakatoa. What when in the course of our human events, we are so manipulated, pushed along and altared by those events which we have no control over. A part of the western movement of the early colonial settlers of the United States of America was spurred by just such an uncontrolled event.

What diference can a volcanic eruption make? Halfway around the world are located two such volcanic phenomenon. There resides Tambora and Krakatoa. You have likely heard of the famous or infamous August 27th 1883 eruption of Krakatoa. That colossal eruption of the volcano at Krakatoa in in the eastern Pacific Ocean became a worldwide weather and media event. Sunsets around the world were seen in bizarre 'blood red' colors caused by the particles in the atmosphere in distant lands such as Great Britain and the United States.

Krakatoa events were further significant because it was the first time that detailed descriptions of the colossal event traveled around the world so quickly as they were carried by undersea telegraph wires. Krakatoa had a tall high hat as seen in this Harpers Weekly Laibrary of Congress image before you could say 'It blew its top clean off'. But actually, 'It blew itself clean out of the water,' so to speak. Today we vagely recall Mt. St. Hellens, which did somewhat the same.

Krakatoa's height had been lifted up to some 2,600 feet above sea level and its mountainous slopes were covered with green vegetation. It was quite the notable landmark to sailors of the Sunda Straits.

In the years preceding the massive eruption several earthquakes occured in the area. In June of 1883 small volcanic eruptions began to to rumble across the island. Throughout the summer the volcanic activity continued to increase and tides at near islands began to be affected. Finally on the 27th of August four massive explosive eruptions occurred. The final gigantic explosion destroyed two-thirds of the island of Krakatoa blasting it to dust which filled the air. Tsunamis were created rising higher up to 120 feet which slammed into the coastlines of the inhabited islands. It is estimated that some 36,000 people were killed.

Less than 70 years prior, in 1815, just such another event had occured. You may not have ever heard of it. It was called Tambora. Still a part of the Sunda Island group, Tambora was not in the narrow straits between Java and Sumatra. But I guess that such once-in-a-lifetime events just are not often remembered in the 'next' lifetime, having already passed from general mortal review. And then back in 1815 there was not the immediate newsing of the event which the oceanic tele-cables offered to the world. Thus it is true that Krakatoa is Indonesia's most celebrated volcanoes, but did you know that Krakatoa is just Tambora's 'little sister'.


Astronaut photograph of Tambora Volcano's summit caldera acquired on June 3, 2009. Image credit NASA/Earth Observatory

Largest Eruption in Recorded History

Krakatoa had spend two thirds of herself in her explosive finale in 1883. In the eruption of Tambora in 1815, she expelled at least four times the ash into the air as did Krakatoa for all of her efforts. Krakatoa had distupted shipping through the straits and was well observed and reported timely. Tambora had no such restricted straits' shipping lanes and was not readily observed or reported. Krakatoa killed some 36,000 and disrupted shipping. All Tambora did was kill some estimated 117,000 according to latest estimates and completely destroy the Kingdom of Tambora.

In fact the Mount Tambora Eruption was hardly known at all. Ever hear of the Kingdom of Tambora? Well its gone now with only such recently excavated ceramic pots, bronze bowls, iron tools and metal bracelets remaining. And for world effects, Tambora's was not just 'blood red' sunsets. Tambora world wide ash cover caused gray clouded overcast days around the world as so reported in Europe and elsewhere.

When Tambora exploded the sound was heard as far away as in India, some 3,000 miles distance. And the world wide ash filled atmosphere caused a global temperature cooling change and the infamous 1816 'Year Without A Summer' as hard frost freezes in mid-summer destroyed crops in such seasonal regions as the New England states of America.

The Year Without Summer

Due to the series of volcanic eruptions or the few years leading up to the big one, crops in various northern region had been growing poorer for some years. The final blow came in 1815 with the great eruption of Tambora. Europe was still recuperating from the Napoleonic Wars, and food shortages. Food riots broke out in the United Kingdom and France with grain warehouses being looted. The violence was worst in landlocked Switzerland. There was huge storms and abnormal rainfall with flooding of the major rivers of Europe including the Rhine and frost was still setting in during August. A major typhus epidemic occurred in Ireland between 1816 and 1819 precipitated by the famine caused by 'The Year Without a Summer'.

Tambora was racking up world wide indirect and residual deaths such as an estimated 100,000 Irish in Ireland, twice the average fatality rates in Switzerland and a European fatality total of 200,000 deaths.

In the New England states of America crop failures was the norm and corn ripened so badly that less than a quarter of it was usable. These crop failures in New England, Canada and across Europe caused the price of wheat, grains, meat, vegetbles, butter, milk, and flour to rise shapely. Hungary experienced brown snow and Italy red snow falling throughout the year from the volcanic ash in the air.

The unusually low temperatures in summer in China devastated rice production in Yunnan province resulting in widespread famine. In many tropical regions of the Asian east snow was report in such as Hsinchu, Miaoli, of Taiwan and summer snow fall in the Jiangxi, and Anhui provinces. Frost was reported in Changhua.

The crop failures of the 'Year without a Summer' helped in the settling of the 'American Heartland' as many thousands of people, particularly farm families, left New England for western and central New York, and the Upper Midwest (then the Northwest Teritory) as they were searching for more hospitable climates, richer soil and better growing conditions.

According to historian L. D. Stillwell, Vermont alone experienced a drop of 10,000 to 15,000 people, erasing seven years of population growth. Among those families who left Vermont was the family of Joseph Smith, who moved from Sharon, Vermont to Palmyra, New York. This move 'precipitated' or 'facilitated' the series of events which culminated with the publication of the Book of Mormon and the founding of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

With every rain cloud, or I suppose volcano, there is a silver lining. What would have happened if Joseph Smith's family had not so removed to where the golden plates had been laid hidden?

So What Now?

What about Krakatoa and Tambora today? Well they are both again increasing in activity. Krakatoa is building herself a little child, 'Anak Krakatau'. And as late as September, 2011, Tambora had been placed on the second highest watch level as her ever increasing activity is again rolling in. Will these two sister volcanos play a roll in coming years events leading up to the Second Coming. Certainly they have both proven to be world wide contenders to play such contributing roles in those last days events.

What is in store for us in the course of human events? These things are but in the hands of the Lord and we but humans be.

One Suggested Ash Cloud Estamate of Tambora Per Populated Areas Reporting
Yellowstone is many times larger than Tambora, and the world is far more populated today.

ver. 4 Febuary 2016