These phenomena grew more and more alarming until August 27th, when four explosions of fearful intensity shook earth and sea and air, the third being “far the most violent and productive of the most widespread results.” It was, in fact, perhaps the most tremendous volcanic outburst, in its intensity, known in human history. It seemed to overcome the obstruction to the energy of the internal forces, for the eruption now declined, and in a day or two practically died away, though one or two comparatively insignificant outbursts took place later.
The eruption spread ruin and death over many surrounding leagues. At Krakotoa itself, when men once more reached its shores, everything was found to be changed. About two-thirds of the main island were blown completely away. The marginal cone was cut nearly in half vertically, the new cliff falling precipitously toward the centre of the crater. Where land had been before now sea existed, in some places more than one hundred feet deep. But the part of the island that remained had been somewhat increased in size by ejected materials.
Of the other islands and islets some had disappeared; some were partially destroyed; some were enlarged by fallen debris, while many changes had taken place in the depth of the neighboring sea-bed. Two new islands, Steers and Calmeyer, were formed. The ejected pumice, so cavernous in structure as to float upon the water, at places formed great floating islands which covered the sea for miles, and sometimes rose from four to seven feet above it, proving a serious obstacle to navigation. On vessels near by dust fell to the depth of eighteen inches. The enormous clouds of volcanic dust which had been flung high into the air darkened the sky for a great area around. At Batavia, about a hundred miles from the volcano, it produced an effect not unlike that of a London fog. This began about seven in the morning of August 27th. Soon after ten the light had become lurid and yellow, and lamps were required in the houses; then came a downfall of rain, mingled with dust, and by about half-past eleven the town was in complete darkness. It soon after began to lighten, and the rain to diminish, and about three o’clock it had ceased.
At Buitenzorg, twenty miles further away, the conditions were similar, but lasted for a shorter time. In places much farther away the upper sky presented a strangely murky aspect, and the sun assumed a green color. Phenomena of this kind were traced over a broad area of the globe, even as far as the Hawaiian Islands, while over a yet wider area the sky after sunset was lit up by after-glows of extraordinary beauty. The height to which the dust was projected has been calculated from various data, with the result that 121,500 feet, or nearly 25 miles, is thought to be a probable maximum estimate, though it may be that occasional fragments of larger size were shot up to a still greater height.