“On Monday night the volcano of Papandayang was in an active state of paroxysmal eruption, accompanied by detonations which are said to have been heard for many miles away. In Sumatra three distinct columns of flame were seen to rise from a mountain to a vast height, and its whole surface was soon covered with fiery lava streams, which spread to great distances on all sides. Stones fell for miles around, and black fragmentary matter carried into the air caused total darkness. A whirlwind accompanied the eruption, by which house-roofs, trees, men, and horses were swept into the air. The quantity of matter ejected was such as to cover the ground and the roofs of the houses at Denamo to the depth of several inches. Suddenly the scene changed. At first it was reported that Papandayang had been split into seven distinct peaks. This proved untrue; but in the open seams formed could be seen great balls of molten matter. From the fissures poured forth clouds of steam and black lava, which, flowing in steady streams, ran slowly down the mountain sides, forming beds 200 or 300 feet in extent. At the entrance to Batavia was a large group of houses extending along the shore, and occupied by Chinamen. This portion of the city was entirely destroyed, and not many of the Chinese who lived on the swampy plains managed to save their lives. They stuck to their homes till the waves came and washed them away, fearing torrents of flame and lava more than torrents of water.
“Of the 3,500 Europeans and Americans in Batavia—which for several hours was in darkness, owing to the fall of ashes—800 perished at Anjer. The European and American quarter was first overwhelmed by rocks, mud and lava from the crater, and then the waters came up and swallowed the ruins, leaving nothing to mark the site, and causing the loss of about 200 lives of the inhabitants and those who sought refuge there.”
The loss of life above mentioned was but a small fraction of the total loss. All along the coasts of the adjoining large islands towns and villages were swept away and their inhabitants drowned, till the total loss was, as nearly as could be estimated, 36,000 souls. Krakatoa thus surpassed Mont Pelee in its tale of destruction. These two, indeed, have been the most destructive to life of known volcanic explosions, since the volcano usually falls far short of the earthquake in its murderous results.
The distant effects of this explosion were as remarkable as the near ones. The concussion of the air reached to an unprecedented distance and the clouds of floating dust encircled the earth, producing striking phenomena of which an account is given at the end of this chapter.