“At the town of Batavia, a hundred miles distant, there was no quiet that night. The houses trembled with subterranean violence, and the windows rattled as if heavy artillery were being discharged in the streets. And still these efforts seemed to be only rehearsing for the supreme display. By ten o’clock on the morning of Monday, August 27, 1883, the rehearsals were over, and the performance began. An overture, consisting of two or three introductory explosions, was succeeded by a frightful convulsion which tore away a large part of the island of Krakatoa and scattered it to the winds of heaven. In that final outburst all records of previous explosions on this earth were completely broken.
“This supreme effort it was which produced the mightiest noise that, so far as we can ascertain, has ever been heard on this globe. It must have been indeed a loud noise which could travel from Krakatoa to Batavia and preserve its vehemence over so great a distance; but we should form a very inadequate conception of the energy of the eruption of Krakatoa if we thought that its sounds were heard by those merely a hundred miles off. This would be little indeed compared with what is recorded on testimony which it is impossible to doubt.
“Westward from Krakatoa stretches the wide expanse of the Indian Ocean. On the opposite side from the Straits of Sunda lies the island of Rodriguez, the distance from Krakatoa being almost three thousand miles. It has been proved by evidence which cannot be doubted that the thunders of the great volcano attracted the attention of an intelligent coast-guard on Rodriguez, who carefully noted the character of the sounds and the time of their occurrence. He had heard them just four hours after the actual explosion, for this is the time the sound occupied on its journey.
“This mighty incident at Krakatoa has taught us other lessons on the constitution of our atmosphere. We previously knew little, or I might say almost nothing, as to the conditions prevailing above the height of ten miles overhead. It was Krakatoa which first gave us a little information which was greatly wanted. How could we learn what winds were blowing at a height four times as great as the loftiest mountain on the earth, and twice as great as the loftiest altitude to which a balloon has ever soared? No doubt a straw will show which way the wind blows, but there are no straws up there. There was nothing to render the winds perceptible until Krakatoa came to our aid. Krakatoa drove into those winds prodigious quantities of dust. Hundreds of cubic miles of air were thus deprived of that invisibility which they had hitherto maintained.