The red sunsets of 1883 were remarkable for their long persistence. They were observed in the autumn of 1884 with almost their original brilliancy, and they were still visible in 1885, being seen at intervals, as if the dust was then distributed in patches, and driven about by the winds. In fact, similar sunsets were occasionally visible for several years afterwards. These may well have been due to the same cause, when we consider with what extreme slowness very fine dust makes its way through the air, and how much it may be affected by the winds.
One writer describes the appearance of these sunsets in the following terms: “Immediately after sunset a patch of white light appeared ten or fifteen degrees above the horizon, and shone for ten minutes with a pearly lustre. Beneath it a layer of bright red rested on the horizon, melting upward into orange, and this passed into yellow light, which spread around the lucid spot. Next the white light grew of a rosy tint, and soon became an intense rose hue. A vivid golden oriole yellow strip divided it from the red fringe below and the rose red above.” This description, although exaggerated, represents the general conditions of the phenomenon.
On October 20th, 1884, the author observed the sunset effect as follows: “Immediately after the sun had set, a broad cone of silvery lustre rested upon a horizon of smoky pink. After fifteen minutes the white became rose color above and yellowish below, deepening to lemon color, and finally into reddish tint, while the rose faded out. The whole cone gradually sank and died away in the brownish red flush on the horizon, more than an hour after sunset.” The time of duration varied, since, on the succeeding evening, it lasted only a half-hour. These sunset effects, if we can justly attribute them all to the Krakatoa eruption, were extraordinary not alone for their intensity and beauty but for their extended duration, the influence of this remarkable volcanic outbreak being visible for several years after the event.
Though no doubt is entertained concerning the cause of the red sunset effects of 1783 and 1883, that of 1831 is not so readily explained, there having been no known volcanic explosion of great intensity in that year. But in view of the fact that volcanoes exist in unvisited parts of the earth, some of which may have been at work unknown to scientific man, this difficulty is not insuperable. Possibly Mounts Erebus or Terror, the burning mountains of the Antarctic zone, may, unseen by man, have prepared for civilized lands this grand spectacular effect of Nature’s doings.
Mount Pelee and its Harvest of Death.