Munch painted in volcano's sunsets
August 26, 1883
On the Indonesian island of Rakata, the volcano Krakatoa (real name, Krakatau) erupted with one of the biggest volcanic explosions ever in human history (some say Santorini’s eruption in 1628 BCE was three times as forceful. Krakatoa was heard over 7.5 per cent of the earth’s surface).
The sound of the eruption was heard as far as 3,540 km away, in Australia. By way of comparison, an equivalent phenomenon in Australia would be an explosion in Perth being heard in Sydney, or in the USA, a New York explosion being heard in San Francisco. Tidal waves caused by the great blast killed 36,000 people in Java and Sumatra.
‘Modern’ communications helped the world know about Krakatoa in a short time and helped changed the world view of the day. Whereas news of Abraham Lincoln’s 1865 assassination did not reach London for 12 days, Europeans and Americans knew about the explosion of Krakatoa in four hours. The difference: in the years between 1865 and 1883 there had been three great developments: the invention of Morse Code; the global spread of the telegraph, and the establishment of Reuter’s news agency. No longer could the world be seen as vast and unknowable.
The eruption is also the subject of a 1969 Hollywood film entitled Krakatoa, East of Java starring Maximilian Schell – which is notable chiefly for getting the volcano’s location embarrassingly wrong; Krakatoa is in fact west of Java.
It has been discovered that Edvard Munch painted The Scream when Norway was experiencing brilliant sunsets following the great explosion, no doubt influencing his depiction of the sky in the famous painting ...
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