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September 29, 2014 3:45 PM   Subscribe

The Sound So Loud That It Circled the Earth Four Times. "It was 10:02 AM local time when the sound emerged from the island of Krakatoa, which sits between Java and Sumatra in Indonesia. It was heard 1,300 miles away in the Andaman and Nicobar islands ('extraordinary sounds were heard, as of guns firing'); 2,000 miles away in New Guinea and Western Australia ('a series of loud reports, resembling those of artillery in a north-westerly direction'); and even 3,000 miles away in the Indian Ocean island of Rodrigues, near Maldives ('coming from the eastward, like the distant roar of heavy guns.'1) In all, it was heard by people in over 50 different geographical locations, together spanning an area covering a thirteenth of the globe."
posted by homunculus (50 comments total) 31 users marked this as a favorite
 
I remember when I was in Grade 3 (so, about 35 years ago) we read some book about Krakatoa, and then we had to make a newspaper... or something about it. It's just a very odd memory. I think we had to make a Krakatoa-themed menu? There was also a balloon. Around the World in 80 Days? It's such an odd memory.
posted by Nevin at 4:07 PM on September 29, 2014 [3 favorites]


Very neat. I was trying to find out how loud the recent Russian meteorite event was, but instead found this list of loud noises, both in everyday life and history:

Top 10 Loudest Noises
posted by A Bad Catholic at 4:07 PM on September 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


And, of course, the movie "Krakatoa: East of Java". Krakatoa was actually located west of Java.
posted by TDavis at 4:11 PM on September 29, 2014 [2 favorites]


I thought it was going to be my mom calling me in for dinner. RTFA, Krakatoa... huh.
posted by pixlboi at 4:14 PM on September 29, 2014


I remember when I was in Grade 3 (so, about 35 years ago) we read some book about Krakatoa

Me too, it's called The Twenty-One Balloons! I remember it every time Krakatoa is mentioned, and at no other time.
posted by contraption at 4:15 PM on September 29, 2014 [24 favorites]


Krakatoa was actually located west of Java

Not any more.
posted by pjern at 4:16 PM on September 29, 2014 [2 favorites]


Me too, it's called The Twenty-One Balloons! I remember it every time Krakatoa is mentioned, and at no other time.

Ha, MetaFilter FTW.
posted by Nevin at 4:20 PM on September 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


pjern: It's back? I think the past tense of "is" is "was".
posted by TDavis at 4:23 PM on September 29, 2014


Interested? Try Simon Winchesters' Krakatoa - a cracking good read. In particular I was fascinated to learn where Constables' blazing orange sunsets came from.
posted by unliteral at 4:23 PM on September 29, 2014 [4 favorites]


Each family has been assigned one of the first twenty letters of the alphabet, and lives in its own whimsical and elaborate house that also serves as a restaurant. The Krakatoa society follows a calendar with twenty-day months. On "A" Day of each month, everyone eats in Mr. and Mrs. A's American restaurant; on "B" Day, in Mr. and Mrs. B's British chop house; on "C" Day, in Mr. and Mrs. C's Chinese restaurant; on "D" Day, in Mr. and Mrs. D's Dutch restaurant,

Wow, no wonder. I think I had to create a Dutch menu or something. Such whimsy!
posted by Nevin at 4:25 PM on September 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


Could that shock wave still be going around?
posted by shothotbot at 4:32 PM on September 29, 2014


I read the Simon Winchester book on Krakatoa recently, which covered (among much else) the ways in which Victorian science used telegraphs in the first real global effort to understand a major scientific event. Of course, he ultimately blames Krakatoa for spreading militant Islam, which is a bit of a stretch.

And a reminder, that if you haven't seen the video of the volcano exploding in New Guinea, you should - its incredible. Krakatoa, also an island volcano, probably looked similar in the many smaller explosions that happened before the main event.
posted by blahblahblah at 4:37 PM on September 29, 2014 [3 favorites]


Yeah, that video is amazing. You have to love an event so powerful that it creates its own clouds.

Unless you're too close to it, of course.
posted by brundlefly at 4:43 PM on September 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


help me with this list:

Krakatoa was "the loudest sound historically reported at 180 Decibels"
... but then they list blue whales at 188 decibels.

Next up: a 1-ton TNT bomb is 210 db; the vibrations alone could kill a man.
... and then they mention that a 5.0 richter earthquake is 235 db, and that the noise at the epicenter could also kill a person.

Either 1) I don't understand how decibels work, 2) this list is nonsense, or 3) blue whales are louder than krakatoa and there are a shitload of more death-by-loud-noise during earthquakes.

I'm open to any of the three.
posted by kanewai at 4:44 PM on September 29, 2014


oh my bad ... I opened all the links first and then read them; I thought the "listverse" was part of the original post.
posted by kanewai at 4:45 PM on September 29, 2014


The Krakatoa eruption was one of the first major natural disasters that could be reported on in something resembling near-real time. The Sunda Strait was a major shipping route and telegraph lines were in place to quickly disseminate information.

The Royal Society in Great Britain formed a committee to study the eruption and its aftermath. Their report "The Eruption of Krakatoa and Subsequent Phenomena," sometimes also called the Symons report was cutting-edge for its time and pushed the need to study natural disasters.

On the occasion of the eruption's centennial the Smithsonian published "Krakatau 1883: The Volcanic Eruption and its Effects," by Tom Simkin and Richard S. Fiske gathered together eyewitness accounts, rarely seen contemporary reports as well as a modern take on the science of the eruption and its effect. Winchester based a lot of his book on the two works above.

The different spellings come out of a last minute change in the Symons report. At the time of the eruption the volcano was more widely known as Krakatau, which is the Dutch corruption of Rakata. For some reason Symons or the Royal Society decided Krakatoa was more appropriate.
posted by plastic_animals at 4:47 PM on September 29, 2014 [2 favorites]


My body's burnin' like a lava from a Mauna Loa
My heart's crackin' like a Krakatoa
Krakatoa, east of Java, molten bodies, fiery lava

posted by jcruelty at 4:52 PM on September 29, 2014 [3 favorites]


The Krakatoa Sunsets
posted by homunculus at 4:54 PM on September 29, 2014 [2 favorites]


kanewai: Either 1) I don't understand how decibels work, 2) this list is nonsense, or 3) blue whales are louder than krakatoa and there are a shitload of more death-by-loud-noise during earthquakes.


I think they're describing this is in the spherical chickens way of "if you were right at the point where the two tectonic plates were scraping against each other". The epicenter theory supports this... i think.

Ditto for the blue whale, i think they were assuming if you were inches from its mouth.
posted by emptythought at 4:55 PM on September 29, 2014


Oh, and as I recall from reading Simkin and Fiske, the producers of "Krakatoa: East of Java" changed the name because they thought "East of Java" sounded more dramatic than "West of Java".
posted by plastic_animals at 4:57 PM on September 29, 2014


I'm going with 2) this list is nonsense. Most of the people that actually put those lists together don't appear to have a professional background in the topic, and draw on apocryphal data sources. In a lot of cases, a shock wave is actually present instead of an acoustical wave, and that muddles up things quite a bit.
posted by crapmatic at 4:57 PM on September 29, 2014 [2 favorites]


Technically, anything East of Java is also West of Java. And vice-versa, of course.
posted by b1tr0t at 5:11 PM on September 29, 2014 [4 favorites]


Isn't Krakatoa how they teach kids these days how to figure sine, cosine and tangent?
posted by JackFlash at 5:26 PM on September 29, 2014 [4 favorites]


On a long enough timeline, we are all east of Java.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 5:40 PM on September 29, 2014 [5 favorites]


We turn now to the soothing sounds of the only known recording of Mt St Helens' 1980 eruption
posted by hal9k at 5:53 PM on September 29, 2014 [3 favorites]


Wasn't this actually just a big fart? Is there data to prove that it wasn't?
posted by oceanjesse at 6:09 PM on September 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


I loved The Twenty-One Balloons! And I re-read it about ten years ago, and loved it again. Yay, no suck fairy!
posted by wenestvedt at 6:19 PM on September 29, 2014 [9 favorites]


Part of the list confusion is likely that it's honestly just hard to get accurate readings of these events, because no one is usually standing right there with an SPL meter, so you have to sort of construct what the likely dB SPL level was from other bits. Sound follows inverse square law, so it tends to dissipate from the source really quickly, making getting accurate measurements of these fleeting events pretty hard (and making the Krakatoa reverbs even way crazier).

With the whale business, the devil is in the details there. 188 dB, but that's re 1 uPa at 1m (because it's measured under water), whereas I'm assuming the SPL levels for the rest of the list are re 20 uPa.

Either way, meh lists but holy shit Krakatoa.

(Ahem: this if your friendly audiology person reminding you to please wear your hearing protection. You will regret it if you don't! It's football season, and those stadiums can get up to 140 dB. Be kind to your ears folks!)
posted by Lutoslawski at 6:39 PM on September 29, 2014 [10 favorites]


And people still dispute that pouring tons of stuff into the atmosphere might have an effect on climate.
posted by Mr. Yuck at 6:52 PM on September 29, 2014


Krakatoa: East of Leamington
posted by chimaera at 7:42 PM on September 29, 2014 [2 favorites]


While it's not likely to be as spectacular as Krakatoa, I wonder if anyone has been following the ongoing eruption in Iceland which I'd name except it's impossible without using a bunch of unicode characters I don't whatever.
posted by localroger at 7:48 PM on September 29, 2014


I would like a list of "disasters so unreasonably big that they were noticed an astonishing distance away" like Krakatoa, or when the New Madrid earthquake rang bells in Philadelphia, and other things where you're like, "What was that???" and later find out that was a natural disaster 1500 miles away.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:48 PM on September 29, 2014 [5 favorites]


I believe he means Bárðarbunga but English newspapers just render it "Bardarbunga" and this appears to be okay.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:50 PM on September 29, 2014


I would like a list of "disasters so unreasonably big that they were noticed an astonishing distance away"

i remember seeing the outer edge of hurricane/superstorm sandy in the east, here in kalamazoo michigan

that was pretty astonishing to me
posted by pyramid termite at 8:22 PM on September 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


Eyebrows McGee: I would like a list of "disasters so unreasonably big that they were noticed an astonishing distance away" like Krakatoa, or when the New Madrid earthquake rang bells in Philadelphia, and other things where you're like, "What was that???" and later find out that was a natural disaster 1500 miles away.

This sounds like a discovery channel show i'd watch at 2am. It would be like "Worlds greatest disasters" or something.

Which is to say, shit, i miss shows like that in the early 2000s. Complete with the gratuitous replays after a commercial break, corny foley work, etc.

I remember they had one like that which was just the biggest explosions in history. Good times.
posted by emptythought at 8:29 PM on September 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


I would like a list of "disasters so unreasonably big that they were noticed an astonishing distance away"

not astonishing or anything because I was only about 250 miles away from Vancouver, but Mt. St Helen's did wake me up that morning. I concluded it was a train shunting in a nearby rail yard, rolled over and went back to sleep. Such is history.
posted by philip-random at 8:46 PM on September 29, 2014 [3 favorites]


Thanks for the link homunculus, my bad. It couldn't have been Constable, he'd been dead for 46 years.
posted by unliteral at 8:59 PM on September 29, 2014


Mighty Mouse in Krakatoa: "Krakatoa Katie, she ain't no lady!"
posted by kirkaracha at 9:26 PM on September 29, 2014


It's got nothing on a Disaster Area concert.
posted by Ickster at 9:39 PM on September 29, 2014 [3 favorites]


Krakatoa: no matter which direction you chose, you will get there eventually.
posted by blue_beetle at 9:46 PM on September 29, 2014


In fact it is back: as Winchester's book discusses, it's rising out of the sea again as Anak Krakatau—child of Krakatoa. It's right there on Google Maps.
posted by texorama at 9:55 PM on September 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


Occupy Krakatoa
posted by orrnyereg at 1:27 AM on September 30, 2014 [1 favorite]


"In general, sounds are caused not by the end of the world but by fluctuations in air pressure."

What a great line.
posted by NoraReed at 3:44 AM on September 30, 2014 [2 favorites]


In *general*, sure. But you can never be certain.
posted by Chrysostom at 7:12 AM on September 30, 2014


Eyebrows McGee: I would like a list of "disasters so unreasonably big that they were noticed an astonishing distance away" like Krakatoa,

The Halifax Explosion in 1917 killed 1600 people instantly, leveled the north end of the city, and shattered windows ten miles away. Robert Borden, the Prime Minister of the time, heard it in Charlottetown PEI, where he was visiting at the time; Halifax and Charlottetown are as far apart as Los Angeles and San Diego.

The disaster was by any reckoning, unreasonably big. Every building within 2.6 km (one and a half miles, roughly) was destroyed and thousands left homeless. A half-ton chunk of anchor from the Mont Blanc, the ship at the centre of it, landed over two miles away.

Even nearly a century later, the marks are still on the city. I lived there a decade ago and was having trouble working out what was odd about the facades of the late eighteenth-century block where I worked (obviously, these buildings were far enough away to survive). It took me a while to realize that of course, every building in the city lost every window in 1917, so they were all replaced with what was then modern design. For students of architecture, it lends an odd anachronistic feeling to the city.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 7:53 AM on September 30, 2014 [3 favorites]


"In general, sounds are caused not by the end of the world but by fluctuations in air pressure."

which is not to say that fluctuations in air pressure could not be symptomatic of the end of the world.
posted by philip-random at 10:07 AM on September 30, 2014


If the sound circled the globe four times, did people hear it more than once?
posted by 4ster at 12:37 PM on September 30, 2014


Did someone say Loud?
posted by mikelieman at 4:49 PM on September 30, 2014


I just lost a solid hour to the Wikipedia list of Largest artificial non-nuclear explosions.

There is some serious WTF on that list, like the time the British decided to blow up an island with a bunch of surplus explosives.
posted by Kadin2048 at 12:21 PM on October 1, 2014


Who among us, if asked, "Would you like to obliterate an island with a shit-ton explosives?" would not say, "Yes. Yes I would."?
posted by Chrysostom at 12:44 PM on October 1, 2014 [2 favorites]


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