History Podcasts

Indonesian volcano erupts, killing 80,000

Indonesian volcano erupts, killing 80,000

Heavy eruptions of the Tambora volcano in Indonesia are letting up by April 17, 1815. The volcano, which began rumbling on April 5, killed almost 100,000 people directly and indirectly. The eruption was the largest ever recorded and its effects were noted throughout the world.

Tambora is located on Sumbawa Island, on the eastern end of the Indonesian archipelago. There had been no signs of volcanic activity there for thousands of years prior to the 1815 eruption. On April 10, the first of a series of eruptions that month sent ash 20 miles into the atmosphere, covering the island with ash to a height of 1.5 meters.

Five days later, Tambora erupted violently once again. This time, so much ash was expelled that the sun was not seen for several days. Flaming hot debris thrown into the surrounding ocean caused explosions of steam. The debris also caused a moderate-sized tsunami. In all, so much rock and ash was thrown out of Tambora that the height of the volcano was reduced from 14,000 to 9,000 feet.

The worst explosions were heard hundreds of miles away. The eruptions of Tambora also affected the climate worldwide. Enough ash had been thrown into the atmosphere that global temperatures were reduced over the next year; it also caused spectacularly colored sunsets throughout the world. The eruption was blamed for snow and frost in New England during June and July that summer.

Ten thousand people were killed by the eruptions, most on Sumbawa Island. In subsequent months, more than 80,000 people died in the surrounding area from starvation due to the resulting crop failures and disease.

Mount Tambora

Our editors will review what you’ve submitted and determine whether to revise the article.

Mount Tambora, also called Mount Tamboro, Indonesian Gunung Tambora, volcanic mountain on the northern coast of Sumbawa island, Indonesia, that in April 1815 exploded in the largest volcanic eruption in recorded history. It is now 2,851 metres (9,354 feet) high, having lost much of its top in the 1815 eruption. The volcano remains active smaller eruptions took place in 1880 and 1967, and episodes of increased seismic activity occurred in 2011, 2012, and 2013.

Tambora’s catastrophic eruption began on April 5, 1815, with small tremors and pyroclastic flows. A shattering blast blew the mountain apart on the evening of April 10. The blast, pyroclastic flows, and tsunamis that followed killed at least 10,000 islanders and destroyed the homes of 35,000 more. Before its eruption Mount Tambora was about 4,300 metres (14,000 feet) high. After the eruption ended, a caldera spanning some 6 km (3.7 miles) across remained.

Many volcanologists regard the Mount Tambora eruption as the largest and most-destructive volcanic event in recorded history, expelling as much as 150 cubic km (roughly 36 cubic miles) of ash, pumice and other rock, and aerosols—including an estimated 60 megatons of sulfur—into the atmosphere. As that material mixed with atmospheric gases, it prevented substantial amounts of sunlight from reaching Earth’s surface, eventually reducing the average global temperature by as much as 3 °C (5.4 °F). The immediate effects were most profound on Sumbawa and surrounding islands. Some 80,000 people perished from disease and famine, since crops could not grow. In 1816, parts of the world as far away as western Europe and eastern North America experienced sporadic periods of heavy snow and killing frost through June, July, and August. Such cold weather events led to crop failures and starvation in those regions, and the year 1816 was called the “year without a summer.”

The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica This article was most recently revised and updated by Patricia Bauer, Assistant Editor.

What caused the Tambora volcano eruption 1815?

The lighter volcanic material, including ash and dust, prevented light from reaching the Earth in a large area around Tambora. Falling ash then blanketed the ground, killing off all vegetation and causing up to 80,000 human deaths from famine and disease in surrounding islands.

Subsequently, question is, has Mount Tambora erupted since 1815? The 1815 eruption of Mount Tambora was the most powerful in human recorded history, with a Volcanic Explosivity Index (VEI) of 7. Although its eruption reached a violent climax on 10 April 1815, increased steaming and small phreatic eruptions occurred during the next six months to three years.

Secondly, when did the Tambora volcano erupt?

How many deaths did Mount Tambora cause?

In 1815, Mount Tambora erupted on Sumbawa, an island of modern-day Indonesia. Historians regard it as the volcano eruption with the deadliest known direct impact: roughly 100,000 people died in the immediate aftermath.

Indonesia’s Killing Fields

The story of Indonesia’s anti-Communist coup, the rise to power of a pro-western regime and its murderous aftermath.

‘A quarrel in a faraway country between people of whom we know nothing.’ The notorious words of Neville Chamberlain come to mind when reading Geoffrey Robinson’s compelling new account of the violence that engulfed Indonesia more than 50 years ago. Despite the international success of recent documentary films, the massacres of 1965-66 remain stubbornly on the margins of global history.

In The Killing Season Robinson shows conclusively that the governments of the United States and the United Kingdom encouraged, aided and abetted the Indonesian army’s murderous onslaught on the Indonesian Communist Party, the PKI – and engineered the fall of Indonesia’s first president, Sukarno, and the rise of a pro-western regime under General Suharto, which held dictatorial power until 1998.

Robinson makes telling use of newly released documents, which prove that the British and Americans settled on a joint policy of covertly helping the Indonesian Army crush the PKI. ‘The Indonesian business is developing in a way that looks encouraging’, reported US Under Secretary of State George Ball. ‘For the first time the army is disobeying Sukarno. If that continues and the PKI is cleaned up … we will have a new day in Indonesia.’

Robinson clears away the dense undergrowth of speculation that has blighted accounts of the massacres. Although he does not completely resolve the baffling ‘coup’ and the murder of army generals by the mysterious ‘G30S’ movement that provoked the campaign of mass killing, he makes it abundantly clear that it was Suharto and his army colleagues who exploited the crisis with lightning speed and, crucially, placed the blame on the collective shoulders of the PKI. Robinson dispenses with the hoary Orientalist myth that Indonesians are prone to ‘run amok’ and convicts the Indonesian army as the main agent of the massacres.

Most convincingly, Robinson shows that the pattern of violence was uneven across the archipelago but most intense where the army had support. On the island of Bali the onslaught was delayed for two months because the regional army commander, Brigadier General Sjafiuddin, was a supporter of Sukarno and close to Governor Suteja, who was a leftist. As soon as Suharto had neutralised the opposition on Bali, a violent killing spree erupted. Some 80,000 Balinese were murdered in three months. It was in these epicentres of violence, such as in Bali and Central Java, that army units inspired and organised local vigilantes and youth groups to carry out the killing – often using the most primitive means. The victims were killed with knives, sickles, swords, bamboo spears and iron rods and ended their lives miserably in isolated killing fields, such as plantations, beaches and riverbanks.

Robinson emphasises that a number of western officials were well informed about the mass killings and viewed what was happening as an important opportunity to crush the Communist menace in Indonesia. The British ambassador Andrew Gilchrist welcomed Suharto’s move against Sukarno, quoting a colleague who had praised the general for possessing ‘the courage of Patton and the intelligence of Montgomery’.One of the few diplomats to protest was the Swedish ambassador, Harald Edelstam, who travelled to some of the bloodiest of the Indonesian killing fields to personally find out what was happening. He was disgusted by what he saw.

Robinson scrupulously uses the term ‘massacres’ to characterise the tidal wave of violence that engulfed Indonesia which does not fit conveniently into definitions of genocide. The mass killings were not focused on the destruction of an ethnicity, race or religion, but on the extinction of alleged members of a political party. In his final chapter, Robinson raises the important question of whether the accepted definition of genocide needs to be refined and broadened. He argues that, even if the targets of mass violence are defined by their ethnicity or religion, the intention of the perpetrators always has a political dimension. Robinson’s masterly account of the terrible slaughters that took place in Indonesia offers important reflections on the nature of mass violence.

The Killing Season: A History of the Indonesian Massacres, 1965-66
Geoffrey B. Robinson
Princeton University Press 456pp £27

One of the World’s Worst Volcano

Indonesia has the most volcanoes in the world, it contains 17% of the world’s active volcanos and on the 27th of August 1883 the 2nd biggest explosion in the world happened when Krakatoa erupted, it killed 40,000 people on the island of Java. The explosion was as powerful as 1000 atomic bombs and it destroyed two-thirds of Krakatoa island. It covered a 12th of the world’s surface and was higher than Mount Everest and Mauna Kea in Hawaii. It was twice the height of the 2004 tsunami. It is one of the loudest sounds ever heard and travelled all the way so near to Kenya to Rodriguez Island, the volcano made an eruption making ten storey high waves and a molten lava river.

This is how a volcano happens, two tectonic plates push together and make a mountain with a hole in the middle and the hole is filled with magma and the magma pushes forward to the earth surface and erupts and becomes lava.

The largest tsunami in the world was by a landslide in Grand Canary when half of La Cumbre Vieja mountain side plunged into the sea. The world has about one hundred and forty volcanoes spread out into the Pacific Ocean. Tambora was a big eruption but it was not as big and only killed more people because it was in a more populated environment and starved many people to death.

Do you think the 27th is an unlucky date, this is the same date when the biggest air disaster happened in 1977?

December 2018 edit: Krakatoa has recently erupted causing a tsunami and ultimately killing an estimated 222 people, an Indonesian pop group are among the victims.

If you are wondering what is the worlds worst volcano in terms of death toll it is Mount Tambora, it killed over 80,000 people in 1800s. Of course, it is fate that mount Tambora is in Indonesia.

Mauna Loa is the world’s largest shield volcano, a gently sloping mountain produced from a large number of generally very fluid lava flows. Yes, Mauna Loa is among Earth’s most active volcanoes. It has erupted 33 times since 1843.

Extinct volcanoes – those that haven’t erupted in the last 10,000 years – just don’t have any magma left to erupt again. If all active volcanoes on Earth went off at the same time, there would be a lot of explosions. Explosive eruptions would churn out wall of rocks, ash and gas, wiping out the nearby areas.

How Human Beings Almost Vanished From Earth In 70,000 B.C.

Add all of us up, all 7 billion human beings on earth, and clumped together we weigh roughly 750 billion pounds. That, says Harvard biologist E.O. Wilson, is more than 100 times the biomass of any large animal that's ever walked the Earth. And we're still multiplying. Most demographers say we will hit 9 billion before we peak, and what happens then?

Well, we've waxed. So we can wane. Let's just hope we wane gently. Because once in our history, the world-wide population of human beings skidded so sharply we were down to roughly a thousand reproductive adults. One study says we hit as low as 40.

Forty? Come on, that can't be right. Well, the technical term is 40 "breeding pairs" (children not included). More likely there was a drastic dip and then 5,000 to 10,000 bedraggled Homo sapiens struggled together in pitiful little clumps hunting and gathering for thousands of years until, in the late Stone Age, we humans began to recover. But for a time there, says science writer Sam Kean, "We damn near went extinct."

I'd never heard of this almost-blinking-out. That's because I'd never heard of Toba, the "supervolcano." It's not a myth. While details may vary, Toba happened.

Toba, The Supervolcano

Once upon a time, says Sam, around 70,000 B.C., a volcano called Toba, on Sumatra, in Indonesia went off, blowing roughly 650 miles of vaporized rock into the air. It is the largest volcanic eruption we know of, dwarfing everything else.

That eruption dropped roughly six centimeters of ash — the layer can still be seen on land — over all of South Asia, the Indian Ocean, the Arabian and South China Sea. According to the Volcanic Explosivity Index, the Toba eruption scored an "8", which translates to "mega-colossal" — that's two orders of magnitude greater than the largest volcanic eruption in historic times at Mount Tambora in Indonesia, which caused the 1816 "Year Without a Summer" in the northern hemisphere.

With so much ash, dust and vapor in the air, Sam Kean says it's a safe guess that Toba "dimmed the sun for six years, disrupted seasonal rains, choked off streams and scattered whole cubic miles of hot ash (imagine wading through a giant ashtray) across acres and acres of plants." Berries, fruits, trees, African game became scarce early humans, living in East Africa just across the Indian Ocean from Mount Toba, probably starved, or at least, he says, "It's not hard to imagine the population plummeting."

Then — and this is more a conjectural, based on arguable evidence — an already cool Earth got colder. The world was having an ice age 70,000 years ago, and all that dust hanging in the atmosphere may have bounced warming sunshine back into space. Sam Kean writes "There's in fact evidence that the average temperature dropped 20-plus degrees in some spots," after which the great grassy plains of Africa may have shrunk way back, keeping the small bands of humans small and hungry for hundreds, if not thousands of more years.

It didn't happen right away. It took almost 200,000 years to reach our first billion (that was in 1804), but now we're on a fantastic growth spurt, to 3 billion by 1960, another billion almost every 13 years since then, till by October, 2011, we zipped past the 7 billion marker, says writer David Quammen, "like it was a "Welcome to Kansas" sign on the highway."

In his new book Spillover, Quamman writes:

We're unique in the history of mammals. We're unique in this history of vertebrates. The fossil record shows that no other species of large-bodied beast — above the size of an ant, say or an Antarctic krill — has ever achieved anything like such abundance as the abundance of humans on Earth right now.

But our looming weight makes us vulnerable, vulnerable to viruses that were once isolated deep in forests and mountains, but are now bumping into humans, vulnerable to climate change, vulnerable to armies fighting over scarce resources. The lesson of Toba the Supervolcano is that there is nothing inevitable about our domination of the world. With a little bad luck, we can go too.

Radiolab regular Sam Kean's new book on genetics, The Violinist's Thumb, tells the story of Toba, the supervolcano, to explore how human genes record a "bottleneck" or a drastic narrowing of genetic diversity 70,000 years ago. David Quammen's new book Spillover is about people pushing into forests, swamps and places where viruses have been hiding. Those viruses are now beginning to cross over into horses, pigs, bats, birds and, inevitably, they threaten to "spillover" into us. For a virus, or bacteria, 7 billion potential hosts look like a fantastic opportunity.

The Toba Caldera

View all photos

It is tough to get a grasp on the Toba event without something to compare it to.

In 1980 Mount St. Helens in Washington state erupted, spewing an 80,000-foot-tall plume of smoke, killing 57 people and destroying 200 homes, 27 bridges, 15 miles of railways and 185 miles of highway. It was the most deadly and economically destructive volcanic eruption in the history of the United States.

For comparison, the largest volcanic eruption in recorded modern historic times was the 1815 Mount Tambora eruption on the Indonesian island of Sumbawa. It was eighty times more powerful then Mount St. Helen’s, spewed some 100 cubic kilometers of rock, and made the entire northern hemisphere dark and cold for all of 1816, making it the “Year Without a Summer,” as it became known. But compared to the event that took place in northern Sumatra, Indonesia some 73,000 years ago, those were next to nothing.

Known as the Toba Event, it ejected nearly 2,800 cubic kilometers, or twenty-eight times as the Tombora eruption, and was more than two thousand times as powerful as Mount St. Helens. It has been called the Yellowstone super volcano’s “bigger” sister, and when this Level 8 mega-colossal volcano–the highest rating on the Volcanic Explosivity Index–erupted it was the largest volcanic eruption in the last 25 million years.

It may have nearly annihilated the human species.

As the volcano erupted it deposited 6 meters of ash on parts of Malaysia and a 15 centimetre-thick ash layer over the entire Indian subcontinent acid rain fell for years. The temperature of the planet fell abruptly 3–5°C and according to some (based on ice cores from Greenland) it jumpstarted a global ice age.

It just so happens that this massive environmental catastrophe coincides with evidence for a massive human population decline resulting in a genetic bottleneck. According to the Toba catastrophe theory, the resulting 6- to 10-year volcanic winter destroyed most of the vegetation in the area where humans would have been living and may have reduced the population to as few a 1000 breeding pairs.

There is some good evidence for this genetic bottleneck, and many geneticists feel that evidence suggests that all living humans, despite apparent variety, descend from a very small population, perhaps between 1,000 to 10,000 breeding pairs dating to about 70,000 years ago. It is also known that Eastern African chimpanzee, Bornean orangutan, central Indian macaque, and tigers all recovered from population bottelnecks dating to around the same time. All of which would seem to fit neatly with the Toba super volcano event and the Toba catastrophe theory.

But as it always is in science nothing is neat or easy, and contradictory evidence is just as strong. Among the contradictory evidence are similar tools found in India below and above the ash layer suggesting a life relatively unchanged, and the fact that non-human hominids such as Homo Erectus Soloensis, Homo Floresiensis, Homo Neanderthalensis all of whom should have been just as adversely affected by the volcano, seem to have survived though the catastrophe without the same evidence of genetic bottlenecking.

Regardless, whether it nearly wiped out humanity or not, for all the humans that were alive 75,000 years ago. the Toba eruption must have certainly seemed like the end of the world.

Today the caldera left by the massive volcanic cataclysm is occupied by Lake Toba. At 62 miles long, 18 miles wide, and 1,666 ft its deepest point, it is the largest volcanic lake and largest volcanic structure in the world. The island in the middle was formed by the pressure of magma below pushing up on the land. Eventually, the Toba super volcano will erupt once again.

Know Before You Go

The closest major Indonesian city is Medan, and organized bus tours out of Medan to the area are plentiful you can also hire a car. The place to visit/stay is Prapat, on the eastern shore. You can take a quick ferry across to Samosir Island, where there are numerous small hostels and restaurants. To the north on the island are ancient Toba Batak villages, including at least one with a cannibal history. You can also reach Samosir by a thin land bridge to the west this is a remote route and is not well supported by local infrastructure.

Kesongo mud volcano erupts in Indonesia, poisoning 4 people, killing dozens of buffaloes and prompting panic among locals

Villagers reported mud rising dozens of feet into the air, strong sulfur smell and an powerful loud boom.

Kesongo mud volcano erupts with poison gas in Indonesia. Picture via Youtube video

According to officials and local residents, mudflow eruptions occurred several times over a period of about 10 minutes and the tremors were felt over 1 km around.

The eruption has been described as powerful with the largest bursts accompanied with the loudest boom ever. Mud was were ejected up to a dozen meters in the air and the eruption lasted more than 10 minutes.

Four herders were taken to the hospital after inhaling the gas ejected by the strong explosion.

Four residents, Marno, Sukimin, Kadis and Warino were suspected of being poisoned by gas and were rushed to the nearest hospital,” said an official.

Terjadi semburan mirip lumpur di Kesongo, di Desa Gabusan, kecamatan Kunduran, Kabupaten Blora.

Saat ini belum diketahui terkait kejadian tersebut

Meanwhile, 19 buffaloes are missing. Were they trapped and then buried under the mud flow? Or were they killed by the gases? Some luckier animals were freed by villagers after being stuck in the mud.

Only one tail was found in good condition,” said a local resident.

The last strong eruption with gas and lots of mud of Kesongo mud volcano occurred in 2013.

A Monstrous Volcanic Eruption Gave Life To Frankenstein's Monster

On this day in 1818, the novel "Frankenstein or, The Modern Prometheus", by 21-year-old author Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, was published. Frankenstein is often considered the world’s first science fiction novel, as it mixes elements of Victorian ghost stories with elements of modern technology, chemistry and biology. According to Shelley she crated the story behind a scientist creating a living creature from a dead body's parts during a weekend with friends in Geneva, in 1816. She describes the weather at the time as a "wet, ungenial summer, continuous rainfall kept us inside the house." Bored, the friends worked on creepy stories, reflecting the gloomy atmosphere surrounding them, but only Shelley completed hers.

The year 1816 is today famous as the year without a summer. All over Europe cool temperatures, rainfall and even snow destroyed the crops on the fields. Especially in mountainous area, like Switzerland, the weather was to cool and wet and widespread starvation followed. Contemporary sources describe how farmers eat grass and cook the flesh of mice to survive. The winter 1816-17 was hard and long. The snow was sometimes strangely colored, in Hungary brown and in Italy reddish or yellow. In summer 1817 due the previous crop failures, there were not enough seeds for the fields. Another year of hunger came and went by. Only in 1818 the weather stabilized and harvests were sufficient to meet the demand.

The cool weather bringing havoc to Europe and giving birth to Frankenstein was caused by one of the largest volcanic eruption in recent history. In 1812 a mountain on the island of Sumbawa, Indonesia, awoke from a 5,000 years long slumber. For months clouds of vapor were noted above the trembling Tambora, then, April 5, 1815, it exploded.

"Volcano and fishing proas near Passoeroean, on the Java coast, Indonesia" by Thomas Baines . [+] (1820-1875). Image in public domain.

Famous Victorian geologist Charles Lyell describes the eruption in great detail in his “Principles of Geology”, published in 1850:

“Island of Sumbawa, 1815. – In April, 1815, one of the most frightful eruptions recorded in history occurred in the province of Tomboro, in the island of Sumbawa, about 200 miles from the eastern extremity of Java.

The sound of the explosions was heard in Sumatra, at the distance of 970 geographical miles in a direct line and at Ternate, in an opposite direction, at the distance of 720 miles.

Out of a population of 12,000, in the province of Tomboro, only twenty-six individuals survived. Violent whirlwinds carried up men, horses, cattle, and whatever else came within their influence, into the air tore up the largest trees by the roots, and covered the whole sea with floating timber. Great tracts of land were covered by lava, several streams of which, issuing from the crater of the Tomboro mountain, reached the sea. [] On the side of Java the ashes were carried to the distance of 300 miles, and 217 towards Celebes, in sufficient quantity to darken the air.”

The Tambora erupted with a Volcanic Explosivity Index (VEI) of 7, 100 times more powerful as Mount St. Helens in 1980 and four times as powerful as the famous eruption of Krakatoa. During the four months long eruption the volcano send two million tons of rocks, volcanic ash and sulfur compounds into the higher layers of the atmosphere. There the dispersed particles adsorbed and reduced the solar radiation on earth's surface and influenced worldwide weather patterns for years to come. According to estimates, in Indonesia 80,000 people were killed by direct of indirect effects of the eruption, like the volcanic ash suffocating the crops on the fields and poisoning the water. In Europe 100,000 to 200,000 people might have died as the result of the tumultuous weather following the eruption of Tambora. It seems fitting that this monstrous eruption inspired the myth of an uncontrollable monster.