On May 20, 1883, Krakatoa came violently to life. As a massive column of ash and smoke shot up from the centre of the island, a loud roar crashed through the air. However, the volcanic activity soon subsided. Another violent explosion shook the island on the afternoon of 26th August,1883. Large clouds of ash and smoke then rose into the air.
As night fell further explosions rang out over Krakatoa. A visiting Englishman wrote that the people who were on the island '. . . made the scene dismal with their cries and prayers.' Many climbed into boats and fled the island.
A SURVIVOR'S STORY
'The worst day of my life began so quietly. At midday, there was no indication of what was going to happen. Nobody thought that the mountain was dangerous.
'From our house, we could see the top of Krakatoa quite easily. It rose up above the forests and was a clear landmark.
When my father went out fishing he was always able to keep the summit of Krakatoa in sight, even when he went to the catching grounds furtherest away from the island.
'On Sunday afternoon, smoke started to pour out of the volcano. Some people were worried, but most ignored the smoke. It did not seem very dangerous. But as daylight of the next morning began to arrive, the earth shook several times. Father said we ought to leave and go to stay with his brother in Java. Mother and I quickly gathered up our belongings.
'We ran down to the beach and got into father's boat. As we set sail the ground shook again. Mother looked very frightened as we moved out to sea. There were many other boats sailing away from the island.
'We had been sailing for about two hours when it happened. The island of Krakatoa was on the horizon. Suddenly, the whole mountain burst apart. A huge column of smoke and fire leapt upwards. Where the island had been only moments earlier, there was now a huge burning ball of fire and smoke.
'I called to my father who turned to look at Krakatoa. Then the noise of the explosion hit us. It was so loud that I had to put my hands over my ears. After the explosion I couldn't hear anything even now I cannot hear properly. The people in the other boats were staring at the island.
'My father sat down in the boat and hugged my mother. I continued to stare at the smoke and fire of Krakatoa. As I watched, the ocean in front of me seemed to change. It was rising upwards. A huge wave, as big as a mountain, was rushing towards us. I felt our boat being lifted high upwards as the wave struck. When our boat reached the crest of the wave, looked down behind us and felt dizzy.
'I am not sure what happened next. Our boat was flipped over and I felt myself being dragged under water. I desperately held my breath. Then suddenly I reached the surface and could breathe again.
'I looked around me. The boat had gone. All the boats had disappeared, the terrific wave must have smashed them all to pieces. A large piece of wood was floating near me and I grabbed hold of it. I looked around and I saw my father swimming towards me. We kept afloat by holding onto the wood. We could see a few other people nearby, but there was no sign of my mother. After several hours a large ship came by and picked us up. Father and I were safe at last, and when we found mother on the same boat, we were so happy. Even though we had lost our home, at least we could be together.' (THE ERUPTION OF KRAKATOA. RUPERT MATTHEWS.)