[the Day the World Exploded, August 27, 1883]

Downloadable Audiobook - 2004
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Simon Winchester, New York Times bestselling author of The Professor and the Madman, examines the legendary annihilation in 1883 of the volcano-island of Krakatoa, which was followed by an immense tsunami that killed nearly forty thousand people. The effects of the immense waves were felt as far away as France. Barometers in Bogot ̀and Washington, D.C., went haywire. Bodies were washed up in Zanzibar. The sound of the island's destruction was heard in Australia and India and on islands thousands of miles away. Most significant of all -- in view of today's new political climate -- the eruption helped to trigger in Java a wave of murderous anti-Western militancy among fundamentalist Muslims, one of the first outbreaks of Islamic-inspired killings anywhere. Krakatoa gives us an entirely new perspective on this fascinating and iconic event.
Published: [United States] : Harper Collins Publishers : Made available through hoopla, 2004.
Edition: Unabridged.
ISBN: 9780060744045
Characteristics: 1 online resource (1 audio file (12hr., 01 min.)) :,digital.
Additional Contributors: Winchester, Simon


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Jan 31, 2017

The first forty percent or so of the book is very interesting and well written, covering many aspects of history of the area and the peoples involved in it (including how the involved), and the history of geography as well. The next thirty percent is given over to a highly detailed description of the eruption, and I found this part got a little tedious. The last thirty percent of the book traces all of the consequences of the eruption: scientific, artistic, political, and geological.
It was read very well by the author himself.

Aug 17, 2015

I also agree with the other comments/reviews. SW goes into amazing depths of research for his writings & often gets a bit off track, reminding me a bit of AT HOME by Bryson. However, I for one appreciate the side roads traveled, sprinkled with many related items, whatever seems to jog his brain. The historical details of centuries past conflicts between 'Western' nations & Mohammedan nations is enlightening to say the least. Too bad the present day fails to present this very well for the Western mind.

mylisi123 Jul 06, 2014

Very well written. I found the history and details of the story riveting. It also gives insight on the beginnings of bad relations between Muslims and Christians or so called western powers.The author does an excellent job reading it.

Feb 08, 2012

Very interesting and enjoyable. Winchester explains much more than the story of Krakatoa; he also goes into the history, geology, political and social effects of the eruption, putting it all very cleverly into context.
The audio book is read by the author, and he makes a very good job of it.

Aug 23, 2011

Well written review of plate tectonics and volcanoes. The author, Simon Winchester, reads like a pro. Recommended.

Apr 18, 2011

Some time around 8:30 on the morning of May 18, 1980, I was reading in bed, it being the Sunday morning of the Victoria Day long weekend. Victoria Day is a big deal in Victoria, for obvious reasons, but most of the big events take place on the Monday, so I was mildly surprised to hear what I thought was the twenty-one gun salute down at the Inner Harbour. It sounded like a steady series of explosions: Boom...boom...boom.... I didn't count them, but remembered thinking it was an odd time to be having them; such a ceremony usually took place on the hour, a bit later in the morning. It was only when the news came through from Seattle that I realized that what I'd been hearing was the catastrophic eruption of Mount Saint Helen --- two hundred miles away. Some of my Esquimalt neighbours reported the same thing; others didn't hear a thing, but noticed their windows rattling.

On August 27th, 1883, where the western tip of Java nearly meets the southern tip of Sumatra, the volcano Krakatoa finally blew itself apart, and people as far as 3000 miles away heard what they thought were cannons. Since Morse code and undersea cables were a recent innovation, the news spread quickly. At least 32,000 people had died in the monstrous tsunamis and other horrors generated by this natural disaster, the first catastrophe to be so quickly and widely reported, as well as so deeply studied.

Those coming to Krakatoa: The Day the World Exploded and expecting a grisly account of the disaster itself may be disappointed. Simon Winchester begins with the leisurely and detailed objective of placing the event in every context imaginable: historic, economic, geologic, sociological, political, meteorologic.... It's a long journey indeed before he gets down to a meticulous retelling of the events leading up to and those resulting from the series of terrifying blasts in the Sunda Strait.

While it's true the story is especially gripping at that point, I found the roundabout journey compelling as well. This may be because I was listening to the audio version of the book, read clearly and pleasantly by Winchester himself. I enjoyed his dry humour and his multifaceted approach.

I have a bone to pick with him, however. In passing, he mentions the 1980 eruption of Mount Saint Helen, comparing it with the unbelievable cacophony of Krakatoa a century earlier and stating that in Mount St Helen's case, the blast was not heard beyond the immediate surrounding mountain range. Evidently, Mr Winchester did not speak to anyone in Victoria, British Columbia....

For those hungry for the angst and agony of Krakatoa's death throes, you might seek out the 2006 BBC docu-drama on the subject Krakatoa: The Last Days, starring Olivia Williams and Rupert Penry-Jones, which I believe features interviews with Simon Winchester himself. I haven't seen this film, which is unavailable in Canada, but some lengthy excerpts are available at YouTube.


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