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Krakatoa: The Day the World Exploded: August 27, 1883

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Krakatoa: The Day the World Exploded: August 27, 1883 Cover

 

 

Reading Group Guide

Discussion Questions

1. Discuss some of the many legends associated with the name Krakatoa (Carcata, Krakatau, Cacatoua). What does the name signify today?

2. Describe the cosmopolitan climate of the 17th century Dutch colony Batavia. How did that mood change in the 19th century, when Old Batavia was abandoned by Europeans who fled to Buitenzorg, the uptown suburb?

3. What important roles did Philip Sclater and Alfred Russel Wallace play in Darwin's theory of the origin of species and survival of the fittest? In the case of Wallace, did you feel that his role in history has been unduly neglected?

4. How did Alfred Wegener's theories about continental drift anticipate plate tectonic theory? How did the author's experiences in Greenland in 1965s further scientific understanding of these theories?

5. Discuss Krakatoa's eruptions prior to the catastrophic eruption in 1883. Did this historical background give you a more complete sense of Krakatoa as a living volcano? How do you think they compared in scope to the 1883 event?

6. Describe the beginnings of the 1883 eruption. What warnings did people in the region have that a major volcanic event was going to occur? How did the advent of transatlantic cables and telegraphs make this an international catastrophe?

7. Were you surprised by the duration of the 1883 Krakatoa event, from the earliest vibrations to the full eruption, some eight weeks later? What struck you about the many contemporary descriptions of this occurrence? How did some of the Javanese and Sumatrans make sense of this event?

8. Simon Winchester writes: "The death throes of Krakatoa lasted for exactly twenty hours and fifty-six minutes." What occurred during those hours? What part did the ocean play in the catastrophic destruction?

9. How did Krakatoa manage to transform the evening skies? How did the event alter the science of weather forecasting? The global climate?

10. How were tensions between Dutch colonists and the Muslim Javanese and Sumatran community exacerbated in the wake of the Krakatoa eruption?

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oceanlover, March 3, 2011 (view all comments by oceanlover)
You have to really appreciate the historical research that goes into creating a book like this. Digging out the facts that make both the story elements and the scientific elements work. Winchester's efforts show in a very readable book that also is very informative. A very enjoyable read.
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Shoshana, May 17, 2008 (view all comments by Shoshana)
I like Winchester, and I like volcanoes and other geological formations, but this did not quite cohere in a compelling way. It's hard to say why, since I enjoyed the history, first-person accounts, digressions into topics such as transcontinental communication, and discussion of subduction zones. However, I was never gripped by the narrative. Maybe this edition's very small print contributed to the problem, but I felt like I was slogging along. This is puzzling since Winchester's ostensibly less gripping topics, such as The Map That Changed the World, held my attention just fine. I'll try again in a while with A Crack in the Edge of the World, which is about The San Francisco earthquake of 1906.
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Product Details

ISBN:
9780060838591
Subtitle:
The Day the World Exploded: August 27, 1883
Author:
Winchester, Simon
Author:
by Simon Winchester
Author:
by Simon Winchester
Publisher:
Harper Perennial
Subject:
History
Subject:
Natural Disasters
Subject:
Earthquakes & Volcanoes
Subject:
Asia - Southeast Asia
Subject:
General History
Subject:
Krakatoa (Indonesia) Eruption, 1883.
Subject:
Volcanoes - Indonesia - History -
Subject:
World History-Southeast Asia
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Trade PB
Series:
P.S.
Publication Date:
July 2005
Binding:
Paperback
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Illustrations:
Y
Pages:
464
Dimensions:
8.10x5.30x1.16 in. .87 lbs.

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Related Subjects

History and Social Science » Asia » India » Ancient and General
History and Social Science » Asia » Indonesia Malaysia and Singapore
History and Social Science » World History » India
History and Social Science » World History » South Pacific
History and Social Science » World History » Southeast Asia
Reference » Science Reference » General
Science and Mathematics » Geology » Earthquakes and Volcanoes
Science and Mathematics » Geology » General
Science and Mathematics » Physics » Meteorology

Krakatoa: The Day the World Exploded: August 27, 1883 Used Trade Paper
0 stars - 0 reviews
$6.95 In Stock
Product details 464 pages Harper Perennial - English 9780060838591 Reviews:
"Staff Pick" by ,

Krakatoa is the eloquent narrative of the cataclysmic destruction in 1883 of the volcanic island of the same name. Killing nearly 40,000 people (mostly from the resultant tsunamis), this violent eruption was "the most violent explosion ever recorded and experienced by modern man." With his flair for conveying considerable detail in dramatic storyteller fashion, Winchester once again exhibits his great talent for recounting an episode in history that keeps readers fixed to the page.

"Review" by , "[T]his eloquent British writer submits a fascinating account....All readers, science-prone or not, will be delighted by this experience-expanding book."
"Review" by , "[E]rudite, fascinating....[Winchester's] investigations have produced a work that is relevant to scholars and intriguing to others, who will relish it footnotes and all."
"Review" by , "Krakatoa is volcanic."
"Review" by , "Building thriller-like suspense, Winchester gives voice to firsthand accounts....If you've ever sat through a dry geology lecture, Winchester's human-oriented volcanology will grip you."
"Review" by , "[T]hrilling, comprehensive, literate, meticulously researched and scientifically accurate; it is one of the best books ever written about the history and significance of a natural disaster."
"Review" by , "A vivid reconstruction....Supremely well told: a fine exception to the dull run of most geological writing."
"Synopsis" by , Now in paperback comes the New York Times bestseller on the catastrophic eruption of the volcano Krakatoa in 1883, and its lasting and world-changing effects. 57 line drawings. 18 halftones & maps.
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