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Krakatoa: The Day The World Exploded: August 27, 1883 Paperback – Mar 18 2004


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; Reprint edition (March 18 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 006093736X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060937362
  • Product Dimensions: 20.6 x 13.8 x 2.9 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 476 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (107 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,612,770 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

From Amazon

In Krakatoa, the author of The Map That Changed the World and The Professor and the Madman focuses his considerable research powers on one of the most cataclysmic events of modern history: the volcanic eruption, in 1883, of the Southeast Asian island of Krakatoa, which resulted in the deaths of 36,000 people and sent shock-waves around the world. But what at the time was a mysterious, almost supernatural phenomenon has become, under the precepts of the contemporary science of plate tectonics, explicable if no less tragic. Winchester veers between eyewitness accounts by survivors and the limited scientific measurements of the time in an attempt to describe the indescribable. The event "is still said to be the most violent explosion ever recorded and experienced by modern man," he writes. "Six cubic miles of rock had been blasted out of existence, had been turned into pumice and ash and uncountable billions of particles of dust." Yet words and numbers can barely hint at the scale of the calamity, which resulted in tsunamis that washed whole villages into the ocean and forever changed the very topography of the area. The author also explores the social and cultural topography, noting, "Orthodox Islam, its revival in part triggered by tragic events such as the great cataclysm, was totally transformed in Java during the nineteenth century, with fundamentalism, militancy, and profound hostility to non-Muslims its watchwords." At times Winchester seems to overstate his case, and the link he finds between Krakatoa and the rise of anti-Western sentiment in the Islamic world isn’t especially convincing. But, by weaving together the disaster with science, communications, politics, religion, and economics, he has come up with a comprehensive and often fascinating glimpse into the way the world, and our perception of it, can change in an instant. --Shawn Conner --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

An erudite, fascinating account by one of the foremost purveyors of contemporary nonfiction, this book chronicles the underlying causes, utter devastation and lasting effects of the cataclysmic 1883 eruption of the volcano island Krakatoa in what is now Indonesia. Winchester (The Professor and the Madman; The Map That Changed the World) once again demonstrates a keen knack for balancing rich and often rigorous historical detail with dramatic tension and storytelling. Rather than start with brimstone images of the fateful event itself, Winchester takes a broader approach, beginning with his own viewing of the now peaceful remains of the mountain for a second time in a span of 25 years-and being awed by how much it had grown in that time. This nod to the earth's ceaseless rejuvenation informs the entire project, and Winchester uses the first half of the text to carefully explain the discovery and methods of such geological theories as continental drift and plate tectonics. In this way, the vivid descriptions of Krakatoa's destruction that follow will resonate more completely with readers, who will come to appreciate the awesome powers that were churning beneath the surface before it gave way. And while Winchester graphically illustrates, through eyewitness reports and extant data, the human tragedy and captivating scientific aftershocks of the explosion, he is also clearly intrigued with how it was "a demonstration of the utterly confident way that the world, however badly it has been wounded, picks itself up, continues to unfold its magic and its marvels, and sets itself back on its endless trail of evolutionary progress yet again." His investigations have produced a work that is relevant to scholars and intriguing to others, who will relish it footnotes and all.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
"Though we think first of Java as an eponym for coffee (or, to some today, a computer language), it is in fact the trading of aromatic tropical spices on which the fortunes of the great island's colonizers and Western discoverers were first founded." Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

3.5 out of 5 stars

Most helpful customer reviews

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Eric Blanton on June 29 2004
Format: Paperback
Krakatoa by Simon Winchester is a very informative, enlightening, and researched work. Rather than just being a recounting of the day Krakatoa exploded (which the title seems to imply), the damage it caused, etc., the book does much more. It recounts the historical significance of Indonesia (and the Dutch rule there), the importance of the Sunda Strait (where Krakatoa is located), the underlying reasons for massive volcanic explosions (plate tectonics and continental drift), and the social and religious aftermath due to Krakatoa.

I enjoyed the treatment of each of these issues, but at times some of the information seemed to be a stretch in relation to the subject at hand. The first half of the book, the build-up to the massive explosion if you will, was slower and not as engaging as the second half which was absolutely a joy to read and learn. Winchester does a great job of convincing the reader that Krakatoa was truly the first major event that the world of global communication (due to the telegraph and transatlantic communication lines) came to know. Winchester also does a good job explaining why the Krakatoa legacy has endured. Interestingly, much of it has to do with the unique name itself.
Krakatoa is a very good read. From an intellectual standpoint, the book is great, everything that you want to know about Krakatoa you'll find here. From the standpoint of enjoyable reading, the first half and some of Winchester's digressions are difficult to get through, but the second half is a great read. I recommend this book to anyone with an interest in the subject, or just history itself, but beware if you're looking for a book solely focused on the explosion/destruction of Krakatoa on August 27, 1883.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 18 2004
Format: Paperback
I guess I'm like most people--I find forces of nature (volcanoes, earthquakes, tornadoes, etc.) fascinating. The review blurbs on the back cover refer to this book as "a page-turner," and "terrifying." Well...not really. I have no doubt Mr.Winchester knows his stuff. However, my experience with this book is like that of a number of people who have left reviews here--do you HAVE to go into this much set-up to talk about a volcano? Perhaps it's me. One of the best "disaster" books I ever read was John Hersey's "Hiroshima." It dealt with a few major characters, dropped you right in the middle of the situation, and you were exhausted and heartbroken for the characters when you finished--and it was less than 200 pages. Reading "Krakatoa" is like being told a story by a professor whose train of thought is easily derailed by the amount he knows. If you are interested in geology, I have no doubt you will find this book fascinating. If you are an average reader, like me, you will find this book slow at best, mind-bogglingly tedious at worst.
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By C. J. Thompson TOP 500 REVIEWER on Dec 17 2010
Format: Paperback
I can't say I have ever had more than a passing interest in the 1883 eruption of Krakatoa, but I generally enjoy Simon Winchester's writing and this book did not disappoint. Surprisingly, the relatively brief section of the book that actually deals with the eruption itself is the least interesting part of the entire story. What makes the book so good is the scientific detail, chiefly geological, that Winchester presents to the reader. He discusses plate tectonics, general geological principles, and the underlying geology of the region in a lucid, and entertaining manner and manages to make some fairly technical stuff very accessible to the layman. My only real criticism with the book is that the maps were disappointingly inadequate. At the beginning of the book there are three maps of the relevant area in various scales and there are a few others scattered through the text. In the main, however, I often found it difficult to orient myself between maps, or to locate places that are discussed. In addition, although Winchesters descriptions of subduction zones and the like were fairly easy to follow, many of the accompanying diagrams were not that well done and sometimes only served to confuse things. On the whole, though, I really enjoyed this book and regard it as one of Winchester's best.
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By James Gallen TOP 100 REVIEWER on Nov. 7 2008
Format: Paperback
In "Krakatoa" author Simon Winchester examines the great explosion of August 27, 1883 from all angles, including historical, scientific, social, political and religious. He starts by explaining the social structure in the Dutch East Indies at the time. He then goes on to explain the scientific explanations for what happened and why. A fascinating portion is the story of the scientific studies which recorded the effects of the blast including water waves thousands of miles away and the air wave which circled the globe seven times during the first fifteen days. As the book progresses he impact the blast had on the natives and Europeans living in the area. He eventually suggests that the rise in Muslim devotion in the Dutch East Indies may have been the result of a fundamentalist turn to Allah after the catastrophe. The book ends by chronicling the volcanic activity and the island at the site of Krakatoa in the years since the explosion.

Krakatoa was the first major natural catastrophe to occur after the network of underground cables united the world. This made it a "World Event" which has fascinated readers ever since. I had long heard of Krakatoa and appreciate the opportunity to gain a better understanding it and its implications. It raised an interest in other scientific histories and the history of the Dutch East Indies. A book than can do that merits a recommendation.
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