Last Days of Krakatoa

Johanna Beyerinck - 26-year-old wife of the Dutch government's Controller in the district of Katimbang (in southern Sumatra) - didn't want to go to the market that day.  She had a sense of foreboding that something was wrong.  A nearby volcano, called Krakatoa (Krakatau) - located in the Sunda Strait - had been active for some months (scroll to page xviii).  Was something really terrible about to occur?

We know what happened to Johanna, and her family, because she wrote an account of her family's ordeal.  Let's begin with her description of events on August 26, 1883 - after the Beyerincks returned home from the market.  

She had been right - something really bad was about to happen.  Although Krakatoa was about 25 miles away from the Beyerinck's home, the effects of the volcano's eruption would be far-reaching. 

I went to the front balcony. The pumice had been falling for hours but in pieces no bigger than peas. Then I saw someone coming up the garden with a lantern.
It was Jeroemoeidi [one of her servants] who said to me in a very worried manner, "The Antoe Laoet [the Sea Ghost] is close by. The sea has gone. Far, far away I hear the waves."
"How can it have gone? Perhaps it is at low ebb," I said.
"Come and see. It should now be high tide. It is a worrying sight, for all the coral reefs along the coast, which at the lowest ebb lie a fathom below the surface and which I can sail over in my sloop, are now dried out."
A whole lot of natives now came up to the house and corroborated Jeroemoeidi's story.
My eldest boy [Pieter Johannes Gerardus, age 3] was playing with the ayah (babu) on the sofa. My eldest girl [Wilhelmina, age 5] was standing in the bedroom. I was lying on the bed and the maid was standing near me. I was feeding my youngest son [Willem, 14 months].

Then I heard, above the noise of the pumice falling on the roof, above the thunder from the mountain, a frightful roaring, which approached at lightning speed. My hair stood on end. I leapt up clutching my youngest child and shouted, "Come here, come here, everyone together!"
The wave reached the house but it didn't go further than the back yard. It destroyed the office and surrounding outhouses, and my husband [Willem Beijerinck, age 35] and Mr. Tojaka [his clerk] were only just able to escape with their lives by climbing up a cocoa-nut tree after they fled from the office.
As soon as the wave receded, my husband dashed to the house, but he could not get upstairs as they had been washed away. He shouted, "Wife, wife, come downstairs quickly - just jump and I'll catch you!" And to the servant he called, "Turn the horses and animals loose."

The horrendous ordeal for everyone - living, working and sailing in the area of Krakatoa - was just beginning.

Clip from the BBC production Krakatoa:  The Last Days.  The scene recreates a devastating tsunami, resulting from Krakatoa's eruption, which occurred on August 26, 1883.

See, also:

Krakatoa - Ash Fall

Krakatoa - Loudest Sound in Recorded History

Krakatoa - Deadly Tsunami

Krakatoa - Loss of the Fourth Point Lighthouse

Krakatoa - Fatal Pyroclastic Surge

Krakatoa - After the Disaster

Media Credits

Clip from the BBC production, Krakatoa: The Last Days.  Copyright, BBC, all rights reserved.  Clip provided here as fair use for educational purposes and to acquaint new viewers with the program.  Online via BBC's Channel at YouTube.  

Written by:    

Colin Heber-Percy
Michael Olmert
Lyall B. Watson

Sam Miller


Alan Eyres
Greg Smith

Rupert Penry-Jones
Olivia Williams
Kevin McMonagle
Originally aired on BBC One - May 7, 2006

Excerpts from Johanna Beyerinck's 19th-century account, quoted by Rupert Furneaux in Krakatoa, published in 1964, at page 63.  Online, courtesy Google Books.


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"Last Days of Krakatoa" AwesomeStories.com. Oct 07, 2013. Jun 03, 2020.
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