The August 1883 eruption was not entirely unexpected, but nearly so. Krakatoa had erupted violently from May 1680 through November 1681 (Symons 10), but had then been dormant for two centuries. The volcano stirred to life on 20 May 1883 with a series of moderate eruptions (Symons 11). Locals took note but were not especially alarmed. In fact, the island briefly became a tourist attraction. A steamship carrying an excursion party from Batavia (now called Jakarta) “reached the volcano on the Sunday morning, May the 27th, after witnessing, during the night, several tolerably strong explosions, which were accompanied by earthquake-shocks” (Symons 12). These visitors may have been foolhardy, but some were quite observant, and later were able to provide valuable data, such as estimates of the size of the crater, the frequency of explosions, and the height of the vapor column. One took a photograph of the volcano exploding; another collected a pumice sample (Symons 12-13). Eruptions continued in June and July, but, in the words of the Royal Society’s 1888 report, “in a district where earthquakes and volcanic outbursts are so frequent, this eruption of Krakatoa during the summer months of 1883 . . soon ceased to attract any particular attention” (Symons 13).

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