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Indonesia » Indonesian Volcanoes » Tambora Volcano
Tambora Volcano
by: Dina Indrasafitri

The Tambora volcano, located in the Sumbawa Island, erupted nearly two hundred years ago with stupefying effects on mankind, yet, due to the many events occupying the world’s attention at that time, not many records or observations were dedicated to the particular incident. It is actually quite regrettable, for the eruption of Tambora is highly suspected to have triggered several notable outcomes, such as the creation of Frankenstein and the first bicycle, a widespread famine, and an even more widespread change of climate.

The Tambora volcano is originally 4200 m or 13,000 feet high, soaring on a peninsula adjoined to the Sumbawa island. The island is inhabited by around 12,000 people, excluding a small area near Bima, on the eastern side, which is inhabited by European colonists. The volcano is said to have been silent for 5000 years before its deadly awakening. 

The signs of eruption began in 1812, when small eruptions of steam and ash began to occur. This continued up to 1814 without any apparent reaction from the local dwellers. Rumblings from beneath the earth were also prevalent. In April 6th 1815, the Batavia sky was darkened by clouds of ashes and a menacing stillness rose.

Various suspicions and theories arose and some of them were correct to point out that the conditions were caused by an active volcano. Yet, the suspects were centered on The Merapi or Kelut volcano. Finally, on April 10th, a tumultuous roar shook the earth and at around 7 PM columns of flame shot up from near the top of the Tambora. Around 9 PM, a whirlwind destroyed the nearby Sangir village along with other nearby villages.

When the whirlwind stopped, the sounds of explosion began. The deafening sounds went on for almost a day non stop. Around half of the Tambora volcano collapsed into its caldera. The villages located near the Peninsula were almost instantly demolished by the pyroclastic flows which was said to turn the Tambora into a display of liquid fire. The roofs of houses forty miles away from the volcano were crushed by the weight of the fallen ashes. A five meter high tsunami adds up to the whole destructive elements at play. The blast of the Tambora is said to be more powerful than the Krakatau in 1883, many times more powerful than the Vesuvius’ eruption in 1822, and what is even more intimidating is the fact that the eruptions were menacingly quick and unpredictable.

It is estimated that around 10.000 people perished directly from the eruption. Yet, the indirect effects of the Tambora were just as deadly. Ashes from the eruption fell to land and destroyed all vegetations, including the staple plantations needed for survival. As a result, the death toll including those dying from famine is as high as 90.000 worldwide. The dusts and ashes shot into air altered the sunlight dramatically and the world’s temperature dropped about 0.3 Celcius degrees. Crops failed and in 1816 the climate was so disturbed that 1816 became the ‘year without a summer’ in Europe, the snow falling in July. Monsoon season in India was disturbed and China was hit by devastating floods.

Almost on the other side of the earth, precisely on Lake Geneva, a group of writers lead by Lord Byron was enjoying their ‘enlightenment-seeking’ time. However, the persisting bleak weather inspired Lord Byron to challenge each member to write a horror story. Thus, Mary Shelley, one of the writers staying in the Lake, lifted her pen to write one of the most memorable stories of all time, ‘Frankenstein’. The crop failure in 1816 also caused starvation of horses, which was a main transportation method, and triggered the invention of an alternative method of transport: the velocipede, an early form of the bicycle.

As useful as those inventions might seem, there’s no questioning that the Tambora volcano’s eruption was indeed a deadly incident, and although no activity have been spotted yet since 1913, the world should be more aware of its destructive power. 

About The Author

Dina Indrasafitri, Travel Writer

Dina writes for Streetdirectory Indonesia. Robert J Steiner manages Streetdirectory.co.id & FlowerAdvisor.co.id for online Flowers & Gifts in Indonesia.

After working in Medan for several months and giving a shot at different jobs she finds that her love for writing, food, interior design and her hometown Jakarta had lead her to become a writer at Streetdirectory.com. Dina currently writes on Restaurant and Hotel Reviews in Jakarta.

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