Volcanic Scream

In 1883, the Indonesian volcanic island of Krakatoa exploded.  The explosion was so loud that, reportedly, it could distinctly be heard in Perth, Australia — nearly 2,000 miles away.

The explosion claimed the lives of at least 35,000 people (with some estimates at over 120,000), including wiping out the entire 1,000 person population of the island of Sebesi, located 8 miles from Krakatoa itself.  Per Wikipedia, there were “numerous documented reports of groups of human skeletons floating across the Indian Ocean on rafts of volcanic pumice and washing up on the east coast of Africa, up to a year after the eruption.”

The after-effects of the explosion, understandably, were also far-reaching.  The island of Krakatoa itself was decimated, as shown by this map.  (Forty-five years later, Anka Krakatoa, a smaller island, would begin forming within the destroyed region.)  Krakatoa’s destruction caused tsunamis off the shore of South Africa, over 6,000 miles away.  The huge amounts of sulfur dioxide which entered the stratosphere due to the eruption caused temperatures, worldwide, to fall over 2 degrees Fahrenheit on average, not returning to pre-explosion levels until 1888.

There was one other after-effect: the sky changed color.  Specifically, for a few years after the explosion, the skies around the world were noticeably darker, and for a few months, blood-red sunsets were the norm.  This was true even half-way around the world, such as in Norway.

In fact, ten years after Krakatoa exploded, a Norwegian artist named Edvard Munch painted The Scream, a famous work of art as seen above.  The sky’s color is, it turns out, likely inspired by the Krakatoa explosion.  The Scream was part of works created by Munch which were influenced by events in his life occurring from as early as 1868.  The dusk sky at the site of The Scream, had it had been viewed at the time of the events which inspired Munch’s other works, would have been consistent with the color choices used in this masterpiece.  Indeed, Munch himself recounted the events that the image depicts, noting in part that “suddenly, the sky turned as red as blood.”

We may have a volcanic eruption, 6,800 miles away, to thank for that.

Bonus fact:  In August of 2004, a version of The Scream was stolen from the Munch Museum in Oslo.  Two years later, Mars, the candy company, offered a reward of 2 million dark chocolate M&Ms if the painting were to be recovered.  The painting was coincidentally recovered a week later and Mars announced it would make good on its promise.  The retail value of all those M&Ms?  At the time, $22,000.

Related: The Scream, as a poster. A bargain: $0.01.

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