The legendary annihilation in 1883 of the volcano-island of Krakatoa -- the name has since become a by-word for a cataclysmic disaster -- was followed by an immense tsunami that killed nearly 40,000 people. Beyond the purely physical horrors of an event which has only very recently become properly understood, the eruption changed the world in more ways than could possibly be imagined. Dust swirled round the world for years, causing temperatures to plummet and sunsets to turn vivid with lurid and unsettling displays of lght. The effects of the immense waves were felt as far away as France. Barometers in Bogota and Washington went haywire. Bodies were washed up in Zanzibar. The sound of island's destruction was heard in Australia and India and on islands thousands of miles away.
Most significantly of all -- in view of today's new political climate -- the eruption helped to trigger in Java a wave of murderous anti-western militancy by fundamentalist Muslims, one of the first eruptions of Islamic killings anywhere. Simon Winchester's long experience in world wandering, history and geology give this fascinating and iconic event an entirely new life and perspective.