It Burned Through the Soles of My Boots

The ground grew hot under foot. The gods on the island of Bali trembled on their stone pedestals. An explosion about 200 years before had scooped out an enormous crater and from its rim formed tile islands of the Krakatoa...<br /><a class="read-more-button" href="https://yesstourbali.com/it-burned-through-the-soles-of-my-boots/">Read more</a>

The ground grew hot under foot. The gods on the island of Bali trembled on their stone pedestals. An explosion about 200 years before had scooped out an enormous crater and from its rim formed tile islands of the Krakatoa group. The old volcano seemed all hut dead and its faint rumblings could alarm nobody but superstitious Malays. Even when the Dutch captain Ferzenaar arrived in Batavia with a report of two new volcanoes, which had appeared, on Krakatoa, the Dutch were not impressed. Two new volcanoes-why, there were scores of volcanoes in Indonesia, many of them active, and it could hardly matter if there were two more; besides, Krakatoa was almost a hundred miles away. “The ground was so hot it burned right through the soles of my boots,” Captain Ferzenaar had said.

Well, if it was that warm on Krakatoa the few natives who lived there would have to take to their boats and wait until the island cooled off. Meanwhile the old mountain was gathering its strength. It had two allies now, the two new volcanoes that Ferzenaar had seen and which the natives called Danan and Perboewatan. They had appeared half a dozen years before-not volcanoes at first but geysers spitting juts of white steam in the shallow inland sea of Krakatoa. Cones of mud had formed around the geysers, then solid land, and they had started to move toward Krakatoa itself, one presided from the center of the inland sea, the other from the north. Danan and Perboewatan kept growing larger, and kept moving. From time to time thev hurled pumice and blocks of obsidian into the air: then they moved on, relentlessly, and finally merged their masses with the island.

But even then their movement did not stop; they pushed on, their enormous weight upsetting the foundations of the island and compressing the fiery lava pocket underneath. Captain Ferzenaar had visited the island on August 11. 1883; he was the last white man to set foot on Krakatoa before the eruption. The heat, which had burned through the soles of his boots, was now making life unbearable for the natives. They packed their belongings and set out in their prows for Sesebv and Pulau Panaitan and other islands in the Sunda Strait, or for the near-by coasts of Sumatra and Java. Krakatoa was making navigation difficult. Several captains turned back when they saw the narrows covered with a foot-thick layer of cinders; ploughing through them was like sailing through an evil-smelling swamp.

Other skippers braved the heat and the volcanic bombs, which plunged into the ocean and sent up columns of steam. Among them was the captain of an American freighter who battened down the hatches and calmly sailed through the hissing sea. His cargo-kerosene! No one after him attempted the passage.

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