Distant effects of the Tambora Eruption of April 1815: An eyewitness account



Large explosive volcanic eruptions can have far-reaching effects on the atmosphere. The eruption of Tambora volcano on Sumbawa Island in Indonesia in April 1815 was the largest ash eruption in recent historic times, producing a bulk volume of about 150 km3 of pumice and ash [Stothers, 1984], by most estimates more than 100 times that of the 1980 eruption of Mt. St. Helens. The loss of life and the destruction of agricultural land on Sumbawa and neighboring Lombok were catastrophic. In the aftermath of the Tambora eruption, in order to obtain more information about the effects on Java and the surrounding islands, the lieutenant governor of Java, Thomas Stamford Raffles, circulated a letter with three brief questions. The following questionnaire was completed by the Resident of Surakarta in eastern Java describing local eyewitness accounts of the effects of the Tambora eruption (catalogued by Blagden [1916]). It gives a vivid picture of the effects of the massive eruption some 800 km from the volcano. (The style, punctuation, and spelling of the original handwritten report in the MacKenzie Collection of the British Library have been retained throughout.)