Monday, September 1, 2008

Krakatau Journal: An island paradise that can kill you

I've come to the epicenter of the disaster zone 125 years later. The original Krakatau had blown itself to pieces in 1883, leaving behind three crescent-shaped island remnants. But in the middle of the underwater caldera that has formed is a curious new sight: an island that appeared out of the sea before our very eyes.

Anak Krakatau--literally "Son of Krakatau" in Indonesian--is a reincarnation of the original Krakatau volcano. Since the son's fitful birth in 1930, this faraway piece of rock, sandwiched in the strait between Java and Sumatra, has earned a reputation among academics as an ideal laboratory for observing how life begins, endures, and sometimes perishes in an island ecosystem.

During its heyday in the 1980s and early 1990s, research conducted here on the 400 plant, 50 butterfly, 30 bird, 17 bat, and 9 reptile species, among other animals, came to define much of what we know about island biogeography and ecological dynamics.

Eruptions throughout November-the most violent in over a decade-recaptured the world's attention, with news of 3-kilometer-high ash fumes, showers of lava bombs, and blasts that rattled the windows of houses on the shores of western Java, some 40 kilometers away. Anak has remained active ever since, with eruptions this January, April, June, and July.

Full article by Jerry Guo

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