On 27 August 1883 the most terrifying volcanic eruption occurred on the island of Krakatoa, five miles off the western tip of Java. The island was destroyed and almost 40,000 people were killed. The impact was truly global: ships sailing in the Red Sea were covered in ash; barometers went haywire in Washington; the seas were disturbed in Devon; stunning sunsets burned over London; immense rafts of pumice floated to Africa. The world shifted, geologically, politically and socially. The recent completion of the global telegraph cable meant that, for the first time in history, an event on one side of the world could be communicated to the other within just a few hours. And there would be further, even more far-reaching effects: the destruction wrought by this volcano would become the catalyst to a dramatic and bloody uprising of the region's Muslim community against their Western colonial masters.
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