“Casting ash on society: Tambora – the volcano that changed the world.”


The Smithsonian answers my first question.

The eruption of Tambora was ten times more powerful than that of Krakatau, which is 900 miles away. But Krakatau is more widely known, partly because it erupted in 1883, after the invention of the telegraph, which spread the news quickly. Word of Tambora traveled no faster than a sailing ship, limiting its notoriety.

The unexpected item of interest for me in this Deutsche Welle documentary is learning about the Museum of Bread and Art in Ulm, Germany.

When the Tambora volcano erupted in Indonesia some 200 years ago, around 100,000 people perished. But the disaster was not over. The eruption’s ash cloud would cause crop failures, epidemics and civil disturbances across the northern hemisphere.

Around 100,000 people died on the Indonesian island of Sumbawa when the Tambora volcano erupted at the beginning of April 1815. But their deaths were just the first chapter in this catastrophe. The eruption column rose to an altitude of more than 40 kilometers, spreading a shroud of smoke and ash throughout the stratosphere. The year 1816 has gone down in history as the “year without a summer.” That year, the volcanic fallout blocked the sun’s rays, and rain and cold caused dramatic crop failures across the northern hemisphere. Famine stalked large parts of Europe and hundreds of thousands starved to death or were struck down by fatal diseases. Many set sail for the USA in the hope of finding a better life – the first major wave of emigration of the 19th Century – and many who could not afford to emigrate rebelled against the system. In England, the Corn Laws, which placed heavy taxes on grain, sparked massive riots in London and other major cities. The effects of the eruption endured for decades as climatic turbulence in India paved the way for the first global cholera pandemic, which led to the deaths of millions of people. The documentary examines the global consequences of this devastating natural disaster and talks to scientists who explain how this eruption changed the course of world history.