Friday, May 23, 2014

Catastrophe! — Part 1: The Day the Sun Went Out

Did a major cataclysmic event plunge humankind into the period known as the early Dark Ages? Scientists now believe the early Dark Ages may have been triggered by a natural event that occurred around 535 A.D.

Science writer David Keys is convinced that the cause of the catastrophic events of 535 A.D. was a phenomenon of cataclysmic proportions. At the center of a complex chain of events seems to be "a loud bang", a volcanic explosion equal to "two thousand million Hiroshima size bombs" due to eruption of Krakatoa which is located on Rakata, an island in the Sunda Strait between Java and Sumatra, Indonesia.

Krakatoa’s eruption in 1883 was one of the most catastrophic ever witnessed in recorded history. Until recently, it’s only known previous eruption was a moderate one in 1680. On the afternoon of Aug. 26, 1883, the first of a series of increasingly violent explosions occurred. A black cloud of ash rose 17 miles (27 kilometers) above Krakatoa. On the morning of the next day, tremendous explosions were heard 2,200 miles (3,540 kilometers) away in Australia. Ash was propelled to a height of 50 miles (80 kilometers), blocking the sun and plunging the surrounding region into darkness for two and a half days.

The drifting dust caused spectacular red sunsets throughout the following year. Pressure waves in the atmosphere were recorded around the Earth, and tsunamis, or tidal waves, reached as far away as Hawaii and South America. The greatest wave reached a height of 120 feet (36 meters) and took 36,000 lives in the coastal towns of nearby Java and Sumatra. Near the volcano masses of floating pumice produced from lava cooled in the sea were thick enough to halt traveling ships. Everything on the nearby islands was buried under a thick layer of sterile ash. Plant and animal life did not begin to reestablish itself to any degree for five years. The volcano was quiet until 1927, when sporadic weaker eruptions began. These tremors have continued into the 1990s.

The subsequent environmental calamity, Keys believes, affected human civilization from Mongolia to Constantinople, precipitating plague, famine, death, great migration, the fall of the Mexican city of Teotihuacán, the Anglo-Saxon victory over the Celts, and even perhaps the rise of Islam.

The eruption of Mount Tambora of April 1815 killed thousands and plunged much of the world into a frightful chill and offers lessons for today.

Such an event happened again as recently as 1815 after the eruption of another Indonesian volcano, Mount Tambora. The summer of 1816 following this event in  fact is now known as “The Year Without a Summer” (also known as the Poverty Year, The Summer that Never Was, Year There Was No Summer, and Eighteen Hundred and Froze to Death) was 1816, in which severe summer climate abnormalities caused average global temperatures to decrease by 0.4–0.7 °C (0.7–1.3 °F), resulting in major food shortages across the Northern Hemisphere.

Today on Far Future Horizons we present the first part of episode one of the acclaimed PBS documentary series Secrets of the Dead, Catastrophe! Part 1: The Day the Sun Went Out, about the cataclysmic climatic events of 535 A.D. and there impact on humanity.

Secrets of the Dead, Catastrophe!  is available on VHS tape through Amazon Books.

Secrets of the Dead Catastrophe! — Part 1: "The Day the Sun Went Out"
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