The Loudest Sound in the World
The loudest sound in recorded history was heard by people more than 3,000 miles away. That’s like being in Boston and hearing a sound made in Dublin, Ireland. Since sound travels at about 750 miles an hour, it took about four hours for the sound to travel that distance.
The sound was so powerful that it ruptured the eardrums of sailors 40 miles away.
The sound was made by the violent volcanic eruption on Krakatoa, an island in Indonesia, on August 27, 1883. The explosion shattered the island and created a tsunami a hundred feet high. It sounded like artillery in Australia, 2,000 miles away, and like gunfire in Mauritius, 3,000 miles away.
By the 1880’s barometers were in use at weather stations around the world to track changes in atmospheric pressure. Although the sound became too soft to be heard beyond 3,000 miles, 12 hours later spikes in atmospheric pressure were measured in St. Petersburg, Rome and Paris. Pressure spikes were detected in New York and Toronto 18 hours later.
Weather stations around the world detected spikes in atmospheric pressure for another five days. The spikes occurred every 34 hours – the time it takes for sound to travel around the globe. It’s as if the volcanic explosion at Krakatoa gave the earth tinnitus for five days.
The August eruption was the final blast following two months of smaller eruptions. Weather watchers described the airborne ash as a “smoke stream in the atmosphere.” This was the first identification of what we now call the jet stream.
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