QuickCheck: Could the Krakatoa eruption in 1883 have been heard in what is now KL?

An 1888 lithograph of the 1883 eruption of Krakatoa.

EXPLOSIONS. Outside of festive seasons, the sound of an explosion is for the most part unexpected and if loud or strange in nature – enough to give us pause and perhaps remember where we were when we heard it. Ever since the explosion of the Krakatoa volcano in 1883, people have claimed that it could have been heard all over Asia and Australia.

As such, could it have been heard in what is now the city of Kuala Lumpur?



According to the United States Geological Survey, the sound of the Krakatoa eruption – one of the most powerful in history - was heard as far away as Perth, Australia, and Rodriguez Island in the Indian Ocean.

Given that both locations are over 3,000km from Krakatoa in Indonesia and that by contrast, Kuala Lumpur is just a mere 1,000km away – it would be fair to conclude that the eruption was heard in what is now Malaysia's most populous city.

 The Scream, by Edvard Munch (1893): Munch said that the deep red skies of his painting was inspired by the sunsets Europe experienced for months after the Krakatoa eruption.The Scream, by Edvard Munch (1893): Munch said that the deep red skies of his painting was inspired by the sunsets Europe experienced for months after the Krakatoa eruption.

All in, the sound of the explosion has been estimated to have been heard over a range of 4,500km and stands as the loudest sound in recorded history.

As for what the Krakatoa explosion was, it was a massive volcanic eruption in August 1883 on an island in Indonesia.

This eruption produced a series of massive explosions, ash clouds and tsunamis in the region; indeed it is estimated that the destruction caused by the explosion and ash clouds alone killed over 36,000 people.

Aside from this, the explosion at Krakatoa also threw up enough gas and ash into the atmosphere to cause weather phenomena and possible global crop failures.

So much ash was thrown into the atmosphere that it affected the western hemisphere for months.

Norwegian artist Edvard Munch (1863 - 1944) said that the red sky in his iconic painting "The Scream", was based on his memories of the effect Krakatoa's eruption had on the skies of Europe.

 Anak Krakatu erupting in 2008.Anak Krakatu erupting in 2008.

Therefore, it is very likely that the sound of the Krakatoa eruption was heard in Kuala Lumpur, given its proximity to the site of the eruption.

However, it is important to note that the effects of the eruption would have been much more severe in the immediate vicinity of the volcano.

And yes, Krakatoa – or more accurately its remnant Anak Krakatoa or Anak Krakatau – is still active today, with its last major explosive eruption being in 2018.


1. United States Geological Survey: https://www.usgs.gov/center-news/the-1883-eruption-krakatoa

2. History.com: https://www.history.com/topics/indonesia/krakatoa

3. National Geographic: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/history/article/what-was-the-krakatoa-eruption

4. APS.org: https://www.aps.org/publications/apsnews/200405/backpage.cfm

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