Krakatoa Lesson for Kids: History & Facts

Instructor: Diane Sieverson

Diane has taught all subjects at the elementary level, was the principal of a K-8 private school and has a master's degree in Measurement and Evaluation.

Krakatau is a famous volcano that sits between two islands in Southeast Asia. Come learn about this deadly volcano, how powerful an explosion it created, and some other cool facts about it.

What is Krakatau?

It's time for the school science fair, and you've decided to make a model of a volcano. Since you're trying to win an award, you want it to actually erupt. So, you put some baking soda in a glass below the crater and pour in vinegar with orange food coloring. Right on cue, frothy orange 'lava' spews out and bubbles over the side of your science fair volcano, impressing the judges.

And while science fair volcanoes are really cool, they can't compete with the real ones found in nature. One very powerful and deadly volcano was on the island of Krakatau (pronounced crack-uh-tow), which is often called 'Krakatoa', though that is incorrect. It sits in the Sunda Strait off the Indian Ocean. If you're looking for it on a map, you'll find it in Southeast Asia, between the islands of Sumatra and Java.

Krakatau's Early History

Back around 416 CE, the mouth of the Krakatau volcano caved in and demolished the volcano, leaving a four-mile wide caldera, which is a big volcanic crater. That's almost as long as 60 football fields lined up in a row!

Krakatau, Verlaten, and Lang islands are leftover pieces from that original volcano, and at the time, there were still three volcanoes left on Krakatau. But the biggest eruption was yet to come.

Map of Krakatau and islands around it
Map of Krakatau and islands around it

A Deadly Eruption

In 1883, the Krakatau caldera caved in and exploded again. But this was no ordinary explosion and caused one of the biggest, strongest explosions ever recorded on the entire planet. On a scale that rates the strength of volcano explosions from 1 to 8, this one was a 6. It was called 'colossal' because there are only two bigger kinds of eruptions, though they haven't happened for thousands of years. And it wasn't just one of the biggest - it's also the loudest sound ever recorded by humans, still to this day.

Over 36,000 people died from that eruption, which is at least 14,000 more people than the biggest NBA basketball arenas can hold. It was one of the most fatal volcano explosions of all time. Now, you might think that those people died from volcanic lava, but most were actually killed by giant ocean waves called tsunamis (pronounced soo-NAH-mees) coming ashore, which were created from the energy of the explosion. It's like throwing a rock into a pond and creating rippling waves, but at a much bigger level.

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