Thursday, March 02, 2006

Historical eruption uncovers a sad past!

A VILLAGE buried under the world's biggest known volcano almost 200 years ago, is being unearthed.

The eruption of Mt Tambora in 1815 buried the Indonesian town of Tambora.
So much sulphur dioxide blasted into the atmosphere it triggered a global cooling.
The year, 1816, became known as "the year there was no summer".

In moments the volcano buried the 10,000 villagers on the Indonesian island of Sumbawa beneath 3m of volcanic ash and debris.

Another 107,000 people died elsewhere.

Scientists unearthing the village hope to learn how quickly volcanic eruptions can turn deadly. "Events of this type will occur in the future, and we should be aware of what could happen," said Haraldur Sigurdsson, a University of Rhode Island professor.

Two years ago, a team of scientists from the universities of Rhode Island and North Carolina and the Indonesian Directorate of Vulcanology began digging up the village.

They found Tambora with help from a local guide and in a mid-2004 dig discovered an entombed house with two people inside.

A woman was found in the kitchen, her hand next to glass bottles that had been melted by the ash flow. The house, on wooden stilts with bamboo siding and a thatched roof, had been incinerated into charcoal by the fiery ash that Prof Sigurdsson believes was at least 538C.

The eruption blew 200 times more magma and pulverised rock into the air than Mt St Helen's in the US state of Washington in 1980.

It sent sulphur dioxide 43km into the air.

The Tambora find was significant because it revealed the flow of hot volcanic ash, rock and volcanic gas extended in all directions for at least 40km "and within that zone . . . there is an extinction of all life", Prof Sigurdsson said.

Details of where the ash deposits fell are one factor that could reveal when relatively harmless fallout turned into a deadly ash flow.

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