Mount Tambora is a large stratovolcano located on the island of Sumbawa, Indonesia. It lies approximately 210 miles north of the Java Trench and is flanked to the north and south by oceanic crust. Its current summit elevation is around 9,350 feet (Smithsonian Institute). To the south-east of the volcano lies the Sanggar peninsula, which is a part of Tambora. There are two cities, Dompu and Clima, and three concentrations of villages near the mountain slope: Sanggar, Doro Peti and Pesanggrahan, and Calabai.
Figure 1. Map of Mount Tambora and Sumbawa
Mount Tambora is best known for the eruption that occurred in April 1815. The eruption was so large it ranked 7 out of 8 on the Volcanic Explosivity Index scale. The number of deaths due to the eruption alone was estimated at 11,000 with an additional 49,000 by post-eruption famine and epidemic diseases (Tanguy, Ribiere, Scarth, & Tjetjep, 1998). A more recent estimation placed the total number of deaths at 71,000 (Oppenheimer, 2003).
So what events led up to this violent eruption? A scientist used qualitative and quantitative data to reconstruct a timeline. Three years prior to the April 1815 years the volcano began to rumble and generate a dark cloud around the summit. Then in the early evening of April 5th 1815 there was a moderate-sized eruption. The detonations sounded like the discharge of cannons and could be heard as far away as Ternate, 1400km away (Stothers, 1984). A man by the name of Sir Stamford Raffles heard these sounds wrote:
“The first explosions were heard on this Island in the evening of 5 April, they were noticed in every quarter, and continued at intervals until the following day. The noise was, in the first instance, almost universally attributed to distant cannon; so much so, that a detachment of troops were marched from Djocjocarta, in the expectation that a neighbouring post was attacked, and along the coast boats were in two instances dispatched in quest of a supposed ship in distress.” (Mount Tambora, 2011)
The next morning ash began to fall on eastern Java with the detonations becoming quieter and less frequent, this continued into the evening of April 10th (Stothers, 1984).
Then around 7 p.m. that night the eruption suddenly intensified and became incredibly violent. Reported from Sanggar were reports of three columns of flame that merged at a very great height. Pumice stones of up to 20cm then began to fall at 8 p.m. with ash between 9 and 10 p.m. Then violent winds blew toward Sanggar between 10 and 11 p.m. Possible pyroclastic flows that buried the village of Tambora could be attributed to the winds. A tsunami of 4 meters hit Sanggar a short time before 10 p.m., indicating a sudden entry of the pyroclastic flow into the sea. The explosions could be heard as far away as 1050 km and in many places produced concussions that resembled small earthquakes (Stothers, 1984).
The next day the explosions were louder and could be heard as far away as...