The Loudest Sound Ever Blew Out People’s Eardrums From 40 Miles Away
In 1883, Krakatoa, an Indonesian volcanic island, erupted, unleashing a blast so powerful that it is thought to be the loudest sound ever recorded in history. The sound was so powerful that it ruptured eardrums and caused significant damage to people and objects up to 40 miles away.
Krakatoa, located between Java and Sumatra, had been dormant for over 200 years before resuming activity in 1883. The volcano erupted with the force of a 200-megatonne bomb on August 27, that year, unleashing tsunamis as high as 46 meters (151 feet) that wreaked havoc on coastal communities as far away as South Africa.
The sound produced by the eruption reached an ear-splitting 172 decibels at a gasworks 160 kilometers (100 miles) from Krakatoa, according to the Natural History Museum. The human pain threshold is 130 decibels, and each 10-decibel increase is perceived as doubling the noise. The sound waves were so powerful at 194 decibels, the loudest sound possible in air, that they changed from a perceptible sound to a pressurized burst of air that ruptured the eardrums of sailors on a ship within 64 kilometers (40 miles) of the island.
The eruption’s shockwave continued to travel across the globe, wrapping around the globe three times in each direction. At a distance of 4,800 kilometers (3,000 miles) from Krakatoa, it could still be heard like cannon fire. The pressure wave also collided with other shockwaves, resulting in additional pressure spikes.
While Krakatoa is still the loudest sound ever recorded, the Tonga eruption in 2022 is thought to be the loudest sound since Krakatoa. Its sonic boom was heard 6,200 kilometers (3,850 miles) away in Alaska, and it generated sound waves and tsunamis that traveled around the world.
The sheer magnitude of Krakatoa’s sound is difficult to comprehend. It serves as a reminder of nature’s immense power and demonstrates the importance of monitoring volcanic activity and preparing for potential disasters. Let us hope that Krakatoa will continue to be the loudest sound ever recorded for many centuries to come.