September 25, 2011

Pardon The Eruption

Good morning and greetings, fall equinox fans. That’s right, last Friday, Donna Summer left us and we are now autumn bound. That means the days, like my memory, are getting shorter, while the nights are stronger than moonshine. We’re talking later sunrises and earlier sunsets, which I will continue to monitor for the the hundreds of thousands, er, hundreds, er, many dozens of loyal readers of Sunrise Santa Cruz.

This week I want to talk big booms, not to be confused with big boobs, which would describe our current lawmakers. Last week there was a massive rumbling in the Himalayas, as a strong earthquake hit India, Nepal and Tibet. When Bob Seger heard about this, he said, “I’m think I’m going to Kathmandu, that’s really, really where I’m going to.” The world around us is a rockin’ and a shakin’ and that’s where we pick up today’s story.

When I think of massive explosions, the first things that come to mind are Mount St. Helens, the 2010 eruption of Eyjavjallajokull in Iceland and the berating of referees by former Indiana University basketball Coach Bobby Knight. But they don’t come close to being the world’s deadliest eruption.

Mount Tambora is on the island of Sumbawa, Indonesia, which is flanked to the north and south by the oceanic crust, which is not to be confused with what my mother cut off my sandwiches as a young child. In a story reported by Nasrullah Roa for the Associated Press, she reports that the mountain has been a rumblin’, causing families that live next to this live volcano to flee the area faster than Tricky Dick Nixon exited the White House in 1973 after proclaiming, “I am not a crook.”

Indonesia is located in the Pacific Ring of Fire, in an area known for its frequent earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and tasty waves to surf. We’re talking 130 active volcanoes and surf shops. Mount Tambora has the unfortunate honor for being ground zero for the world’s deadliest eruption. Back around the birth of John McCain on April 10, 1815, the mountain exploded and the blast left a crater than was 7 miles long and and a half a mile deep. It launched an estimated 400 million tons of sulfuric acid into the atmosphere, leading to the worst famine of the 19th century and “the year without summer” in the United States and Europe, which had a very negative effect on the baseball pennant races.

Prior to the eruption, much like today’s Congress, Tambora had stood dormant for around 5,000 years. There have been only five blasts like this in recorded history, not counting 1973, when Barry Bonds set the Major League record with 73 home runs.

The death toll from this natural disaster was horrific, with estimates between 90,000 and 117,000 in Indonesia alone. 12,000 died immediately as a direct result of the eruption, while tens of thousands more were killed as a result of starvation and disease. Thick layers of ash from the volcanic fallout ruined crops as animals, rice fields and President Sukarno disappeared from the earth. Nobody was partying in Bali.

This Super Bowl of eruptions brought on 16-foot tsunamis along the coast of Indonesia. The resulting waves of hot lava reached speeds of 124 mph, killing everything in its path. Mount Tambora continued to erupt until July 15, 1815 when in the words of Alice Cooper, “enough’s enough.”

Then in the summer of 1816, the dense volcanic ash from Mount Tambora’s eruption blew into the skies over the Northern Hemisphere. It cut off much of the sun, and if you know me, I like my sunlight like my apple juice, unfiltered. Snow fell in the northeastern United States well into July, which really cut back the summer beach action. What resulted was unseasonably low temperatures, crop failure, a failure to communicate, famine, disease, death and a lousy TV season across Europe and North America. This is what historians and TV critics refer to as “the year without a summer.” Truly, a major, major bummer.

This all-time, most deadly explosion was 10 times more powerful than Indonesia’s much better-known Krakatoa blast of 1883, which is history’s second deadliest. But it doesn’t share the same claim to international fame, because back in 1815, the only way news spread across the world was by the slow boat, smoke signals and the lucky few who were able to get reception on the Weather Channel.

Much like the Chicago Cubs, Mount Tambora had been pretty quiet for the last 200 years, until there was a new rumbling that started back in April. In August, white smoke started shooting in the sky. Then in September, it was seismic city, with 12 to 16 earthquakes a day coming up on the radar screen. I don’t know about you, but any time earthquake totals hit double digits in a single day, I’m just not myself.

This new activity forced local residents along the mountain to high tail it to lower ground. When I asked Stevie Wonder what he would do in this situation, he replied that he was “Gonna keep on tryin’, till he reached the higher ground.” I don’t think he quite understands the gravity of the situation, as local authorities fear there will be toxic gas as a result of the seismic activity or even worse, they may be exposed to MTV’s “Jersey Shore.”

And just in case you thought all the action was in the South Pacific, volcanologists in our 49th state are concerned that an eruption could be forthcoming from Mount Cleveland, which is located 940 miles southwest of Anchorage. This volcano lies below a major flight path between North America and Asia, and an eruption could create havoc to airline travel and more importantly, put a big crimp in the nation’s longest-running regular season basketball tournament, the Great Alaskan Shootout, scheduled for late November. I don’t want to miss that opening round matchup between Dartmouth and the USF Hilltoppers.

And finally, if you think we had lousy weather here on the central coast in September, we’re not alone. The Great Lakes region is usually sunny and pleasant but this year has been the exact opposite. It’s been cloudy and rainy to go along with cool Northerly breezes. Meteorologists, weather nuts and Big 10 football fans can’t remember when they ever that had weather like this across the Great Lakes and Ohio Valley in September. It looks like it’s lining up to be another brutal winter, so I’ve already ordered my shorts from Tommy Bahama’s winter collection.

For today’s photo rendezvous we are we opening up the archives and journeying back to a September’s past. We start out with sunrise over the water at Steamer’s Lane, before moving up to Lighthouse Point be finishing this mini-road trip at my favorite cypress tree along West Cliff Drive. When I contacted the Lovin’ Spoonfuls about these photos, John Sebastian said, “What a day for a day dream, custom made for a daydreamin’ boy.”

For the sunset portion of today’s program, we catch a beautiful late September low tide experience at Its Beach. We finish off the program with the prodigal sun shining through my favorite arch down at Its. Fittingly enough, on the first night of fall last Friday, a pretty sunset graced the western skies, so the wonderful world of color is on the way. Now I can just spend a day taking a walk in the sun, “dreaming ’bout my bundle of joy.”

On to the late night. “Gays are now allowed to serve openly in the military. So maybe our next war could be a musical. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced that he is releasing the two American hikers from captivity in Iran on humanitarian grounds. Then he went back torturing dissidents. A satellite is now headed toward earth and the people at NASA have no idea where it will land. How would they know? It’s not like they’re rocket scientists.” –David Letterman

“Two new books about Sarah Palin came out today. All of a sudden, I’m feeling OK about Borders going out of business. “The military’s controversial ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy was officially retired. This marks a new age of tolerance, acceptance, and awkward showering for everyone in the military.” –Jimmy Kimmel “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell is now over. Gay people can enlist, fight overseas, and then not be able to get married when they get back home.” –Jay

“Moammar Gadhafi released an audio message saying that he’s still in power, and just ‘temporarily’ going underground. Sure, just like my local Blockbuster is ‘temporarily’ closing its doors. “President Obama is speaking to the General Assembly tomorrow and he’s expected to urge the delegates to fight global warming, reduce poverty, and find out what the heck is happening at Netflix.” –Craig Ferguson

So that’s our last blast for September. I don’t know about you, but time is flying by faster than the NBA canceled their preseason games. It’s lockout city, baby. Get ready for Derek Jeter and the baseball playoffs and we’ll catch you coming off the mound. Aloha, mahalo and later, Justin Verlander fans.


  1. Today’s blog had me quaking in my sneakers. In the words of the immortal Johnny Carson – “I did not know that”…

    Comment by Victor Cruz — September 26, 2011 @ 7:11 am

  2. Love the western sunlite glow, especially, Its beach. Thank you for a good sunrise start on the week.

    Comment by Babs — September 26, 2011 @ 7:13 am

  3. Had no idea about Mount Tambora.
    Had no idea there WAS a Mount Tabora.
    Thanks for keeping us so well informed.

    Comment by Wendi Gilbert — September 26, 2011 @ 7:48 am

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