Emma-Haven, the little port of Padang, twenty minutes by train from the palm-girt Sumatran capital, scarcely mars the beauty of the secluded inlet with the red and white warehouses standing against the sylvan verdure which fringes the blue arc of the deep bay. Cloud upon cloud, the spectral vision of distant mountains gleams through the vanishing veil of mist melting in the sunrise, and the departing steamer, hugging the shore, but halting for cargo at sundry barbaric campongs, affords numerous glimpses of native life. Passengers are forbidden to land at these rural ports of call, for a herd of twenty frolicsome elephants battered down one brown village of palm-thatched bamboo only a week ago, and although the ruined architecture possesses the advantage of being as easily restored as destroyed, the unpleasant proximity of the dark jungle suggests the need of prudence. At another point of the little voyage, we anchor for a cargo of rattan before a thatched shed on a shell-strewn beach, but even here a solitary elephant, disturbed in bathing, has lately attacked a woman, rescued with difficulty from formidable tusks and lashing trunk. A tribe of coolies come on board from the pepper plantation on a terraced hill, covered with the vivid green of the festooning creeper, twined round long poles, and resembling hop-vines in growth and foliage. The landing of this contingent involves a call at Anjer, the northern extremity of Java, distinguished by the white column of the colossal Pharos on the green headland. A halt at nightfall outside a bristling reef, in consequence of a Malay lighthouse-keeper omitting to trim his lamp, after the fashion of his unthinking kind, secures the compensation of steaming within sight of world-famous Krakatau, the volcanic cone, which in 1883 was split in half by the stupendous eruption affecting in various degrees the whole of the world. The successive waves of atmospherical disturbance, travelling with the velocity of sound, were traced three times completely round the globe. Krakatau, though uninhabited, was the occasional resort of fishermen who plied their calling in the Sunda Straits. A Dutch record exists of a violent eruption in 1680, but the Krakatau volcano was afterwards considered extinct, and until the spring of 1883 no signs of activity occurred. At this date, smoke, pumice, and cinders, fell without intermission. For eight weeks Krakatau blazed and thundered, the explosions being audible at Batavia, eighty miles off. As the fatal dawn of an August morning broke with lurid light, the culminating shock of an appalling detonation, described as "the very crack and crash of doom," echoed across the ocean, and was heard even in India and Australia, two thousand miles away. Gigantic tidal waves swept the Sundanese shores, destroying the adjacent villages, 36,000 people being either washed away or buried under the boiling rain of mud, fire, and ashes. The Royal Society estimated the altitude of the vast black and crimson column of flame and smoke, mounting from the volcano, at seventeen miles. The ashes fell at Singapore and on the Cocos Isles, respectively five and eight hundred miles away, the ejection of volcanic matter being computed at more than four cubic miles in extent. Krakatau, reduced from thirteen to six square miles, from the northern portion of the symmetrical pyramid being completely blown away by the volcanic fires, retains the conical peak of Mount Radaka, nearly three thousand feet high. Some of the contiguous islands sank beneath the waves, others changed their shape, and the formation of various banks and shoals added fresh difficulties to the intricate navigation of reef-bound seas. Thrilling stories are told of the enveloping pall of smoke and ashes, which shrouded Java in midnight gloom, amid the continuous roar of violent explosions which led up to the awful climax of the final catastrophe. Red-hot stones and burning cinders fired the ships, the weight of pumice sinking praus and fishing smacks as it fell into the hissing sea, and a 600-ton schooner, thrown by the force of the world-shaking concussion into a mountain cleft of the opposite coast, still lies wedged between the black walls of rock. The floating pumice, which filled the harbour of Batavia with layers so deep that planks resting upon it made a safe bridge over a mile in length, drifted even to Zanzibar and Madagascar. The fine dust, expelled into the upper air, painted the sunset heavens with these translucent green and violet tints which enhanced the pageantry of cloudland throughout the world for many months after the fiery forces had expended themselves. Smoke still issues from Krakatau, though the vast rent in the cloven pyramid must materially diminish the power of any future eruption, and Nature's busy hand already covers the torn side of the precipitous cone with a green veil of sparse vegetation. A curious marine growth of weed and moss rooted itself on Krakatau three years after the phenomenal eruption, from seeds floating on the tide or carried by the wind. The thin soil formed by these decaying plants, and enriched by the chemical ingredients of disintegrating volcanic ash, in time produced a more luxuriant verdure, and in the interval elapsing since the threefold ravages of fire, flood, and earthquake, caused by Krakatau, convulsed the East with terror, the dread mountain has become wreathed with flower and fruit, for orchards and gardens, tended by the Malays from the surrounding islands, now flourish at the foot of the quiescent peak. Javanese colonists, who experienced the terrors of the overwhelming catastrophe, assert that no similes drawn from the most appalling thunderstorm, or from the roar of the heaviest artillery, could convey an adequate idea of the stupendous detonation which seemed to shatter earth and sky, as the pent-up fires burst forth in the final explosion, which tore the mountain asunder and poured forth the devastating forces of the abysmal depths over land and sea. Crimson lava-flood and burning hail, blackened heaven and rocking earth, roaring sea and clamouring volcano, represented an Apocalyptic vision of Divine wrath, but probably no survivor remained to record the actual sight of the unprecedented phenomenon, transcending every terrestrial convulsion recorded in the chronicles of scientists. Only a slender feather of grey steam now issues from the lofty crater. Leaves and grasses flutter in the soft breeze, and a shower of white petals drifts upon the iron boulders, once incandescent amid the red torrents of rushing fire. A sheer precipice remained as the severed half of the shattered cone, when the rent cliffs shivered into fragments, and toppled over into the sea. Nature again breathes "peace and safety," as she did before "the sudden destruction" gave the lie to her mocking voice, and as the ruined pyramid of terrible Krakatau sinks below the horizon, and the good ship speeds on her way, a weight of awe seems lifted from the mind, oppressed by imagination and association with the ghastly tragedy of those untameable forces which defy calculation or comprehension.
History has often proved the truth of the assertion that Time turns memories into dreams, but in the presence of Krakatau's smoking crater, the memories looming over the haunted volcano translate themselves into a nightmare of horror, for the shadows of doom still cling to the monumental pyramid, a menacing witness to the existence of those occult laws which baffle human investigation with their insoluble problems, and compel the defeated scientist to acknowledge himself a mere chronicler of inexplicable mysteries. The extent of the volcanic zone encircling the Malay Archipelago minimises the risk of catastrophe by numerous safety valves for the imprisoned forces of Earth's fiery abyss. In isolated Krakatau only one outlet existed for the vast accumulations of destructive agencies, gathering irresistible impetus through the protracted period of condensation and suppression which heated this mighty furnace of Nature's subterranean laboratory with sevenfold power. A generation has grown up since the hell of devouring fire swept across land and sea from this solitary mountain peak; villages have been rebuilt on their ancient sites, and the activities of life go on from year to year undisturbed. The story of Krakatau, told under the drooping boughs of dusky waringen-trees in the evening hour of leisure, seems veiled in the mists of legendary lore to youth and maiden, listening to the oft-told tale. Poverty clings to familiar soil, and in the deep groove of a narrow existence the popular mind takes little thought for the future. The realities of life are bounded by the daily needs, and the shadow of Krakatau fails to destroy the present peace of the simple folk, who, like children gathering flowers on the edge of a precipice, heed none of the grim possibilities of a perilous environment.