Krakatau Journal: An island paradise that can kill you (part 2)

In the past few years, Anak has been back in the spotlight-quite literally. German and Indonesian volcanologists rigged the island in 2005 with three remote monitoring stations, each capturing a dizzying array of data-meteorological, chemical, seismic-that are recorded 24/7. The raw numbers have been broadcasted online in real-time, including a video feed.

And in 2003, Krakatoa: The Day the World Exploded, a trade book on the 1883 eruption, with a chapter devoted to Anak Krakatau, became a New York Times bestseller. Such attention is a testament of the singular importance of Anak to the scientific community, given that “new islands”, while rare, appear (and disappear) with some regularity. Anak Krakatau itself only became a permanent island after three previous forays during 1927-1930.

Back at Anak, the sun is about to set. Tukirin eyes the summit wistfully. “Why not,” he exclaims. “Let’s go.” (A longstanding government directive warns tourists not to go anywhere near the active cone.)

As he climbs nimbly towards the top, his feet floating above the crumbly soil, he recounts one particularly close call here on Anak, back in the 1990s, when he got caught during an eruption. “Big stones were falling all around me, whoosh! Whoosh!” he says. At this point in the story, he pauses and points to an old monitoring station nearby crushed by lava bombs the size of basketballs. “I thought I was going to die.”

At dusk, he almost reaches the crater ridge (which he claims has grown 100 metres since his visit last October), only turning back because he didn’t have a gas mask. Never mind the scorching ground. Even in this desolate landscape, which resembles the surface of the Moon, he notices a rousing sight on the way down: a single pioneering shrub clinging bravely to life, its purple flowers in full bloom.


Anak Krakatau can be reached in a full day of travel. From Jakarta airport, it’s a 3-hour taxi ride ($60) to Carita, a sleepy village right on the Sundra Strait. Be warned, this an Indonesian sea resort for Indonesians, with no Internet cafes or Western bars or much of anything going on. Then it’s a 1-hour speedboat ride ($200 roundtrip), or you can go with one of the dozens of travel agencies that can arrange all the logistics.

For even more out-of-the-way “new” islands, see some travel options below. They range from extremely difficult to damn-near-impossible to get to.

Warming Island, Greenland

  • Discovered in 2005 by US explorer Dennis Schmitt
  • Formerly believed to be a peninsula, retreating ice revealed an island 644 kilometers north of the Arctic circle
  • Focus of a 2007 documentary by Utah film-maker Eric Ristau, and of arguments by a climate sceptic who points to a map in a 1957 book as evidence that this isn’t a “new” island created by global warming.

Surtsey Island, Iceland

  • Formed by volcanic eruption from 1963 to 1967
  • Contains 60 species of vascular plants, 24 fungi, 89 birds, and 335 invertebrates
  • Unlike at Anak Krakatau, no tourism has ever been allowed here
  • Became a World Heritage site in July 2008

Fukotoku Okanaba Island, Japan

  • Formed by a volcanic eruption in 1986
  • Grew to roughly 20 hectares near Iwo Jima, but sank beneath the surface of the ocean after 3 months

Tuluman Island, Papua New Guinea

  • Formed by eruptions starting in 1953
  • 45% of Tuluman’s flora is shared by Anak Krakatau; fruit bats, crocodiles and monitor lizards have also been seen here
  • Tuluman is often cited by creationists as an example of land that hasn’t taken as long as evolutionists would propse to “look old”

Metis Shoal, Tonga

  • Formed by a volcanic eruption in 1995
  • Grew to 50 meters in one month of eruptions
  • Like Anak Krakatau and others, the island seems to have formed in place of earlier ephemeral islands that stood on the same spot, going back to 1851