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Tambora crater

Tambora crater

height 2850  m
location Sumbawa Island , Indonesia
Coordinates 8 ° 14 '43 "  S , 117 ° 59' 34"  E Coordinates: 8 ° 14 '43 "  S , 117 ° 59' 34"  E
Tambora (Indonesia)
Type Stratovolcano
Last eruption 1967
First ascent 1847
The Tambora on the Sanggar Peninsula. At the top right Vesuvius near Naples on the same scale as a size comparison

The Tambora (also Temboro) is an active stratovolcano on the island of Sumbawa in Indonesia, east of Java . Sumbawa is bordered by oceanic crust in the north and south . The Tambora was formed by active subduction zones below. This process raised it to an altitude of 4300  m , which made the volcano one of the highest peaks in the Indonesian archipelago. The magma flowed out of a large chamber inside the mountain, which filled up again over a period of several centuries. The volcanic activity of this chamber peaked between April 10 and April 15, 1815 .

In 1815 the Tambora erupted with an intensity of 7 on the volcanic explosive index , the largest eruption since the Taupo eruption in New Zealand about 26,500 to 22,500 years ago. Heavy precipitation from volcanic ash reached as far as Borneo , Sulawesi , Java and the Moluccas . At least 71,000 people in Sumbawa and Lombok died as a result of the eruption, 11,000 to 12,000 of them directly from the eruption. The material ejected by the eruption caused global climate changes which, due to the effects on the North American and European weather, earned the year 1816 the designation “ year without a summer ”. In parts of the northern hemisphere, crop failures and increased livestock mortality resulted in the worst famine of the 19th century. The worldwide, indirect number of victims cannot be quantified.

Geographical location

Satellite image of the Tambora
Topography of Tambora and its surroundings

The Tambora is located on Sumbawa , one of the Lesser Sunda Islands . It forms a segment of the Sunda Arc , a chain of volcanic islands that make up the southern part of the Indonesian archipelago. The Tambora is located on a Sumbawa peninsula known as the Sanggar Peninsula. In the north of this peninsula is the Floressee , in the south the 86 km long and 36 km wide Saleh Bay. In the mouth of the bay is the small island of Mojo.


In addition to seismologists and volcanologists who observe the activity of the mountain, biologists and archaeologists also carry out scientific studies in the Tambora area. In 2004 a team of volcanologists led by Haraldur Sigurdsson discovered a village near the crater ( caldera ) that was buried under pyroclastic deposits by the eruption in 1815 . Bones and artifacts were recovered from the excavation site . At this site - also known as the “Pompeii of the East” in the press at the time, because of the similar demise of the place - the archaeologists hoped to have found the palace of the rajah of the “kingdom” of Tambora destroyed by the eruption . So far there have been no further finds under the thick layers of material ejected from the crater.


Today the area also serves as a destination for tourists. The two closest towns are Dompu and Bima. There are three villages around the mountain slope, Sanggar in the east, Doro Peti and Pesanggrahan in the northwest, and the small town of Calabai on the west coast.

The caldera can be reached via two different routes. The first begins in the village of Doro Mboha south-east of the mountain and leads over a paved road to an altitude of 1150  m above sea level through cashew plantations. The end of this route is the southern part of the caldera at an altitude of 1950  m , which can be reached via a hiking trail. This place is usually used as a base camp for volcano watching, as the caldera can be reached in about an hour from there. The second route starts in the village of Pancasila on the northwest side of the mountain. A road leads about 7 km further through coffee plantations to Lerang Tambora, a settlement of coffee planters, from where a sometimes difficult path initially continues through dense tropical rainforest .

Geological history


The Tambora is 340 kilometers north of the Sunda Trench and 180 to 190 kilometers above the upper edge of the north-sloping Benioff Zone . Sumbawa is bordered by oceanic crust in the north and south . The convergence rate of the Indian-Australian , Eurasian and Pacific plates that meet here is around 7.8 centimeters per year. The age of the Tambora is estimated to be at least 57,000 years.

The Tambora measures about 60 kilometers at sea level. The current altitude is 2,850  m compared to an estimated 4,300  m before the 1815 eruption.

According to a geological study, the Tambora had a high volcanic cone with a central shaft before the eruption, from which lava often emerged and flowed over the flanks of the mountain. Today the stratovolcano consists of the volcanic deposits within the caldera, which are up to 2700  m high in the north-west and up to 2750  m high in the west and south-west.

The older stratovolcano consists of interlocking layers of lava and pyroclastics, the successor consists of about 40% of one to four meters thick, often interrupted lava flows.

There are at least 20 secondary cones, some of which have been named: "Tahe" (877 meters), "Molo" (602 meters), "Kadiendinae", "Kuba" ( 1648  m ) and "Doro Api Toi". Most of these secondary cones produced basalt lava flows.

Eruption story

By radiocarbon dating has been shown that there was already before 1815 three eruptions of Tambora, whose strength is, however, unknown. The times are dated to 3710 BC. BC (± 200 years), 3050 BC And 740 AD (± 150 years) estimated. All eruptions had similar characteristics: an explosive eruption of the volcano from the central eruption channel, the last one showing no pyroclastic flows.

In 1812 the Tambora became highly active and reached its eruptive maximum in April 1815. The eruption corresponded to a magnitude of seven on the VEI scale, with a total of 60 to 160 cubic kilometers of ejected pyroclastic precipitation . Features of the eruption included explosive eruptions from the central channel, pyroclastic currents, tsunamis, and a caldera collapse , among others . The outbreak had long-term effects on the global climate. Follow-up activity by the volcano was recorded in August 1819 in the form of a small eruption measuring two on the VEI scale. Eruptions occurred again between 1850 and 1910, but they were confined to the caldera. Small lava flows and domes were created here. The strength was two on the VEI scale. During these eruptions, the "Doro Api Toi" - a secondary cone within the caldera - was created.

The last eruption of Tambora was recorded in 1967, and it was a very small, non-explosive eruption.

1815 eruption

Estimated ash precipitation during the eruption in 1815. The red areas indicate the thickness of the precipitation, the outermost area corresponds to one centimeter of volcanic ash.

Before 1815, the Tambora was inactive for several centuries due to the gradual cooling of watery lava in a closed magma chamber . Inside this chamber, at depths between 1.5 and 4.5 kilometers, separation processes created a pressure of around 4 to 5 kilobars at temperatures between 700 and 800 ° C.

In 1812 there were first tremors and a dark cloud over the caldera. On April 5, 1815, an eruption of medium strength took place, followed by explosion noises, which were heard in Makassar on Sulawesi (380 kilometers away), Batavia on Java (1260 kilometers) and Ternate on the Moluccas (1400 kilometers). On the morning of April 6th there was first precipitation from volcanic ash in Jawa Timur (in German East Java). On April 10 and 11, according to Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles , the Commander in Chief of the British Armed Forces, the explosions were heard over 2,600 kilometers away in Sumatra and were initially mistaken for gunfire.

On April 10, the eruptions intensified at around 7 p.m. Eyewitnesses tell of three pillars of flame that rose above the mountain, united there and transformed the Tambora into an inferno of "liquid fire". At around 8 p.m., chunks of pumice stone up to 20 centimeters in diameter were ejected from the crater and fell in the area. Ash followed between 9 and 10 p.m. Pyroclastic currents cascaded out in all directions of the peninsula and destroyed the village of Tambora. Loud explosions were heard until the next evening. The ashes spread to the Indonesian provinces of Jawa Barat and Sulawesi Selatan . In Batavia, during heavy rains interspersed with tephra , a distinct smell of saltpeter was also perceived, which weakened again between April 11th and 17th.

“The first explosions on this island were heard on the evening of April 5th, were noticed in every part of the city, and continued at intervals until the next day. The noise, when it first appeared, was almost universally mistaken for distant gunfire; so [convincing was this impression] that a detachment of troops was sent from Djocjocarta in anticipation of an attack on a neighboring post, and in two cases boats searched along the coast for a suspected ship in distress. "

- Translation from the memoirs of Sir Thomas Raffles '

The explosion is estimated to have a magnitude of seven according to the Volcanic Explosivity Index (VEI). It had about four times the energy of the eruption of Krakatau in 1883. Calculated 160 km³ of pyroclastics with a total mass of 140 billion tons were ejected. After the explosion, the caldera was between 6 and 7 kilometers in diameter at a depth of 600 to 700 meters. Tambora was about to explode with estimated 4300  m one of the highest peaks in the Indonesian archipelago, the height is now 2850  m .

The eruption of Tambora in 1815 is the largest ever observed eruption. The ash precipitation reached a radius of 1,300 kilometers and darkened the sky almost completely within a radius of up to 600 kilometers for two days. The pyroclastic currents spread up to 20 kilometers. The estimated energy release from the eruption is equivalent to 30,000 megatons of TNT equivalent . The explosions could still be heard in the city of Bengkulu in Sumatra, 1,800 km away .

Consequences of the eruption

Volcanoes in Indonesia
Horse loss in 1816 is 13% compared to 1800
Evening Mood in Wales 1838 by William Turner

Almost the entire island population of around 4,000 in eleven different villages was killed in the disaster on Sumbawa, and the coasts of the surrounding Indonesian islands of Flores and Timor were destroyed by high tidal waves. It is estimated that 10,000 people died directly from the effects of the outbreak. The subsequent tidal waves and famines killed around 100,000 more people. According to other sources, another 82,000 people died from starvation and disease.

The dust particles were distributed all over the world by air currents and caused crop failures and famine in Europe as well. The summer of the following year 1816, popularly known as the “ year without a summer ”, was the coldest since weather records began . Many European countries experienced crop failures, famines and economic crises, which caused many people to emigrate. There were uprisings in France and England, and a state of emergency had to be declared in Switzerland. Because of the crop failures, oat prices rose sharply and, as a result, the number of horses in Europe, which had been reduced by the Napoleonic Wars , led to the development of the draisine - according to a (controversial) hypothesis of the technical-historical author Hans-Erhard Lessing was advanced. In the Kingdom of Württemberg , which was hit particularly hard by the climate catastrophe, the young King Wilhelm I and his wife Katharina founded the "Agricultural Festival in Cannstatt", from which today's Cannstatter Volksfest arose, and an "agricultural teaching institution" from which the University of Hohenheim emerged .

Following the volcanic eruption, the Biedermeier sunsets in Europe were of unprecedented splendor - in all shades of red, orange and purple, and occasionally in shades of blue and green. The grandiose evening moods inspired the English landscape painter William Turner , they are also reflected in the color tones of Carl Spitzweg's works .

According to one theory, the outbreak could also have been one of the reasons for Napoleon's defeat at the Battle of Waterloo . Due to a change in the atmosphere, the weather in Europe was extremely bad in the months after the eruption - this in turn meant that the French troops advanced much more slowly than before.


On the caldera floor of Tambora, view in north direction (GRV 2013)
Gases escaping under high pressure in the north-eastern area of ​​the caldera (GRV 2014)
Ascent through the dry savannah, the summit region of Tambora in the background (GRV 2015)
View from the eastern edge of the caldera (2346 m) to the inner western flank (GRV 2015)

In 1847, the Swiss teacher and botanist Heinrich Zollinger was the first to climb Tambora and led an excursion group to the edge of the caldera.

In October 2013, a German research team (Georesearch Volcanedo Germany) carried out a longer expedition into the Tambora Caldera, which is more than 1000 meters deep, in which, after the great eruption in 1815, an ecosystem largely unaffected by humans developed due to its isolation. With the help of local helpers, the team advanced under extreme conditions over the southern flank from 2,430 m to 1,340 m to the bottom of the caldera. The team also included a German geoscientist who was the first woman in the world to climb the inner southern flank of this volcano. The team's stay within the caldera, including the caldera bottom research, lasted nine days and is so far unique on this scale. Previously, people had only reached the bottom of the caldera in isolated cases, as the descent is difficult and dangerous due to the extremely steep drop. In addition, due to logistical problems, so far only relatively short stays on the caldera floor were possible, so that extensive scientific studies were not possible. The investigation program included the effects of the smaller eruptions that took place on the caldera floor after 1815, temperature measurements (air, soil, gases), gas measurements, investigations into flora and fauna, measurement of weather data and detailed mapping. The relatively high activity of Doro Api Toi in the southern area of ​​the caldera and the gases escaping under high pressure on the lower northeast wall were particularly noticeable.

In July 2014, the same research team carried out another expedition into the Tambora caldera, this time with a stay within the caldera of twelve days, and continued the investigations of the previous year. In August 2015, the team followed and researched the route used by Zollinger for the first time since 1847. The ascent from the east coast of the Sanggar Peninsula over the eastern flank to the eastern edge of the Tambora caldera was a challenge due to the length of the distance to be covered on foot, the very high daytime temperatures and the usual lack of water in this region in August as well as terrain-related difficulties.


According to Gillen D'Arcy Wood , the cholera pandemic of 1817, which spread from the Indian continent across the world, is mainly attributed to the outbreak of Tambora.

The English writer Mary Shelley wrote her novel Frankenstein because of the year without a summer and the bad weather that resulted from it . She spent the summer u. a. with Lord Byron in the Villa Diodati near Geneva , where he wrote horror stories with the others.

Tambora is shown with a plume of smoke and a horse-drawn carriage on the German 20 euro silver coin Laufmaschine by Karl Drais 1817 from 2017, to illustrate the (controversial) thesis that the volcanic eruption worsened the weather, failed harvests led to the slaughter of horses and that again to develop the balance bike as a horse-free form of travel for people.

See also


  • S. Self, MR Rampino, MS Newton, JA Wolff: Volcanological Study of the Great Tambora Eruption of 1815. In: Geology. Volume 12, 1989, pp. 659-663.
  • H. Sigurdsson, S. Carey: Plinian and Co-Igmibrite Tephra Fall from the 1815 Eruption of Tambora Volcano . In: Bulletin of Volcanology. Volume 51, 1989, pp. 243-270.
  • RB Stothers: The Great Tambora Eruption of 1815 and Its Aftermath. In: Science. Volume 224, 1984, pp. 1191-1198.
  • Gillen D'Arcy Wood: Volcanic winter 1816. The world in the shadow of Tambora. Theiss, Darmstadt 2015, ISBN 978-3-8062-3015-4 (Original title: Tambora: The Eruption That Changed the World . Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ 2014; Review: Matthias Schulz: Planet Asche. The eruption of the Tambora volcano before 200 years brought hunger, death - and social progress . In: Der Spiegel . No. 15 , 2015, p. 116 f . ( online ). )
  • Wolfgang Behringer : Tambora and the year without a summer. How a volcano plunged the world into crisis. Beck, Munich 2015, ISBN 978-3-406-67615-4 ( about the book ).

Web links

Commons : Tambora  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. a b c d e f g h Richard B. Stothers: The Great Tambora Eruption in 1815 and Its Aftermath . In: Science . 224, No. 4654, 1984, pp. 1191-1198. doi : 10.1126 / science.224.4654.1191 .
  2. ^ A b E. T. Degens, book, B: Sedimentological events in Saleh Bay, off Mount Tambora . In: Netherlands Journal of Sea Research . 24, No. 4, 1989, pp. 399-404. doi : 10.1016 / 0077-7579 (89) 90117-8 .
  3. a b c d e f Clive Oppenheimer: Climatic, environmental and human consequences of the largest known historic eruption: Tambora volcano (Indonesia) 1815 . In: Progress in Physical Geography . 27, No. 2, 2003, pp. 230-259. doi : 10.1191 / 0309133303pp379ra .
  4. Many authors put the number of victims at 92,000, a number that is based on an incorrect calculation: J.-C. Tanguy, A. Scarth, C. Ribière, WS Tjetjep: Victims from volcanic eruptions: a revised database . In: Bulletin of Volcanology . 60, No. 2, 1998, pp. 137-144. doi : 10.1007 / s004450050222 .
  5. a b c d J. Foden: The petrology of Tambora volcano, Indonesia: A model for the 1815 eruption . In: Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research . 27, No. 1-2, 1986, pp. 1-41. doi : 10.1016 / 0377-0273 (86) 90079-X . .
  6. Constance Holden: "Lost kingdom found" . In: Science . tape 311 , no. 5766 , 2006, doi : 10.1126 / science.311.5766.1355a .
  7. ^ A b Directorate of Volcanology and Geological Hazard Mitigation, "Tambora, Nusa Tenggara Barat" ( Memento of September 29, 2007 in the Internet Archive )
  8. ^ A b H. Sigurdsson, Carey, S .: Plinian and co-ignimbrite tephra fall from the 1815 eruption of Tambora volcano . In: Bulletin of Volcanology . 51, No. 4, 1983, pp. 243-270. doi : 10.1007 / BF01073515 . .
  9. Vulcanological Survey of Indonesia, Geology of Tambora Volcano ( Memento of November 16, 2006 in the Internet Archive )
  10. a b c d Tambora in the Global Volcanism Program of the Smithsonian Institution (English)
  11. Vulcanological Survey of Indonesia, " Tambora Historic Eruptions and Recent Activities ( Memento of September 27, 2007 in the Internet Archive )"
  12. a b c Stamford Raffles : Memoir of the life and public services of Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles, FRS & c., Particularly in the government of Java 1811-1816, and of Bencoolen and its dependencies 1817-1824: with details of the commerce and resources of the eastern archipelago, and selections from his correspondence. John Murray, London 1830. (cited by Oppenheimer (2003))
  13. ^ KR Briffa, Jones, PD, Schweingruber, FH and Osborn TJ: Influence of volcanic eruptions on Northern Hemisphere summer temperature over 600 years . In: Nature . 393, August, pp. 450-455. doi : 10.1038 / 30943 . .
  14. ^ KA Monk, Y. Fretes, G. Reksodiharjo-Lilley: The Ecology of Nusa Tenggara and Maluku . Periplus Editions Ltd., Hong Kong 1996, ISBN 962-593-076-0 , pp. 60 .
  15. sciencedirect.com G. Fowden: The petrology of Tambora volcano, Indonesia: A model for the 1815 eruption , in the Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research Vol 27, Issue 1-2, January 1986, pages 1-41.
  16. Christian Wüst: Veil over it . In: Der Spiegel . No. 10 , 2017, p. 98 ( online ).
  17. Holger Sonnabend , Gerrit Jasper Schenk: Initiatives for historical disaster research . (PDF) 2006
  18. ^ HE Lessing: Automobility - Karl Drais and the unbelievable beginnings . Maxime-Verlag, Leipzig 2003, ISBN 3-931965-22-8 , pp. 114-115 .
  19. ^ HE Lessing: Karl Drais and the two-wheeled principle . In: Technoseum (ed.): 2 wheels - 200 years . Theiss-Verlag, Darmstadt 2016, ISBN 978-3-8062-3374-2 , p. 42-57 .
  20. Hans Otto Strohecker, Günther Wilmann: Cannstatter Volksfest. Konrad Theiss Verlag, ISBN 3-8062-0199-4 .
  21. C. Zerefos., V. Gerogiannis, D. Balis, S. Zerefos, A. Kazantzidis: Atmospheric effects of volcanic eruptions as seen by famous artists and depicted in their paintings. In: Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics Discussions. Volume 7, 2007, pp. 4027-4042.
  22. ↑ Radio report Tambora: A volcano makes world history. Author: Udo Zindel, editor: Detlef Clas, director: Hans-Peter Bögel , repetition of Tuesday, April 5, 2004, 8.30 a.m., SWR2
  23. Did a volcanic eruption decide the Battle of Waterloo? In: Süddeutsche Zeitung
  24. ^ Heinrich Zollinger: Ascent of the Tambora volcano on the island of Sumbawa and description of the Erupzion of the same in 1815. Winterthur 1855.
  25. Ascent of Tambora in August 2015 on Zollinger's route - 200 years after the great eruption, brief reports by Georesearch Volcanedo Germany; On: volcanedo.de
  26. 20-euro commemorative coin "Karl Drais' running machine 1817" bundesfinanzministerium.de, September 14, 2016, accessed December 21, 2017.