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  • Writer's pictureDon Wilding

Witness to disaster at Krakatoa

Image of the disaster at Krakatoa from Harper's Weekly, September 1883. (Library of Congress)

Over the course of history, many Cape Cod sea captains survived dangerous journeys on the high seas.

However, no one may have endured a more perilous voyage than Brewster’s Benjamin C. Baker did during this week 133 years ago, when he and his crew of the barque W.H. Besse somehow survived passing through the elemental fury stirred by the volcano eruption on Krakatoa Island in the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia).

In what was one of the greatest natural disasters ever recorded, the eruption and its effects claimed over 36,000 lives during the final week of August in 1883.

The W.H. Besse, which returned to Boston several months after the record eruption, also endured a cholera outbreak and hurricanes. However, the volcano’s effects were something else entirely.

“Several were sure that the day of final judgment had come,” wrote J. Henry Sears in his book, “Brewster Ship Masters,” in 1906.

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