Tambora – The Volcano that created Frankenstein

the ocean and the Tambora volcano that led to the creation of Frankenstein can be seen in the background

The eruption of Tambora volcano, Indonesia in 1815 was one of the largest explosive events in the world in the past 10,000 years. A very serious event, but as a fun fact, the Tambora volcano eventually also led to the creation of Frankenstein novel! We will explain it later…


The eruption was more powerful than the more widely known eruption of Krakatoa in 1883. Tambora is on the island of Sumbawa, east of Lombok and Bali. Before the eruption, Tambora was 4,300m/14,100ft high. The cone lost 1,400m/4,600ft in height during the eruption.

Tambora’s eruption commenced on 5th April with rumblings and small eruptions. The main 24 hour long paroxysm (sudden and violent volcanic eruption) occurred on 10th April 1815. The sky remained dark for 1-2 days up to 600km/370miles from the volcano. 100 cubic km of magma (molten rock) erupted. Pumice islands, made from solidified volcanic froth, up to several kilometers long drifted along the coast of Flores. The eruption caused a Tsunami with a wave height of 10m and a small tsunami reached the east coast of Java. Tambora’s eruption killed 92,000 people. Ten thousand people were killed immediately from the pyroclastic flows (clouds of hot gas, ash and rock). The eventual toll due to starvation and disease may have been as high as 117,000.

Climate Change

In the following year of 1816 the climate was so disturbed that it became the ‘year without a summer’ in Europe – there was snow in July. Dust and ashes shot into the air from the Tambora eruption blocked out the sunlight and reduced global temperatures by 3 degrees Celsius/37 degrees Fahrenheit. Europe missed a summer and India had crop failures following the Tambora eruption.

How the Tambora Volcano created Frankenstein

Over the other side of the world on Lake Geneva, Lord Byron was with a group of writers. Due to the persistent bleak weather caused by Tambora he decided to challenge the writers to write a horror story.  Mary Shelley was one of the writers and she wrote Frankenstein in the summer of 1816!

The Lost Kingdom of Tambora

During 2004 a buried town was discovered near the Tambora volcano. The tiny kingdom of Tambora was on the volcano’s western side. The fast moving flow of molten rock and ash buried the town under 3m/10ft of debris leaving only four of its estimated 10,000 residents alive.

Archaeologists called Tambora the Pompeii of the East because of the preservation of human artifacts. They found bronze bowls, ceramic pots, fine china, glass and iron tools. Similarly, the framework of a house has been excavated. Inside they found two human skeletons lying where they died, one of them clutching a large knife. If Tambora is in fact like Pompeii, the scientists say that all the people, their houses and culture still exist, encapsulated there as they were in 1815.

Discover Tambora Volcano with Coralia Liveaboard

You can see Tambora from Satonda Island. Satonda is Coralia Liveboard’s itinerary out of Bali heading to Komodo National Park. There is a beautiful sloping reef with a chance to see cuttlefish, ghost pipefish, frogfish and pygmy seahorses. At sunset thousands of fruit bats who spend the day on Satonda take flight. They make their nightly feeding exodus over to the slopes of Tambora on Sumbawa Island.
Check Coralia’s cruise schedule here.

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