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Mount Tambora
Sumbawa Topography.png
Topography of Sumbawa; Tambora's caldera is situated on the northern peninsula.
Highest point
Elevation 2,722 m (8,930 ft)
Prominence 2,722 m (8,930 ft)
Listing Ultra
Location Lesser Sunda Islands, Indonesia
Age of rock 57000 years
Mountain type Stratovolcano/Composite
Last eruption 2011
Caldera Mt Tambora Sumbawa Indonesia
Aerial view of the caldera of Mount Tambora

Mount Tambora, or Tomboro, is an active stratovolcano in West Nusa Tenggara, Indonesia. It is located on Sumbawa in the Lesser Sunda Islands and was formed by the active subduction zones beneath it. Before 1815, it was one of the tallest peaks in the Indonesian archipelago - more than 4,300 metres (14,100 feet) high.

Tambora's eruption is the largest eruption in recorded human history and the largest of the Holocene (10,000 years ago to present). It started with a series of smaller eruptions beginning 5 April, 1815. Later that year it erupted wuth the explosion that was heard on Sumatra island, more than 2,000 kilometres (1,200 miles) away. Heavy volcanic ash rains were observed as far away as Borneo, Sulawesi, Java, and Maluku islands, and the maximum elevation of Tambora was reduced from about 4,300 metres (14,100 ft) to 2,850 metres (9,350 feet). The death toll was at least 71,000 people. The eruption contributed to global climate anomalies in the following years, while 1816 became known as the "year without a summer" because of the impact on North American and European weather. In the Northern Hemisphere, crops failed and livestock died, resulting in the worst famine of the century.

Mount Tambora is still active. The last eruption was recorded in 1967. However, it was a gentle eruption and was non-explosive. Another very small eruption was reported in 2011.


When the volcano erupted in 1815, it climaxed on 10 April. It was the most destructive volcanic eruption in modern history. It has been estimated that it was four times larger than the 1883 eruption of Krakatoa, between Java and Sumatra, in terms of volume of magma ejected. Before the explosion, Tambora was 4,300 m (14,100 ft) high, now it is only 2,722 m (8,930 ft) high. Its massive crater is therefore a caldera.

The eruption destroyed a small Asian culture, known to archaeologists as the Tamboran kingdom. Most deaths from the eruption were from starvation and disease, as the fallout ruined farming in the local region. The death toll was at least 71,000 people, of whom 11,000–12,000 were killed directly by the eruption. The often-cited figure of 92,000 people killed is believed to be overestimated.

It launched 160 cubic kilometers – 160 km3 (38 cu mi) – of ash into the upper atmosphere. This caused famine around the world. Tambora's 1815 outburst was the largest volcanic eruption in recorded history. The explosion was heard on Sumatra island more than 2,000 km (1,200 mi) away. Heavy volcanic ash falls were observed as far away as Borneo, Sulawesi, Java and Maluku islands.

Climate change

The eruption caused a global climate change known as the "volcanic winter". 1816 became known as the "Year without a summer" because of the effect on North American and European weather. Crops failed and livestock died in much of the Northern Hemisphere, resulting in the worst famine of the 19th century.


Size comparison of Mount Tambora ("Pompeii of the East") and Mount Vesuvius ("Pompeii")

A human settlement obliterated by the Tambora eruption was discovered in 2004. That summer, a team led by Haraldur Sigurðsson with scientists from the University of Rhode Island, the University of North Carolina at Wilmington and the Indonesian Directorate of Volcanology began an archaeological dig in Tambora. Over six weeks, they unearthed evidence of habitation about 25 kilometres (16 mi) west of the caldera, deep in jungle, 5 kilometres (3.1 mi) from shore. The team excavated 3 metres (9.8 ft) of deposits of pumice and ash. The scientists used ground-penetrating radar to locate a small buried house which contained the remains of two adults, bronze bowls, ceramic pots, iron tools and other artifacts. Tests revealed that objects had been carbonized by the heat of the magma. Sigurdsson dubbed the find the "Pompeii of the East", and media reports referred to the "Lost Kingdom of Tambora". Sigurdsson intended to return to Tambora in 2007 to search for the rest of the villages, and hopefully to find a palace. Many villages in the area had converted to Islam in the 17th century, but the structures uncovered so far do not show Islamic influence.

Based on the artifacts found, such as bronzeware and finely decorated china possibly of Vietnamese or Cambodian origin, the team concluded that the people were well-off traders. The Sumbawa people were known in the East Indies for their horses, honey, sappan wood (for producing red dye), and sandalwood (for incense and medications). The area was thought to be highly productive agriculturally.

The language of the Tambora people was lost with the eruption. Linguists have examined remnant lexical material, such as records by Zollinger and Raffles, and established that Tambora was not an Austronesian language, as would be expected in the area, but possibly a language isolate, or perhaps a member of one of the families of Papuan languages found 500 kilometres (310 mi) or more to the east.

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See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Tambora para niños

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