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Top Explosions in all of Human History

Updated on March 20, 2017
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Starlight is an evil genius whose neither evil nor dominating the world. But he's a good Dad who supports his family working from home.

Volcanoes are fair game.
Volcanoes are fair game.
Earthquakes are fair game.
Earthquakes are fair game.

From Madness to Method, Lunacy To Brilliance

Just like when I set out to define the top Superhumans of our time, I have to lay down a few ground-rules to maintain the integrity of my writing. My top ten lists are made in this way: If another numbskull already covered it, I'm not, going to be the next. If I do, it's going to have some insight or correlate that you probably haven't encountered. I hunt for the truly amazing. I'm good and getting better, so like a pet cat, I proudly drag it's carcass to your front door.

You are so lucky and smart to be reading my article. When I'm reading top ten lists, usually they were written by someone who is not me, and I'm often appalled by mundane, idiotic, and boring shit. If I'm writing, I just have to do it right. Otherwise, how would you, dear reader, ever know just how amazing it really is, this world in which we live? How could you proceed without knowing that humanity has limited intelligence and boundless stupidity? I'm writing a wrong. You're welcom.

So I'm reading these lists of the biggest explosions and am shaking my head, because the lists go all over the place while sacrificing variety to include redundant also-rans that simply put are wasting my precious time. You are benefitting, as a privileged reader of my articles, not only by my respect of your intellect by excluding obvious facts you've probably heard before by an accursed YouTube damn dirty robotic voice, but also because I'm breaking the list down into several distinct categories for variety.

No "lunacy" - the remote astronomical events of Human History because they are mostly just blips in the night sky to us, and they happened in the near to distant past anyway. The CGI rendered depictions are bogus conjecture BS. My lists must cover topics that are as grounded and interesting as they are habitable and reachable.

I'm not just covering the biggest natural events, because after a few volcanoes, ano one may make you fill the nearest sink with a frothy foamy eruption of puke.

Man-made explosions are much more interesting and significant to an intellectual mind, deserving of several categories at least, because yeah, we know nukes are the biggest. We don't need to run down a list of all the tests. So I'm going in an order respective of the individual categories, so your mind-blowing won't be a sudden pop, but more of a controlled release. Hopefully I stop before reflection spawns depression. People blowing up people and stuff is a shitty thing. It almost ruins my interest, but blowing up stuff is cool, and blasting abonimable evil bastards and obliterating their shit is righteous. Usually, though, it doesn't play out the way it should... you'll see.

Unfortunately, they didn't have any Volcanologists like Pierce Brosnan to tell them the mountain is going to explode in a debonaire English accent.

Meh, they pretty much didn't listen. Even the other geologists were doubters until they were literally buried in evidence to the contrary.
Meh, they pretty much didn't listen. Even the other geologists were doubters until they were literally buried in evidence to the contrary. | Source

NIMBY - not in my back yard! How would you like to live just a pumice-stone's throw from Pompeii?

Source
Vesuvius has been growing even as it has erupted many times since '79
Vesuvius has been growing even as it has erupted many times since '79 | Source

10 Vesuvius Eruption of '79

Vesuvius, of all volcanic eruptions, just barely makes this list because it's not even close to the biggest volcanic eruption, but wow did we have something to learn from it. Much to learn and we did. And wow, aren't we stupid for forgetting. Well, it will become painfully obvious in much the same way when Naples, Italy shares a tragic fate of other cities famously destroyed by volcanoes, like neighboring Pompeii. For now, it just shares the distinction of being the worst city in Italy to visit, even without fire and brimstone raining down. It's the Detroit of the Mediterranean.

Before the 70's we didn't know as much about volcanoes as we do today. I'm talking way before disco, long before the Bee Gee's made white patent leather shoes scoot and step to the looped drumtrack of Stayin' Alive. Back in the 0070's, A.D., the Romans seemed to believe they were alright just Stayin' Alive doin' fine. That being said, they weren't stupid, and when the ground was shaking more and more, with steam and noxious gas venting all around, plenty of people smarter than the fictional inhabitants of Dante's Peak actually picked up and evacuated before the magma hit the fan.

How we know details about this is the most amazing part of this. One very literate person had to go up close right when it cut loose, and escaped by the thinnest skin of his non-whitened teeth. What an amazing story it is, I recommend you read it for yourself: the account of Pliny the younger was recorded in a letter, a survivor's tale, that is as entertaining as it is frightening. This dramatic historical account stands the test of time and science for many reasons, mainly for me the fact that he describes the eruption going up, then collapsing long before the mechanics of pyroclastic flows had been widely known.

What's more, historical accounts of the region suggest the current cone has grown a lot. Recent digs in Herculaneum found hundreds more skeletons. That is scary enough, but skeletons were once people. These were people who got turned into skeletons by "Mt." Vesuvius dug up where scholars (dumb asses!) didn't think the eruption ever reached. Now that we know about Calderas, topographical mapping also indicates the blast of '79 was a lot more disastrous than the dandiest of scholars imagined. Huge areas under the sea have been found, while an entire mountain was raised up from pressure in the magma chamber making "Monte" Somma, which dwarfed the remnants of Vesuvius at the time.

So-called "Mt." Somma didn't exist before the event. Just as the present cone of the volcano isn't a result of what happened in '79 A.D. either!

Let's stop and take a timeout. I think the Italians represent a problem of denial. No they don't represent they are the poster children of denial. I'm not even going to get into the fact that they screwed up and created the largest inland tsunami, perhaps the largest all-time tsunamI in recorded history! You didn't know about it? It happened in the 1960s, which is why I brought it up, it's not like ancient history. As you can see this is a long-standing and ongoing problem. So I ask the Italians, seriously, why do you call volcano something else like "Itsanotagonnablo Mountain or Mt. Zatsnovulcani"?

So, by the powers vested in me, and according to the dictates of commonsense, from now on there is no "Mt. Somma". Henceforth it shall be called Somma-venti volcano! News: if it's made into a rising peak by a pressing mass of liquid-hot magma... that there's a volcano!

Earlier Roman depictions of Vesuvius Volcano on wall murals all show the volcano as a single cone with no hint of "Monte", nay, Volcano Somma-venti. Paintings and art from the middle ages show the peak of Vesuvius' cone far below the highest point of Somma-venti volcano (sigh "Monte Somma"). Any resident of Naples today can see the cone is elevated far above Somma-venti's summit. Food for thought as you sip a bitter and energizing black Venti-house at Starbucks.

2017 Update as "Mount" Etna (Aetna?) Erupts

Etna is Italian for uh-oh. But in the immortal last words spoken by Vinzini in the movie "The Princess Bride", never wager against a Sicilian, when death is on the line! Ha ahaha ah ah-.

Krakatoa is active right now

It emerged from the ocean and erupted already in 416 A.D. And blew up again in 535 A.D. And again in May of 1680.
It emerged from the ocean and erupted already in 416 A.D. And blew up again in 535 A.D. And again in May of 1680.
Again in 1883 like this. See how the top had already kinda, you know, blown off a bit? Cool, gotta see this!
Again in 1883 like this. See how the top had already kinda, you know, blown off a bit? Cool, gotta see this!
Soooo... guess what people are deciding to do with their free time and ocean going vessels again...
Soooo... guess what people are deciding to do with their free time and ocean going vessels again...
Ah, that's better. Well here it is today, looking at it from space is close enough for NASA. It's not, well it is apparently rocket science to have a safe look at this beast!
Ah, that's better. Well here it is today, looking at it from space is close enough for NASA. It's not, well it is apparently rocket science to have a safe look at this beast! | Source

9 Krakatoa 1883

No volcano has the reputation to blow ya like Krakatoa, at least if "Anak" (Son of) Krakatoa goes off again like it did in 1883. What was an island/mountain then literally blew off the map like all hell had broken loose.

  • Power: Four powerful blasts - the biggest single one being 13,000 times the power of the atomic bomb that annihilated Hiroshima, that's four times the Tsar Bomba.
  • Death: Killed more than 37,000 people, who knows how many more died as a result of the worldwide tsunami.
  • Earthquake: Over 2/3 of the Earth noticeably felt the power of the eruption as it reverberated via quake, with the energy traveling out around the world four times, with three measurable returns marking up to 7 times on sensitive instruments globally.
  • Tsunami: Among tsunamis of history, the results of Krakatoa are legend: the town of Merak was destroyed when hit by a 46 m (151 ft) high ocean wave. Even worse, not all the waves hitting the coast were made of sea water... some of the pyroclastic flows reached the Sumatran coast as much as 40 km (25 mi) away, having apparently moved across the water on a cushion of superheated steam.
  • Clang: Probably loudest sound waves ever, the pressure blasted out in every direction with epic power, rupturing the eardrums of sailors 64 km (40 miles) away on ships. The largest explosion was also the loudest, at precisely 10:02 A.M it set out and was later heard 3,110 km (1,930 mi) away in Perth, Western Australia. Folks on the Indian Ocean island of Rodrigues reported it as being very, very loud- 4,800 km (3,000 mi) away! They were startled by it because they feared the cause to be cannon fire from a nearby ship. This third explosion of 10:02 A.M. has been reported as the loudest sound heard in historic times.(see "How- Krakatoa Made the Biggest Bang"; The Independent, 3 May 2006.)
  • Dust: Transformed the atmosphere, putting ashes in the sky for months, that affected locations around the world for years. The cloud of ill portent was not without beauty and benefits such as extending daylight time via refraction.

According to eyewitness Gerard Hopkins; “the glow is intense; that is what strikes everyone; it has prolonged the daylight, and optically changed the season; it bathes the whole sky, it is mistaken for the reflection of a great fire.”

Tour Krakatoa!

Not kidding, you can tour Anak Krakatau today. Hey, it would be the adventure of a lifetime or at least the adventure to end all adventures.
Not kidding, you can tour Anak Krakatau today. Hey, it would be the adventure of a lifetime or at least the adventure to end all adventures.
this eruption created an ash plume that reached 40 kilometers up and ejected more material than any other in history
this eruption created an ash plume that reached 40 kilometers up and ejected more material than any other in history
Lake Toba is what's left from the 186 A.D. eruption.
Lake Toba is what's left from the 186 A.D. eruption.
Mordor, Mount Doom. Maybe appropriately named should it erupt again. The north island of NZ is where middle earth is known to be, good thing it is actually in the middle of the ocean in some respects.
Mordor, Mount Doom. Maybe appropriately named should it erupt again. The north island of NZ is where middle earth is known to be, good thing it is actually in the middle of the ocean in some respects.
This landscape, one would have a difficult time just simply walking into a place like that.
This landscape, one would have a difficult time just simply walking into a place like that.

8 History's only Supervolcanic Eruption: the Taupo Volcano

One does not simply walk into Mordor. Especially during the Taupo Eruption (also known as the Hatepe eruption) is the only true "Supervolcano" eruption in History. The huge Caldera of the Taupo Volcano, as recorded by eyewitness accounts, happened 1,800 years ago. It is the most violent eruption in the world in the last 5,000 years, which just about covers human history. It's also significant in the history of Middle Earth. The Lord of the Rings crew used the New Zealand National Park region for the epic film series. The vivid scenes of Mordor, Emyn Muil, Mount Doom and the Plains of Gorgoroth were all taken near Lake Taupo, the film location of mystical Middle-earth volcanoes.

Frodo set it off with that damn ring.

The Meatiest Meteor

Big rock fall from sky and boom, big hole made in ground. Big boom sound shake many things very far away. Many waters flow into hole.
Big rock fall from sky and boom, big hole made in ground. Big boom sound shake many things very far away. Many waters flow into hole.

7 Tunguska Meteor Impact, 1908, Siberia, Russia

Ground zero, being land that is not Antartica, almost couldn't have happened in a better place - Siberia. As if you needed another reason not to live in Siberia. Though this could have happened anywhere. It's good the meteor almost completely disintegrated 5 or 6 km above the surface. Too bad it was a rock about 50 meters in diameter.

1/2*m*V2 of a rock that size coming in at a typical velocity would produce at least 2 x 1015 joules for the Tunguska explosion, compared to about 3 x 1013 joules for the Hiroshima A-bomb. No wonder a herd of reindeer 30 km away were turned into crispy critters (Donner and Blitzen?) and the Siberians who lived to tell the tale were no closer than that. Only a few survived nearer than 60 km away, all of them described being thrown many meters. They experienced such searing heat that they believed their clothes to be in flames. The light was two or three times as bright as the sun, and they were pelted by rocks for what seemed like a very long time. The people much farther away didn't experience the intense heat, but even at 175 km distance reported a bright light and strong sensation heat followed in a few minutes by a series of unbelievably loud noises that made them dive for cover. At 500 km observers heard deafening noise, like a cannon firing next to your head. Others reported great "peals of thunder" as if lightning struck next to them. Instruments recorded earthquake-like tremors and observers could see a strange light in the sky 500 km from the epicenter. A conservative estimate of the Tunguska event yields an explosive energy roughly on the order of 60 A-bombs, or 500 KT of TNT. It was basically like detonating a very large H-bomb 5k above the surface of the earth... before the atomic age.

But since it was Siberia, no big deal. If a 500 kiloton detonation happens in the Siberian forest and nobody is there to witness it, did it ever really happen?

-YES! Because it changes the rotation of the earth among other things like being TOTALLY FREAKING LOUD!


But besides reindeer and wolves (and Russian lives but not in the millions) the region was largely unaffected. It kept on being the frozen, boring, future place-where-you-get-sent-to-die-in-a-labor-camp. maybe it's no coincidence the biggest H-bomb ever detonated was destined for Siberia as well. What better than a frozen wasteland to demonstrate how we humans can destroy our world better than any astronomical collision in recorded history. Yay USA, USA, USSR!, U-better not actually use that shtuff! Ok I'll stop now before... well you know what could happen.


But it's not all bad in Russia

Sheesh I never pictured the rooskies looking like this should they have invaded during the Reagan years.
Sheesh I never pictured the rooskies looking like this should they have invaded during the Reagan years. | Source
I maybe would have had a different outlook if an invasion of Michigan via the North looked like this.
I maybe would have had a different outlook if an invasion of Michigan via the North looked like this. | Source
It doesn't look so bad now, but this is where it happened. A terrible day, but the destruction of other Japanese and almost every German city really weren't so distinguishable in the end.
It doesn't look so bad now, but this is where it happened. A terrible day, but the destruction of other Japanese and almost every German city really weren't so distinguishable in the end. | Source
Yeah, sure, Nagasaki really looks great now. But you should see how destroyed Detroit is today.
Yeah, sure, Nagasaki really looks great now. But you should see how destroyed Detroit is today. | Source

6 Nagasaki

Biggest explosion from a single bomb used in war - and it used just 6.2 kilograms (14 lb) of plutonium for blast yield 21 kt.

Source
six decades later, radiation is only ten times normal background, so you can plan your next vacation now!
six decades later, radiation is only ten times normal background, so you can plan your next vacation now! | Source

5 Trinity

Test, this is only a test.

I guess we better regulate and enforce a limit on how many explosives you can pack on a single trip.
I guess we better regulate and enforce a limit on how many explosives you can pack on a single trip.

4 Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada 1917

Why do you limit how many explosives you can carry on a freighter? Halifax. Another boat collided with the infamously-filled to the rim, brimming with explosives, at just 1.5 knots. Somehow that was enough to start a small fire. Well, when it blew, it took the town with it, and flung the freighter that collided with it through the air, landing in the nearby town.

Everything within a 2.5 km (1.5 mi) radius was destroyed or damaged really, really bad. It vaporized the water, I mean all the water in the area. In fact the harbour floor was momentarily exposed by the volume of water that was blasted away in an instant as steam, and the ocean water returning to fill the void caused an 18 meter high tsunami that swept away at least one village.

Back to the blast... It flung the offending ship (remember it was not going fast at all) really, really fast in several directions. In fact, huge pieces of the Mont-Blanc‍ '​s front end landed approximately 5.6 kilometres (3.5 mi) to the north of the explosion site near Albro Lake in Dartmouth, while a big part of her anchor, weighing half a ton, landed 3.2 kilometres (2.0 mi) to the south

57,000 kt, Northern Russia, October 23, 1961

Source
Sorry Paris, (for scale only - do not do this to Paris)
Sorry Paris, (for scale only - do not do this to Paris) | Source
This should be number one on this list, but I'm afraid it's not!
This should be number one on this list, but I'm afraid it's not! | Source

3 Tsar Bomba

Simply the most powerful artificial explosion in human history. So crazy big, it seems to have shut the door on atmospheric testing. Go big or go home? This is the bomb that sent the nuke hawks home where they curled up in a fetal position on the floor next to their beds where they sucked their thumbs instead of saying any more about it.

Maybe it was the 5 mile diameter fireball that just kept growing. Maybe it was that the fireball stopped growing just before it would have melted the same plane that dropped it a good 5 miles, and was 6.5 miles away by the time the fireball warmed it up and changed its altitude. Or maybe it was the mother-of-all mushroom clouds that peaked at a width of 95 kilometres (59 mi) and 40 kilometres (25 mi) wide at the base, or stem. It reached 64 kilometres (40 mi) high 7x as high as Mount Everest, into parts of the atmosphere that are more akin to space than air.

Biggest earthquake the USA will see again.

1811-1812 New Madrid Earthquake
1811-1812 New Madrid Earthquake | Source
You don't need Elvis to tell you it's "all shook up"
You don't need Elvis to tell you it's "all shook up"

2 New Madrid Earthquake 1811-12

It rang Church bells in Connecticut, and was felt in Quebec City, Canada. The Old Man, the Ole Miss, Deep River, flowed backwards on that day. It was insane. Memphis was flattened. There wasn't much warning. Technically not an explosion, it might as well have been if you consider what's happening underground.

Too big for photo- almost.

Source

1. Australian Impact Crater

Just discovered, the largest impact crater on earth... it is so huge we didn't see the forest amongst the trees.

Number One Because...

Maybe human history had to start after this big bang.

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    Doug DeWalt 21 months ago from Ohio USA

    The first person to discover it in 2010 had to use satellite images... The asteroid was about 40 km wide, and broke in two before hitting Australia... they don't know when. A long time ago. The impact affected the earth's crust 3 km deep and probably is the origin of the entire Outback.

    That earthquake you mention is perhaps the deadliest and deserves a place on the list. One reason I chose the New Madrid Earthquake is the fact most people who live in or near the zone, like I do, don't know about it. The main reason I chose it is that my own research into government disaster planning in the past couple years focused on this happening again. It is the most probable disaster to happen outside of the pacific ring of fire, less predictable, and being in the middle of a continent beset with bedrock, the energy transfer would cover a huge area, and destroy the infrastructure and Mississippi river route.

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    Mazlan 21 months ago from Malaysia

    This is an amazing compilation and I have never heard of the Australian Impact Crater. When was this? Your listing, however, did not have the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake off the coast of Sumatra Indonesia that caused the massive tsunami affecting Malaysia, Thailand, India, Sri Lanka and other small islands within the South Asian region. Was this Christmas tsunami tame, in comparison to the other Epic Explosion as per your list?

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