It took us over an hour just to get to the expressway in the Friday night traffic including a stretch where we moved about 20 yards in 20 minutes. In spite of that he made it to the Villa Marina in Anyer in only about three hours. The plan was to gather the guests and go to sleep on the boat which would then depart around midnight with us already aboard.
Richard and I walked over to the Blue Moon restaurant where the incoming group was to gather. The first people I met were Steve and Marie-Louise. Steve is an ex Navy Seal working for an Oil Company and Marie-Louise is a French Canadian from Montreal. They met and married in Singapore. Phillip & Daniel had flown in from Singapore for the weekend and after never finding their driver at the airport had quite an adventure just getting there by taxi. A bit later Martin, a British national living in Jakarta, made his appearance followed by Bill, an American and former submariner with his teenage son Duncan. They had been learning scuba diving together. It was then I discovered that I was then only non-diver in the group. Then the announcement came: It was Steveís birthday on 08/08/08, so we all hoisted a toast to the weekend birthday man. There were eight of us and Richard, from five different countries. Each of us had not known more than one other person and now we were to be in very close quarters for the next 44+ hours. Then back to the boat and to bed for the journey.
We awoke around six in the morning when the sun came up and did the cereal and toast breakfast routine. Then we moved up on deck to prepare for the first dive of the day. Richard popped up out of the water and reported that he had gone down to "check things out". When the eight of them went down I put on the rented snorkeling gear and a life jacket and quietly paddled around looking at brightly colored fish and among the coral things that waved in the water like grass in a summer breeze. I was back on board and dried off by the time the divers reappeared. But several of them were carrying things which seems a bit unusual in a National park. Seems Richardís early dive as a bit more then just "checking things out". Marie-Louise had connected with Richard in advance of the trip and the co-conspirators had created a unique birthday surprise. Down among the rocks and coral Steve found a bouquet of (plastic) flowers, a bottle of Champagne and a waterproof birthday card lit up with glow sticks. A birthday I expect that none of us will ever forget.
Later we motored slowly across the base of Anak Krakatau. Krakatoa (or Krakatau) had erupted August 27, 1883 with a bang that affected the entire globe and totally destroyed the 2,600 ft high island with an estimated six cubic miles of earth disappearing into the atmosphere or the sea. Anak Krakatau or child of Krakatoa had emerged in August 1930 and was now a decent sized island. The one crater we could see was created by a November 2007 eruption. So far it was quiet with a small wisp of steam rolling over the edge. Then a tall spike of white steam followed by a smaller plume of back smoke and rock appeared with a single but almost faint yet thunderous boom. Fifteen minutes later it looked as if nothing had happened.
Saturday afternoon while they were down on the third dive of the day the boat circled around looking for the divers to pop up. I climbed out into the peak of the bow ala Leonardo diCaprio (albeit alone and we did not sink) and looked out at Anak Krakatau puffing smoke in the distance. I asked myself "is this real"?
After we picked up the divers the boat sailed south and spotted a small strip of sandy beach on Rakata which is now an island but was originally was the outer edge of Krakatoa that survived the immense blast. There were other boats around but the beach was deserted. Richard, Bill and Duncan took the zodiac and motored in to the beach. It seemed like it quite a while before Richard returned for the next group. So Steve, Marie-Louise and I slid into the dingy with some supplies and headed in to the beach. When we got to shore the long wait began to make sense. Strung between two poles was a happy birthday banner and the bottle of Champagne sitting there next to the cheese & crackers. Birthday snacks were served. A fire had already been built from driftwood and downed trees. We feasted and turned to watch the sun set behind the volcano. Just as it got dark and the fire was roaring we heard a loud boom and a black plume shot skyward, but this time there was a static discharge which looks like a lightning bolt shooting straight up from the crater through the black plume. It was followed by a brief red glow presumably a small lava flow. Richard told us that in the last few weekends they had seen maybe one eruption a day so seeing a dozen or more in a day was a special treat. As the darkness settled in, the bonfire lit up our little private birthday celebration. Meanwhile Daniel and Phillip were doing a night dive.
After a leisurely dinner on deck we eventually called it a night. Four of us slept out on the deck in case the Volcano decided on one last performance. About three in the morning I was awakened by something blowing off the table with a clanging sound. The clouds had cleared, the moon was down along the horizon and the sky was thick with stars, all except due south where Anak Krakatau was once again spewing out a large cloud. At around 3:30am the anchor was pulled up and we headed for the Sumatra coast.
I had brought the book "Krakatoa" by Simon Winchester which is a detailed account of Krakatoaís history drawn from historical records of the Dutch, ships logs and other historical documents. So I became the psudo historian providing a color commentary to our surroundings as we traveled. It is perhaps the best known volcanic eruption in modern times but was significant in other ways as well. I picked out five from the book:
I learned a lot over the weekend about Krakatoa, the history of Indonesia and other things. While it has happened before, this was a good example of how a diverse group of strangers can go off together and have a good experience. The trip would likely have been nice no matter what, but Richardís attention to the birthday celebrations and his constant good humor made it all work. Once again I am reminded "its all about attitude". The diving visibility was disappointing but instead of complaints we all just went on and had a good time together; "its all about attitude". To borrow a current advertising phrase it was priceless. Or as Marie-Louise said "it was a blast"
May you find and cherish your priceless experiences