So I realised that apparently I dived nose first into discussing the grave at Saint Mary Spitals and the research behind it that I neglected to mention perhaps one of the most pressing question on everyone’s mind…
You may recall me mentioning that the mass grave was there as a result of a volcanic eruption. A volcano… A VOLCANO. IN LONDON?! U WOT M8?? Yes yes, I know you may find that hard to believe dear reader and no I was not under the influence of any illegal narcotic(s) when writing that blog post!
Righto, let’s crack on shall we. Firstly, in case you’re still not sure, the volcano did not erupt in London so there is no cause for concern nor is there any reason to build yourself a volcano proof shelter! (yet…) HOWEVER, the eruption was ridiculously extreme that its effects and influence spread to the freaking north and south poles themselves. Find that hard to believe? Well how about these figures to tickle your imagination buds: The eruption spat out around 10 cubic miles of debris up to 27 miles into the sky. Believe me now?
You may now be thinking that pfft those figures seem grossly exaggerated however, the team of academics that came up with these figures used all sorts of data to form their hypothesis. Data such as radiocarbon dating, volcanic ejecta chemistry, stratigraphic data, and historical writings; to name a few, were used to determine the volcano’s location and the size of the gunk it managed to spew out. Obviously, a majority of the debris settled in thick deposits around the volcano itself and was measured in 130 locations around the volcano to paint a stratigraphic and sedimentologic picture of the eruption.
The date of the eruption (1257) was pinpointed by carbon dating carbonised tree trunks around potential volcano candidates; the Samalas and Rinjani (both in Indonesian islands) volcanoes. This ruled out other big shots (see what I did there) such as El Chichón (South Mexico) and Okataina (New Zealand) as they erupted outside of this period.
Another candidate was ol’ Quilota in Ecuador which has a caldera roughly matching the time frame we’re interested in and also, samples of sulphate, debris and glass shards collected from the poles showed that the volcano was somewhere in the tropics.
So, we have Samalas, Rinjani and Quilota left. To refine the results further and to find the culprit was slightly tricky and involved a very detailed analysis on the glass shard chemistry. By doing this, Quilota was ruled out and was found to be a match for…Samalas! Just google Samalas and see how many articles and journals there are pointing to it being the one.
But yeah, a volcanic eruption causes a massive change in the weather, atmosphere and environment surrounding its location. But that wasn’t enough for Samalas, nooooo it had to go and assert its dominance by changing the climate almost globally for the next 2 or so years; proof was found by studying several tree rings which showed abnormal growth during these times and also by examining historical accounts. All jokes aside, the climate in 1258 was described as being unbelievably cold; a year without a summer, leading to crop failure, poor harvest and heavy flood causing rains.
Like I said in a previous post, in 1257, autumn lasted longer than it should have which resulted in seeds and grains not being able to germinate properly leading to a famine. Combine this with the famine that occurred after Samalas went boom, and we can understand how so many people died…