A volcano that inspired today’s bike

Bali and beyond “File X”

The explosion of the Tambora volcano, located 310 kilometers northeast of Bali in West Nusa Tenggara, on April 10, 1815, was the largest volcanic explosion observed in recorded history. In an eruption of biblical proportions, scientists estimate that 140 million tons of magma were ejected into the atmosphere and were responsible for the deaths of some 71,000 people on the otherwise sparsely populated island of Sumbawa.

Tambora Volcano

The unprecedented amount of volcanic ash expelled in the jet stream was linked to the profound climate change of 1815-1816, when some 36 cubic meters of volcanic ash circulated in the upper atmosphere. This literally “precipitated” severe temperature drops and humid weather conditions in Europe and North America. In turn, this climate change has triggered widespread global crop failures. Although it is impossible to know the true cost of human life, the best estimates calculate that 10,000 people died on the day of the eruption and at least 81,000 others perished from starvation and disease on the slopes of Tambora and the surrounding regions of the Indonesian archipelago.

As reported in an analysis of the historic event published by Kompas.com, there “global winter » linked to the explosion saw Europe and North America record 1815 and 1816 as the years “without summer.” In June 1816, snow fell in Albany, New York (USA). Global temperatures have decreased by 0.4 to 0.7 degrees Celsius. Global crop failures have occurred across large areas. Pennsylvania (USA) recorded frozen and ice-covered rivers in July. Hundreds of thousands of people have starved to death around the world due to the widespread effects of climate change linked to the Tambora eruption.

Tambora and the invention of the bicycle

An interesting historical background apart from these events is the role of natural disaster in the invention of the bicycle. The global climate catastrophe caused the death of many people and the horses used in agriculture and transport.

LiveScience.com reports that in 1817, a German, Karl von Drais, began experimenting with a two-wheeled vehicle which he popularized in Europe to alleviate the severe transport shortage caused by the lack of horses. A rudimentary antecedent of the modern bicycle, Drais’s two-wheeled vehicles were initially called “dandy horses” and “hobby horses”.

Drais’ first version of the bike weighed up to 23 kilograms with wooden wheels instead of rubber. The seats were leather fixed with nails on the wooden frame of the “bicycle”. The chains to drive the wheel did not exist in the first model, propelled by two pedals fixed on either side of the front wheel of the bicycle.

Drais actively promoted his first “bicycle” to the public in France and England, where they quickly became popular. An Englishman, Denis Johnson, inspired by Drais, designed a version of the two-wheeled vehicle to sell to his compatriots. Johnson’s bicycles became so popular that they were deemed a threat to public pedestrian safety and banned in the 1820s. By the 1860s bicycles using wooden frames but with metal wheels were commonplace common in the streets of England and Europe. In 1862, German Karl Kech introduced the innovations of chain-driven cranksets.

The eruption of the Tambora volcano in Indonesia in 1815 brought many monumental changes to the world. This period of global cooling has ironically become “the story as a preludeto the current existential threat of climate change. Famine and crop failures in Europe and North America triggered mass migrations that changed the course of human history. In China, the Tambora volcano destroyed the harvest for three years. In response, Chinese farmers planted a more robust crop of poppies, a development that is blamed for the ensuing epidemic of opium use. In 1816, the Lord Byron fled the personal scandal and miserable climate of England resulting from the Indonesian volcano and settled in Switzerland. Suffer from “group depression” accentuated by the gloom of “miss the summer,” he took shelter inside Lake Geneva with Percy Shelley and Mary Shelley (née Godwin) to write several macabre tomes that included Frankenstein.

And lest we forget, the ubiquitous bicycles we all know today connect to that volcanic explosion on an island east of Bali on April 10, 1815.

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Tambora: a volcano that changed history

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