Monday, June 18, 2007

Dream that Shook the World

Directions: Print out and read the two articles. Post a list of vocabulary words you don't know. Also, respond to the articles - what do you think about them? How are they different? What is the feeling/mood/tone of the articles?

Edward Samson was a news editor on the Boston Globe in the last part of the 19th century. The business news in those days was not as professional or efficient as it is today. Samson was a good writer, but he spent many evenings drinking with his friends. One night in August 1883, he got so drunk that he went to sleep on a shabby sofa in his office.
He did not have a peaceful night. He had a terrible nightmare. A volcano, erupting for several hours and then destroying a whole island, appeared in Samson's dream. When he awoke at three in the morning, still shaking, he put on the light. Then he started to write down the dream while it was still fresh in his mind.

It had been a very realistic dream. Samson saw a small island called Pralape. He did not know where it was, but it looked warm and tropical. There was a huge volcano in the middle of the island and in his dream it was erupting. Vast quantities of boiling lava were rushing down the steep sides of the volcano. Shooting high into the air, the flames turned the whole sky red. Terrified people were trying to escape from the great wave of lava, but the island was so small that they had to rush into the sea. Thousands drowned. Samson felt the heat and terror in his dream. At the end, he heard an enormous roar and the whole island exploded. All that was left was a flaming crater in the middle of the sea.

Samson finished writing his account of the dream, wrote IMPORTANT in the corner and left it on his desk. Then he went home to bed. Later that morning, his editor came in and found the story. Naturally, he thought that it was a news story that had come in by telegraph during the night. He put it on the front page with a banner headline. When they read it, other journalists around the world printed it too. It was an important item of news on 29 August 1883.

However, when they asked for more information, the journalists were surprised to find there was none. The island of Pralape could not be found on any map. The chief editor of the Boston Globe asked Samson to explain. Very ashamed of himself, he told the truth. It was just the story of his nightmare! Samson was fired.

A few days later, there were unnaturally high waves around the world. Captains of ships that reached ports near Indonesia told the world a strange story. The tiny island of Krakatoa had exploded. Krakatoa had begun erupting on 27 August and had blown itself to pieces the following day --- the day that Edward Samson had had his dream. But what about the name Pralape? The Dutch Historical Society solved that mystery. They found a map that was 150 years old. On it, Krakatoa was called by its ancient name --- Pralape.


A Dream that Shook the World.

It was Sunday night in Boston, where Byron Somes was sleeping off a binge in his office at the Boston Globe.

It was Monday morning in the Straits of Sunda, where the mightiest explosion in the history of man had just taken place.

In his dream, Byron Somes had seen the catastrophe as clearly as though he had been watching it from mid-air, although he was actually twelve thousand miles away! Two days before the Boston newsman's remarkable experience, nature had set the stage for catastrophe. The volcano of Krakatoa jutted up from an island in the Straits of Sunda, where an earthquake had torn the islands of Java and Sumatra apart in the year 1115. Krakatoa was noted for its rumblings and frequent eruptions. On August 25th,1883,it began deep underground mutterings which quickly reached the intensity of cannonading. By nightfall the volcano was showering the island with boulders. Bridges fell. Roads became impassable. Ships had to scurry out to sea to
elude the stones. Great undersea explosions churned the seas around the island and the temperature of the water rose sixty-five degrees overnight.

By noon on the 26th, the great volcano Maha-Meru, Java's largest, had joined the thunderous chorus. Then Gunung-guntur, and a few hours later the entire volcanic chain of the Kadangs was trumpeting in full volume.The sea boiled around the doomed island. The earth trembled. The nights were ruddy with the glow from the seething volcanoes--fifteen of them roaring in unison. Suddenly there was one explosion so vast that it defies description--the island of Krakatoa had disintegrated in one cataclysmic blast that sent earth shocks and air waves around the globe. The tidal waves killed tens of thousands of persons, some of them hundreds of miles from Krakatoa. There had been nothing like it in the annals of the human race.

In Boston, on that hot Sunday night in August of 1883, Byron Somes awakened from his troubled sleep and sat there for a while pondering the nightmare he had just experienced. He could still hear in his mind the screams of those doomed mortals on that little tropical island as they sought vainly to escape from the fiery fate that engulfed them. Somes jotted down the details of the dream while they were fresh in his mind, on the off chance that it might be usable as feature material some dull newsday. He marked the notes as 'important'--put them on his desk and went home. There was little news of the Krakatoa disaster next day, for communications to the stricken sector were sparse at best and the blast had virtually erased them. Somes did not report for work that day but someone evidently found his notes and misinterpreted them as a report on the seismological disturbances that was puzzling the experts. Something tremendous had happened--but where? Then came a fragmentary report from Batavia that located the disaster at Krakatoa--and the Boston Globe, on August 29th, ran an excellent story based on the details in the notes Somes had jotted down. Other papers evidently predicated their stories on that of the Boston Globe -- and in a matter of a short time his remarkable dream had been translated into widespread newspaper copy.

When his employers found Somes and demanded more detail and more copy, Somes broke down and admitted that his "report" was not intended as news matter--that it was nothing more than notes on a nightmare. The higher-ups at the Globe
probably experienced a nightmare of sorts at the discovery that they had printed a dream as though it were factual news --and had permitted other papers to duplicate it. Byron Somes was in the doghouse--and out of the newspaper business.

Before the Globe could make a public confession, nature rescued them. Great waves began hammering at the west coast of the United States, seismic waves generated by the explosion of Krakatoa thousands of miles away. News of the disaster began filtering in as survivors reached cities where telegraphed facilities still functioned. As the newswires brought in the real story, hour by hour, the amazing accuracy of the account based on the dream of Byron Somes became evident. That bewildered fellow found himself in the good graces of the Globe again. And the paper declined, at the time, to reveal the story behind the story. [Eventually, the Globe "explained" that Somes's account of the Krakatoa disaster had been based on information from a coffee broker; later this was amplified to include another "explanation" that Somes had also been doing some research on volcanoes in tropical islands at the time of the Krakatoa incident, etc. Author's note.]

In his remarkable dream Byron Somes, in Boston, seems to have witnessed the explosion of Krakatoa, halfway 'round the world, at approximately the time it happened. His dream was translated (accidently perhaps) into a news story which was subsequently confirmed by conventional processes. During the dream Somes kept hearing the word "Pralape." It made no sense at the time, but years later, through a Dutch historical society, he learned that Pralape was an ancient native name
for Krakatoa, unused for nearly two centuries before he heard it in his "dream that shook the world."

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