With the support of a grant from the Luce Initiative on Asian Studies and the Environment, Dickinson College hosted Gillen D’Arcy Wood, Professor of English at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, for a faculty colloquium on Wednesday, September 9, 2015. Prof. D’Arcy Wood facilitated a discussion about his new book entitled Tambora: The Eruption that Changed the World.
The titular Tambora is a volcano located in present-day Indonesia. When Tambora erupted in 1815, it scattered volcanic ash into the stratosphere that spread around the world. The eruption affected climate in locations as far away as China, the UK, and the United States for the next three years. In his colloquium with faculty,
Prof. D’Arcy Wood traced New England’s “Year without Summer” in 1816 to this massive event, and explained how this climatic change induced a shift away from rice cultivation and toward opium cash-cropping in southwestern China. What’s more, the cold, cloudy days and intense storms the ash cloud caused in Europe led a young writer named Mary Shelley to stay indoors telling ghost stories with friends, stories that inspired her most famous work Frankenstein.
Prof. D’Arcy Wood’s also gave a public lecture on the evening of Thursday, September 10. The lecture focused on how the climatic cooling that followed in the wake of the eruption led, ironically, to a melting of ice near the arctic, thus opening the so-called northwest passage across northern Canada to exploration and trade.