German Memories in Asia - A Discussion on Volcanic Winter & Human Evolution

Rajkumar Kanagasingam
 


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When I was talking to Walker on the beach, a large wave from the Indian Ocean frightened me making wonder whether the tsunami wave was on its way once again towards the Indian Ocean rim countries.

The worst Tsunami which hit the Indian – Ocean rim countries in recent history subsequently formed after the earth quake of 26th December 2004 off the coast of Northern Sumatra, the fourth largest earthquake of this century.

Though the sea has risen in the Marawila coastal area and has reached up to the Aquarius Resort restaurant’s beach – side garden area, there were no casualties around the Marawila’s coastal areas. Marawila and other near by western coastal areas escaped from the tsunami disaster, as the epicenter was located under seawater in Sumatra right opposite that of Marawila.

But the Sumatra region has a record of having faced many disasters and re-shaping human evolution itself on Planet Earth.

A new hypothesis about recent human evolution suggests that we came very close to extinction because of a “volcanic winter". Professor Stanley Ambrose of the University of Illinois advocated this idea. He believes that the eruption of Mount Toba in Sumatra caused the bottleneck.

"Modern human races may have diverged abruptly, only 70,000 years ago, " he writes in the Journal of Human Evolution.

Geneticists have thought for some time that humans passed through a recent evolutionary bottleneck but they had little idea what may have caused it. Scientists believe that an eruption of Toba caused a volcanic winter that lasted six years and significantly altered the global climate for the next 1,000 years. During those six years, there was substantial lowering of global temperatures, drought and famine. No more than 15,000 people survived. When better conditions returned, the human population was able to grow once more and develop the genetic diversity we see today.

"When our African recent ancestors passed through the prism of Toba's volcanic winter, a rainbow of differences appeared, " Professor Ambrose said.

While we were enjoying our chat, in the distance from the Bandaranaike International Airport, a passenger jet was taking off over the Indian Ocean taking a course, which could lead to the Gulf or straightaway to Europe.

Rajkumar Kanagasingam is author of a fascinating book on German memories in Asia and you can explore more about the book and the author at AGSEP

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