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200年前,那场火山爆发改变了世界

更新时间:2015-9-5 9:33:03 来源:纽约时报中文网 作者:佚名

How a Volcanic Eruption in 1815 Darkened the World but Colored the Arts
200年前,那场火山爆发改变了世界

In April 1815, the most powerful volcanic blast in recorded history shook the planet in a catastrophe so vast that 200 years later, investigators are still struggling to grasp its repercussions. It played a role, they now understand, in icy weather, agricultural collapse and global pandemics — and even gave rise to celebrated monsters.

1815年4月,有史以来最强烈的火山爆发令这颗星球陷入巨大的灾难,200年后,研究者们仍在努力搞清它的后果。现在他们明白,这场爆发对气候变冷、农业崩溃和全球流行病都有影响,甚至导致了某些著名怪物的出现。

Around the lush isles of the Dutch East Indies — modern-day Indonesia — the eruption of Mount Tambora killed tens of thousands of people. They were burned alive or killed by flying rocks, or they died later of starvation because the heavy ash smothered crops.

在荷属东印度群岛(也就是如今的印度尼西亚)郁郁葱葱的海岛,坦博拉火山(Mount Tambora)的爆发令数万人丧生。他们遭到活埋、被从天而降的石块砸死,浓重的火山灰令庄稼颗粒无收,不少人更是死于其后的饥荒。

More surprising, investigators have found that the giant cloud of minuscule particles spread around the globe, blocked sunlight and produced three years of planetary cooling. In June 1816, a blizzard pummeled upstate New York. That July and August, killer frosts in New England ravaged farms. Hailstones pounded London all summer.

更让人惊讶的是,研究者们发现,火山微粒形成的巨大云层蔓延全球,遮蔽阳光,造成了为期三年的全球气候变冷。1816年6月,一场暴风雪侵袭了纽约北部。当年的7月和8月,新英格兰的农场受到霜灾的致命破坏。伦敦整个夏天都遭到雹灾。

A recent history of the disaster, “Tambora: The Eruption that Changed the World,” by Gillen D’Arcy Wood, shows planetary effects so extreme that many nations and communities sustained waves of famine, disease, civil unrest and economic decline. Crops failed globally.

吉伦·达尔西·伍德(Gillen D’Arcy Wood)的新著《坦博拉:改变世界的火山爆发》(Tambora: The Eruption that Changed the World)追溯了那段灾难的历史,展现它严重的全球影响,因为这场灾难,全世界很多国家和社区都遭到一波接一波的饥荒、疾病、社会动荡和经济衰退。全球农作物都出现减产。

“The year without a summer,” as 1816 came to be known, gave birth not only to paintings of fiery sunsets and tempestuous skies but two genres of gothic fiction. The freakish progeny were Frankenstein and the human vampire, which have loomed large in art and literature ever since.

1816年是“没有夏天的一年”,那一年不仅诞生了无数以烈日和暴风雪为题材的油画,也诞生了两大类哥特小说:这两个畸形的产物分别是弗兰肯斯坦的怪物和人形吸血鬼,它们至今仍在艺术与文学世界扮演着重要角色。

“The paper trail,” said Dr. Wood, a University of Illinois professor of English, “goes back again and again to Tambora.”

伍德博士是伊利诺斯大学的英语教授,他说“相关书面记载可以一再追溯到坦博拉”。

The gargantuan blast — 100 times bigger than Mount St. Helens’s — and its ensuing worldwide pall have been the subject of increasing study over the years as scientists have sought to comprehend not only the planet’s climatological past but the future likelihood of such global disasters.

坦博拉火山爆发比圣海伦斯山火山爆发剧烈十倍,为整个世界蒙上了一层尸衣,后世对它的研究日益增多,科学家们希望掌握的不仅仅是地球过去的气候学资料,也希望能了解未来是否会有可能发生类似的全球性灾难。

Clive Oppenheimer, a volcanologist at the University of Cambridge, who has studied the Tambora catastrophe, put the chance of a similar explosion in the next half-century as relatively low — perhaps 10 percent. But the consequences, he added, could run extraordinarily high.

克莱夫·奥芬海默(Clive Oppenheimer)是剑桥大学的火山学家,一直研究坦博拉火山灾难,他认为,在接下来的50年里,发生类似爆发的可能性非常低,大约只有10%。但是一旦发生,其后果会相当严重。

“The modern world,” Dr. Oppenheimer said, “is far from immune to the potentially catastrophic impacts.”

“现代世界远远没有发展到不受灾难影响的地步,” 奥芬海默博士说。

Before it exploded, Tambora was the tallest peak in a land of cloudy summits. It lay atop the tropic isle of Sumbawa, its spires rising nearly three miles. Long dormant, the mountain was considered a home to gods. Villages dotted its slopes, and nearby farmers grew rice, coffee and pepper.

在爆发之前,坦博拉是这片云雾缭绕的山地中的最高峰。它位于热带的松巴哇岛上,顶峰将近三英里高(一英里约合1609米——译注)。这座火山蛰伏已久,被认为是神祇的居所。山坡上星星点点地分布着村庄,附近的农民种植稻米、咖啡和胡椒。

On the evening of April 5, 1815, according to contemporary accounts, flames shot from its summit and the earth rumbled for hours. The volcano then fell silent.

根据当代的说法,1815年4月5日,火焰从顶峰冒出,大地开始颤抖,长达数个小时,之后火山重新陷入寂静。

Five days later, the peak exploded in a deafening roar of fire, rock and boiling ash that was heard hundreds of miles away. Flaming rivers of molten rock ran down the slopes, destroying tropic forests and villages. Days later, still raging but by then hollow, the mountain collapsed, its height suddenly diminished by a mile.

五天后,山峰爆发出火焰、岩石与热灰,声音震耳欲聋,几百英里外都能听到。熔岩沿着山坡流淌,毁坏了热带雨林和村庄。几天后,火山还在活跃,但内部已经空了,山体开始塌陷,高耸的山峰最后只剩一英里高。

Locally, an estimated 100,000 people died. Sumbawa never recovered.

当地有大约10万人丧生。松巴哇岛再也未能复原。

The repercussions were global, but no one realized that the widespread death and mayhem arose from an eruption halfway around the world. What emerged was regional folklore. New Englanders called 1816 “eighteen hundred and froze to death.” Germans called 1817 the year of the beggar. These and many other local episodes remained unknown or unconnected.

灾难带来了全球性后果,但是没有人意识到蔓延全球的死亡与灾难发源于地球中部的一场火山爆发。只有地区性的民间说法流传开来。新英格兰人说1816年是“冻死人年”。德国人说1817年是“乞丐之年”。这些,还有其他很多地方的零星说法一直未能连贯起来。

It was scientists who began to stitch together the big picture, especially the peculiar link between fiery volcanism and icy weather. An overarching goal was to separate natural climate fluctuations from those of human origin. One after another, studies came back to New England and its frigid summer of 1816.

是科学家们开始慢慢凑出宏大的图景,特别是凶猛的火山活动与寒冷气候之间的关系。一个重要研究目的是区分开自然的气候波动与人为影响的气候变化。一项接一项的研究都可以追溯到到新英格兰,以及1816年那里寒冷的夏天。

Dr. Wood expanded the portrait in his book, which is due out in paperback next month. It draws on hundreds of scientific papers as well as Dr. Wood’s knowledge of 19th-century literature to lay bare three years of planetary mayhem as well as the origins of fictional demons.

伍德博士的书将在下月出版平装版,他在书中展开了这幅画卷。它建立在数百份科学文献基础之上,伍德对19世纪文学的知识也颇有裨益,它生动地揭示出为期三年的全球灾害,乃至虚构怪物的起源。

“My interest was to understand a global event,” Dr. Wood said in an interview, “and that meant serious detective work in lots of unfamiliar archives.” Five years of inquiry took him to China, Europe and India.

“我的兴趣是理解一件全球事件,”伍德博士在接受采访时说,“这意味着利用许多陌生的资料,做严肃的研究工作。”他在中国、欧洲与印度做了为期五年的调查。

It also transported him to Tambora, where he braved leeches and razor-sharp leaves to peer across its yawning caldera, four miles from rim to rim.

他还去了坦博拉,不顾水蛭与刀锋般尖锐的草叶,穿过直径长达四英里的火山口。

The exploding mountain, the book notes, heaved some 12 cubic miles of earthen matter to a height of more than 25 miles. While coarse particles soon rained out, finer ones traveled the high winds in a spreading cloud. “It passed,” Dr. Wood wrote, “across both south and north poles, leaving a telltale sulfate imprint on the ice for paleoclimatologists to discover more than a century and a half later.”

书中写道,火山爆发时喷出了12立方英里的火山灰,喷射高度达到25英里。粗大的微粒开始落向地面之时,细小的微粒已经随着云朵在高空气流中旅行了。伍德博士写道,“它们最远一直来到南北极,在冰上留下泄露行踪的硫酸盐痕迹,因此一个半世纪之后,考古气象学家们才能发现它们的存在。”

The global veil, high above rain clouds, reflected much sunlight back into space. So the planet cooled. The pall, Dr. Wood said, also spawned tempests far below.

它们就这样潜藏在高高的雨云之中,为全世界蒙上了一层面纱,把大量阳光反射回太空之中。于是整个地球就变冷了。伍德博士说,这层“尸衣”还为下界带来了暴风骤雨。

His book reprints an 1816 oil painting of Weymouth Bay, a sheltered cove on England’s south coast, by John Constable — the sky above churning with dark clouds. “Everywhere,” Dr. Wood said, “the volcanic winds blew hard.” He noted that both history and computer models speak of fierce storms back then.

书中收录了一幅1816年约翰·康斯太勃尔(John Constable)的油画,画面上是英国南部海岸的避风港韦茅斯湾,天空中笼罩着一片阴云。伍德博士写道,“到处都有火山引起的大风。”他指出,历史记载与电脑模型都表明当时有巨大的风暴。

The particles high in the atmosphere also produced spectacular sunsets, as detailed in the famous paintings of J.M.W. Turner, the English landscape pioneer. His vivid red skies, Dr. Wood remarked, “seem like an advertisement for the future of art.”

高空大气中的火山微粒还制造出壮观的日落景象,被英国风景画的先驱者J·M·W·透纳(J.M.W. Turner)详细捕捉在笔下。伍德博士说,他画中生动的红色天空“就像是艺术之未来的广告。”

The story also comes alive in local dramas, none more important for literary history than the birth of Frankenstein’s monster and the human vampire. That happened on Lake Geneva in Switzerland, where some of the most famous names of English poetry had gone on a summer holiday.

世界各地都出现不少轶事,对于世界文学史而言,最重要的莫过与弗兰肯斯坦的怪物与人型吸血鬼。这件事发生在瑞士的日内瓦湖畔,当时英国诗坛上最重要的几个人在那里消夏。

By 1816, Switzerland, landlocked and famously rugged, was beginning to reel from the bad weather and failed crops. Starving mobs stormed bakeries after bread prices soared. The book recounts a priest’s distress: “It is terrifying to see these walking skeletons devour the most repulsive foods with such avidity.”

1816年,多山的内陆国家瑞士也被卷入恶劣气候与庄稼减产之中。面包价格上升,挨饿的暴民冲进面包房抢劫。书中引用一位传教士沮丧的话语:“看到那些行尸走肉贪婪地大口吞吃最低劣的食物,实在太可怕了。”

That June, the cold and stormy weather sent the English tourists inside a lakeside villa to warm themselves by a fire and exchange ghost stories. Mary Shelley, then 18, was part of a literary coterie that included Percy Shelley, her future husband, as well as Lord Byron. Wine flowed, as did laudanum, a form of opium. Candles flickered.

那年六月,寒冷多雨的天气让这几个居住在湖畔公寓的英国旅行者们围在火边取暖,讲鬼故事。18岁的玛丽·雪莱(Mary Shelley)和她未来的丈夫珀西·雪莱(Percy Shelley)以及拜伦勋爵(Lord Byron)同属于一个文学小团体。烛光闪烁,他们在一起喝酒,吃鸦片酊。

In this moody atmosphere, Mary Shelley came up with her lurid tale of Frankenstein, which she published two years later. And Lord Byron hit on the outline of the modern vampire tale, published later by a compatriot as “The Vampyre.” The freakish weather also inspired Byron’s apocalyptic poem “Darkness.”

就在这样一种氛围之下,玛丽·雪莱构思了关于弗兰肯斯坦的可怕故事,并于两年后出版。拜伦勋爵则想出了一个现代吸血鬼故事的大纲,后来被他的一个同胞(拜伦的秘书兼私人医生John William Polidori——译注)拿去,以《吸血鬼》(The Vampyre)之名出版。诡异的天气还激发拜伦写下了末世氛围的诗篇《黑暗》(Darkness)。

Dr. Wood’s book documents many other repercussions of the planetary chill, devoting a chapter to a cholera pandemic of 1817 that began in India and globally killed tens of millions of people. Dr. Wood attributes its rise to a deadly combination of monsoonal changes and pounding rains — a main theory of leading cholera detectives.

伍德的书记录了全球严寒带来的许多影响,其中一章是关于1817年于印度兴起,最终波及全世界的霍乱,它导致全球数千万人丧生。伍德博士认为,疾病的流行是因为季风变化与倾盆大雨这个致命组合——这也是顶尖霍乱研究者的主要理论。

The pandemic spread and eventually reached the Dutch East Indies. On Java alone it killed an estimated 125,000 people — more, Dr. Wood noted, “than died in the volcanic eruption itself.”

蔓延的疾病最终来到荷属东印度群岛。仅在爪哇,就有大约12.5万人以上丧生。伍德写道:“这比火山爆发中死去的人还要多。”

He also profiles the wintry chill in Yunnan Province in southern China, a land of mountains and jungles roamed by tigers and elephants. Rice crops there quickly failed, and famine gnawed deep for years. In July 1816, Dr. Wood noted, the province had “unprecedented snows.”

他还写到中国南部云南省遭遇冬天般的严寒,这里布满山脉和雨林,有老虎和大象出没。稻米种植很快遭到破坏,饥荒延续数年。1816年7月,伍德博士写道,这个省份“史无前例地下了雪”。

The poet, Li Yuyang, who was 32 as Tambora began its global rampage, wrote of cold downpours and flash flooding in “A Sigh for Autumn Rain.”

坦博拉所带来的后果肆虐全球之时,诗人李于阳32岁,他把冰冷的倾盆大雨和大洪水写进了自己的诗《秋雨叹》。

Dr. Wood closes with a portrait of the eastern United States in 1816, focusing first on upstate New York. One day that June, four young classmates walked to school, most barefoot. Then a blizzard struck. Dismissed early, the children ran for their lives as the snow rose to their knees. They succeeded in reaching warm cabins and fires.

最后,伍德博士对1816年的美国东部进行了描述,首当其冲的是纽约北部。6月的一天,四个年轻人赤着脚去上学。然后来了一阵暴风雪。孩子们提早放学,积雪没过了他们的膝盖,只得奔跑求生。最后终于冲进生着火的温暖小屋。

For Thomas Jefferson, the pain lasted longer. The retired third president of the United States, at his estate in Virginia, faced a disastrous summer in 1816 because of the remarkably short growing season. The next year was just as bad.

托马斯·杰斐逊(Thomas Jefferson)的痛苦持续得更为长久。这位美国第三任总统退休后住在弗吉尼亚州的宅邸,1816年夏天,作物歉收令他损失惨重。翌年还是同样糟糕。

In a letter, Jefferson expressed concern about the possible ruin of his Monticello farm “if the seasons should, against the course of nature hitherto observed, continue constantly hostile to our agriculture.”

在一封信里,杰斐逊担心 “如果目前这种违背自然规律的时令延续下去,一直对农业不利,” 他的蒙蒂塞洛农场可能会倒掉。

The countless victims and occasional beneficiaries of Tambora’s fury were oblivious to the volcanic roots of their circumstances, Dr. Wood noted, making the challenge of writing about it formidable and “occasionally mind-bending.”

伍德博士指出,坦博拉之怒的无数受害者与个别受益者根本不知道火山爆发对自身环境的影响,这对写作构成了极大挑战,“有时候要绞尽脑汁”。

More generally, he said, the revelation of global volcanic ruin — a portrait 200 years in the making — offers a kind of meditation on the difficulty of uncovering the subtle effects of climate change, whether its origins lie in nature’s fury or the invisible byproducts of human civilization.

他说,在更多时候,火山爆发在全球造成的破坏——这是一幅纵贯200年的画卷——令他想到,发现气候变化的微妙影响是多么困难,不管这影响是来自大自然的愤怒,抑或人类文明无形的副产品。

It is, Dr. Wood remarked, “hard to see and no less difficult to imagine.”

伍德博士说,这一切“很难看到,同样也很难想像”。

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