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On the origin of the name Krakatau

To this day the origin of the name Krakatau remains uncertain.

The earliest mention of Krakatau by name in the western world was on a 1602 map, created by Lucas Janszoon Waghenaer (ca. 1534 - 1606), who labelled the island 'Pulo Carcata' (pulo is the Sundanese word for 'island'). In the years that followed a series of variants of the name have been found, such as Crackatouw, Cracatoa, Rakata and Krakatao (in an older Portuguese-based spelling). The latter is the origin of the English version Krakatoa.
The first known appearance of the spelling Krakatau was by a Dutch docter Wouter Schouten in his travelogue, who passed by 'the high tree-covered island of Krakatau' in October 1658[1].

Linguist Van den Berg recites a story that the name Krakatau was the result of a linguistic error. According to a legend, an Indian price passed through the straits between Java and Sumatra. Observing the island, he enquired its name. The vessels master replied, ”Kaga tau" —a Jakartan and Betawinese slang phrase meaning "I don't know"[2].

[1] Winchester: Krakatoa: The Day the World Exploded – 2003
[2] Van den Berg: Vroegere berichten omtrent Krakatau. De uitbarsting van 1680 in Tijdschrift voor Indische Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde – 1884

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