East Indies Spice Exploration — Flores to Ambon

Departure from Maumere on Flores September 26 for 12 days until October 7 in Ambon

The Ombak Putih

The Ombak Putih

“ …I would dream of the fabled Spice Islands. Images of palm-fringed tropical islands backed by towering volcanoes filled my imagination and I saw myself arriving on their sandy shores by sailing boat, like the explorers, adventurers and traders that had gone before me…“ (from ‘Spice Islands’, 2011, by Ian Burnet)

SeaTrek has teamed up with author and Spice Islands expert Ian Burnet to curate this fascinating look at the colonial history of Indonesia and it’s role in the international spice trade of the 17th century. This 12-day voyage travels in an eastward arc capturing the maritime route of early colonials who traversed the Indonesian waters in search of the precious spices found within this small band of islands. Ian Burnet will lend his expertise and you will be transported back in time as you learn about historic outposts, see the colorful native villages, experience the marketplaces, and smell the aroma of the spice plantations. These unforgettable excursions on land will be matched by those at sea as the Ombak Putih wends her way through stunning volcanic islands with stops at pristine beaches, giving guests ample time to swim and snorkel in some of the richest and most magical waters in the world.

Maumere to Ambon

Maumere to Ambon

Day 1
Our guide will meet you and organize your transfer from Maumere airport to the harbor and boarding on the Ombak Putih. For those who may have arrived the previous day, in the morning after boarding the ship we will tour the small village of Watoblapi to enjoy a village dance and see a demonstration of their local traditional weavings. Watublapi is a small community in the Sikka district well known for its fine traditional ikat weaving. Whereas many other local weaving communities switched to industrially spun yarn and chemical dyes for the sake of saving time and money, the weavers of Watublapi still use the traditional, handspun yarn made out of local cotton, as well as local natural dyes.
When all voyagers have arrived and settled in their cabins, we will weigh anchor and navigate the Cape of Flowers (Cabo de Flores), so named by a Portuguese expedition crew in the early 16th century, and head for the port of Larantuka. Enroute, we are certain to enjoy a first swim and snorkel in these beautiful waters.

Maumere to Lembata

Day 2
In the morning we will moor close to the town of Larantuka, the capital of Flores Timur and a central hub for early colonization and Catholic clerical activities. There we will see the five Catholic Churches and the ‘Stations of the Cross’ built along the waterfront. Later we will cross the Flores Strait and visit the village of Lohayong on the island of Solor, a lot of the villagers here make a living by processing sea salt. The process is seasonal, but with a bit of luck we will be able to witness the process. After that we will visit the ruins of Fort Henricus built by Dominican Friars in 1566 to protect their spiritual work from enemies. Early Portuguese sandalwood traders left this task to the missionaries. The fort was later captured by the Dutch East Indies Company. Back on the ship we will have a beautiful sail through the Solor Strait with the Lili Boleng volcano on the island of Adonara as backdrop as we as we navigate to Lembata Island. As always, we will work to plan time to stop for a swim and a snorkel.

Larantuka

Larantuka

Day 3
Today we arrive in Lamalera, island of Lembata, which is one of the two remaining whaling villages in Indonesia. Bordering the Timor Straits, the village is in an area long recognized as hunting-grounds on the nineteenth century British and American whaling voyages. Since at least 1836 these villages have taken various species of whales and yet today, these traditions remain available to observe. On the beach we will see the small craft for the hunting of the sperm whales and perhaps preparation for their hunt if whales are in the vicinity. This small-scale hunting (no more than 25 per year) is considered sustainable, and the local economy has some dependency upon it. We might join a short sailing on of one of the boats, admiring the harpoonist standing on the edge of the bowsprit. In the afternoon, we begin our sail to Alor.
Day 4
The bay of Kalabahi on Alor is enchanting in the morning. We will visit a traditional village in the mountains where we may witness a war dance around the mesbah, the ritual center of the village. Here we will see the moko drums, which for centuries have been part of a wife’s dowry as well as played for New Year celebrations and are thought to originate from Indochina. Alor produces Ikat cloth famous for its intricate patterns and bright colors. In the evening we will proceed further to the east and the western Daya Islands in the southern Banda Sea.

Alor

Day 5
Today we cross between the Lesser Sunda Islands group and the Moluccas of the region known as Maluku. The first Moluccan island we will enounter is Wetar. We will anchor here in a delightful bay. The island appears virtually impenetrable from the sea. It and close by islands comprise part of Wallacea, the area of deep water separating the Asian and Australian continental shelves. We will find fishermen drying their catch on the beach, great swimming/snorkeling and visit local villages. In the evening the captain will set the Ombak Putih on an easterly course towards Romang.
Day 6
We will awaken off the island of Romang. After our breakfast gathering on the deck we will have a chance to trek around the island. Back on the boat we will have lunch while we sail eastward to the tiny island of Mapora here we spend the rest of the afternoon snorkeling and beachcombing.

Alor

Day 7
In the morning we will reach Damar, the next island in the Ring of Fire chain. This island, volcanic in nature, was one of the few islands outside of the Bandas that produced nutmeg. All the trees were destroyed by the V.O.C. in 1648 to further monopolize the spice trade. We will visit a small village consisting of simple huts made from leafs of the sago palm. Staple foods of the locals are sweet potatoes (ubi), bananas and fish.
Day 8
We will pass four spectacular volcanic islands virtually standing alone and jutting from the clear blue ocean. Known as stratovolcanoes, meaning built up over successive millenniums of periodic eruptions, they express a quiet beauty for us to enjoy. We will make a stop at Serua, the last in this extended chain of volcanoes. It is home to one of the few villages in the chain. If time allows we visit to experience their remote lifestyle. Since the eruptions in the sixties and seventies, many of these island populations have migrated to other islands in the Moluccas. Today, we also reach the small island of Manuk which is uninhabited by humans but truly a bird and marine sanctuary. Frigate birds, gannets and other marine birds have their nests in the trees. If the tide allows, we will make a landing and go in for an up close look at the birds and wildlife. In the late afternoon we proceed towards the Spice Islands.

The Banda Islands

The Banda Islands

Day 9
The first of the Banda Islands is Run. An amazing historical footnote is the fact that in 1667, under the Treaty of Breda, this small island was ceded by the English to the Dutch in exchange for Manhattan. After rounding Run we will reach the Island of Ai. Here we go ashore on a beautiful beach to meet with the villagers. A short walk brings us to Fort Revenge which was built by the English before being captured by the Dutch. Behind the fort we find the first nutmeg plantations. During lunch the captain will move us to the main island of Bandaneira. With the Ombak Putih moored in the bay, we will spend the afternoon strolling through the old town and get a feel for its incredible history viewing the restored planters’ mansions, fortifications and churches. We will find that Fort Belgica built by the Dutch East India Company (VOC) was an early blueprint of the Pentagon. Even today this island population is an interesting mix of Malay, Arab, Dutch and Melanesian. At the end of the day we will spend a quiet evening under the stars in the lagoon.

The Banda Islands

The Banda Islands

Day 10
In the course of the morning we cross over to visit Lonthor, the largest island in the chain. We visit the fortress Hollandia and the nutmeg plantation of the last perkenier,small land owner, on the island. By lunch-time we get back to the ship and in the afternoon there will be time to go snorkeling at the black lava stream caused by the eruption of Gunung Api.

Day 11
The morning is free to spend at leisure in Banda Neira. We invite the fit and ambitious to first come along for an early morning ascent of the Gunung Api volcano. While this is a challenging climb up a narrow track to an elevation of about 600 meters the reward to reach the top of the “Fire Mountain” is more than worth it: a stunning and unforgettable view over the Banda Sea, the surrounding islands and the crater itself. On our way out the ‘Sonnegat’ (sun’s gap) between Bandanaira and Gunung Api we are often escorted by one or two ‘Kora-Kora’, long sea canoes, rowed by over a dozen muscled men and used in ancient times to attack the invading colonists.

Kora kora at Banda

Kora kora at Banda

Day 12
We arrive at the harbor on the island of Ambon. After breakfast, it’s time to say a final farewell to the crew and the Ombak Putih. Depending upon flight departure times we may have a morning program to see the town, the markets and a visit to the local museum, we then board a coach for our transfer to Ambon airport for the flight via Makassar to Denpasar.

Please go to the Seatrek Sailing Adventures website for the full details

http://www.seatrekbali.com/cruise/east-indies-spice-exploration-with-ian-burnett/

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Exploring the Spice Islands — 2014

Exploring the Spice Islands in Eastern Indonesia. – Garry and Anna Connery

The following article was published in the Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron magazine — Logbook

In October we travelled in Eastern Indonesia. On the way to the Spice Islands in the Moluccas we enjoyed four days in Bali at the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival, an experience to be recommended. An interesting cohort of speakers with diverse strands and activities.
This however was a prelude to the main purpose of our Indonesian trip – 12 days and 1100 kilometres on a traditional 35 metres long Sulawesi Bugis Phinisi, a beam of 10 metres and two masts rigged fore-and-aft with marine-blue sails. These vessels have been built for centuries for cargo and transport throughout the Indonesian Archipelago. The ‘Ombak Putih’ has been purpose built with 12 snug ensuite cabins and we had 20 fellow travellers from France, England, Holland, Canada, USA, Indonesia and Australia.
This trip turned out to be enormously educational highlighting the history of maritime exploration, trade, imperial domination, geographical, geopolitical and geophysical histories … and one of the best holidays ever!
Ambon, our starting point, is a busy central port for the Moluccas. We visited the beautifully maintained Commonwealth Graves Cemetery which honours our fallen soldiers, sailors and airmen, many from Gull Force (2/21st Australian Infantry Battalion). Over 2,000 Australian, American, English and Dutch servicemen, many unknown, lie here and we found the grave of the notable Australian cinematographer, Damien Parer.
A peaceful resting place and a moving experience.

Sailing to the Spice Islands

Sailing to the Spice Islands


As the sun set we joined our vessel and headed overnight south east to the Banda Islands, approximately 240 kilometres, arriving at the island of Ai under billowing navy sails (assisted by motor!) in the early afternoon. The Banda Islands are 900 kilometres directly north of Darwin. The islands Ai, Run, Lonthiar and Banda Neira are central to the history of the Spice Trade, particularly the Portuguese, Spanish, Dutch and English who fought ferocious battles, massacred local islanders, and built substantial forts to protect their spice interests which were worth more than gold by the time they reached Europe. We visited the nutmeg groves shaded by huge kenari trees and saw the sun-drying of nutmeg, mace, cinnamon and kenari nuts. Two kora kora canoes, beautifully painted with 25 – 30 paddlers in each, raced each other to rapid drum beat in a farewell as we left Banda.

Kora kora at Banda

Kora kora at Banda

We were accompanied by Ian Burnet, the author of the books Spice Islands and East Indies, who has spent 20 years living, working and travelling in the Indonesian archipelago during his career as a geologist/geophysicist. His fascination with the 2000 year history of the spice trade and also contemporary Indonesia gave us a new perspective on our close neighbour which is complex with its population of 246 million peoples in 18,500 islands … quite a task for their new President, Joko Widodo.
The history of spices is a little like a history of the world! Egyptologists have recorded cloves in the tombs of the Pyramids and archaeologists found clove buds in a ceramic pot dated 1,721BC in Terqa, Syria. The earliest versions of the Ramayana epic (300BC) mention seafarers bringing cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg to India and cloves have been dated to the Han Dynasty (200BC) in China. Traders opened the Silk Road across Central Asia in 138BC with trade dominated for several hundred years by Middle Eastern and Venetian merchants. The lure of the fabled spices drove the “Age of Discovery” and the first circumnavigation of the world. Spain and Portugal backed explorers such as Columbus, Vasco de Gama and Magellan to try to find a sea route directly to the Spice Islands. The Portuguese reached Banda to trade nutmeg in 1512, the Spanish Armada de Molucca arrived in 1521, Francis Drake arrived in Ternate in 1579, the first Dutch fleet in 1596. The English East India Company was formed in 1601 followed by the Dutch East India Company (VOC) in 1602 who eventually came to control the trade. In 1667 the Dutch agreed to a land swap to gain the last island, Run which they exchanged for a small island on the North East coast of America – Manhattan in New Amsterdam – now New York!

Spices drying in the sun

Spices drying in the sun

The trip was not all history! Most days we swam and snorkelled in crystal clear waters. Several times we stopped as pods of whales and dolphin surrounded us. Thrice daily buffets with an Indonesian influence, many with fresh fish speared by the crew, were served on the quarter deck where we enjoyed exchanging stories of our fellow travellers. Some evenings the 15 crew entertained us with singing and dancing and one night about 30 from a local village arrived on board to party and sing accompanied by their “tea-chest” bass!
Perfectly calm weather meant we sailed only on the first day – mostly we motored overnight to the next island seeing the production nutmeg, cashew, cloves, sago, copra and dried fish with a following of most of the village children! Twice we visited local schools where we caused chaos – visitors are rare in these small communities and every child had to clap hands or high five with us all! One school gave an impromptu concert led by our Captain.

Crossing the Equator

Crossing the Equator

After passing the Ceram Sea and Halmahera Island we crossed the Equator which brought us close to Tidore, Makian and Ternate, three volcano cones which rise majestically from the water. Tidore was in full preparation for the swearing in of its new Sultan within a few days. Ternate is a busy centre of trade as it has been for centuries. It sits in the shadow of the Gammalama Volcano which last erupted in 2012.

Volcano on Tidore

Volcano on Tidore

The day starts with the calling to prayer at 4am. There is a mosque every two blocks and each amplified call is different – hard to sleep through, even across the water! In the evening there was a beauty to these unaccustomed sounds. We visited some of the forts built by the Portuguese and Dutch, the home of Alfred Russel Wallace where he penned his famous letter to Charles Darwin on the Theory of Evolution and the Palace of the Sultan. A final farewell dinner on board, singing with the crew, whilst the sound of Ternate partying on Saturday night wafted across the water. This was not quite a ‘sailing’ holiday, but certainly an experience and an education. 12 days of no watch, no shoes and no internet – perfect!

No watch, no shoes, no internet --- perfect

No watch, no shoes, no internet — perfect

Text by Anna Connery
Photos by Anna Connery and Jeffrey Mellefont

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Kasteel Batavia

Jan Pieterszoon Coen as the the fifth Governor-General of the United Dutch East Indies Company (VOC) negotiated an agreement with the Prince of Jayakarta to build a factory on the east bank of the Ciliwung River where it entered the harbour of Sunda Kelapa in 1619. In those days a factory consisted of a small fortress containing warehouses and accomodation that served as a trading post. The establishment of the Dutch factory was challenged by both the English East India Company and the Sultan of Banten. Coen was forced to sail to Ambon which was then the headquarters for the VOC to get reinforcements. He told those in the factory to hold out as best they could stating:

In the meantime try to hold the fortress as best you can. If the time should come that you can no longer hold on to the place you should try to come to some understanding with either Jacatra or the English. It is our opinion that, if such an emergency should arise, you would be better by surrendering to the English.

In the end the fortress survived and Jan Pieterzoon Coen returned with enough men and materials to build Kasteel Batavia and the adjacent walled city expanded under Dutch rule. Modelled after a typical port city in the Netherlands, it lay at sea level so that small boats had direct access to the city and the warehouses. This painting made in 1649 shows small boats loading and unloading goods from the warehouses in Batavia to the large EastIndiaman waiting to sail to the Netherlands. Kasteel Batavia is shown on the left of the main canal and the spice warehouses or the Westzijdsche Pakhuizen are on the right.

Batavia in 1649 by Adam Willaerts

Batavia in 1649 by Adam Willaerts

This map from 1780 is of Batavia at the height of the trading power of the United Dutch East India Company and shows the outline of the walled city with the Kasteel Batavia able to protect the city, the port and main canal that enters the city.

The walled city of Old Batavia

The walled city of Old Batavia

Here is a 1656 painting which shows the imposing Kasteel Batavia in the background. In the foreground there is a market scene on the banks of the main canal showing daily life in Batavia with the Dutch, Javanese, Ambonese, Chinese and Arab residents of the city.

Andries Beeckman 1656 The Kasteel Batavia

Andries Beeckman 1656 The Kasteel Batavia

As this model from Museum Bahari or the Jakarta Maritime Museum shows the Kasteel was packed with the offices and buildings required to manage the vast commercial empire of the United Dutch East Indies Company which extended not just across the Indonesian archipelago but also to India, Sri Lanka, Malaya, China and Japan.

Model of Kasteel Batavia in the Museum Bahari

Model of Kasteel Batavia in the Museum Bahari

You may notice that the watergate which provided access from the canal and would have been at the bottom of this image is missing. This is because the VOC ship carrying the stone pieces of the watergate, and named the Batavia, was wrecked on the coast of Western Australia in 1629 where it remained undiscovered until 1963. Marine archeologists recovered many historic items from the site including the stern of the ship and the watergate which are now on display at the Shipwreck Museum in Perth.

The watergate for Kasteel Batavia

The watergate for Kasteel Batavia

Regretfully the Kasteel Batavia no longer exists as it was demolished by the Dutch Colonial Government and its building materials recycled to build the former Fort Cornelis in the Jatinegara area of present day Jakarta.

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The Walls of Old Batavia

The map below shows the outline of the City of Batavia and its defensive walls and bastions in 1780, at the peak of its commercial development and before the subsequent bankruptcy of the United Dutch East India Company (VOC) only another 15 years later.

The walled city of Old Batavia

The walled city of Old Batavia

Who would believe that after more than 300 years some of the walls of Old Batavia are still standing? Along with Sake Santema from the Bartele Gallery and a small group of enthusiasts we decided to mount an expedition to ‘discover’ part of the old wall. Walking north from Fatahillah Square along Jalan Pintu Besar Utara we passed under the tollroad and then turned right across a muddy open area used to store construction materials. The detail map shows the location of the remaining warehouse and the old wall.

Map of Batavia. Detail

Map of Batavia. Detail

The map shows four warehouses originally built in this location but only one is remaining. These warehouses were built by the VOC from 1700 to 1752 in the eastern area between the City of Batavia and Kasteel Batavia. Known as the Graanpakhuizen (grainwarehouses) they were used to store corn, rice, beans, peanuts, peas, ships biscuit and other foodstuffs. It is possible to enter the abandoned warehouse and after you pick your way throught the dust, dirt and debris you can admire the massive teak beams used in its construction. There must be a way to preserve this historic building before it is allowed to be destroyed by the onslaught of ‘development’.

How much longer can this historic building survive?

How much longer can this historic building survive?

On the east side of the warehouse we passed through a gap which allowed us to follow the outside of the Old Wall towards the northwest. Here there is a pathway between the wall and the temporary houses built along the canal which extended towards Kasteel Batavia before it was demolished by Marshall Daendels in 1809 to build Fort Cornelis.

The old wall and local residents

The old wall and local residents

This photograph show our small group standing in front of the old wall which towers above us. Sake Santema is holding the historic map of Batavia that we used as our guide.

A remaining part of the old walls of Batavia

A remaining part of the old walls of Batavia

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The Coronation of the Sultan of Tidore — October 2014

The Coronation of the Sultan of Tidore

The Coronation of the Sultan of Tidore

When our first Spice Islands Sailing Adventure reached Tidore in 2012 we sadly learnt that the Sultan had recently passed away. During that visit we were taken to a Council House high on the mountain, where the elders would meet to decide which one of the Sultan’s heirs would become the new Sultan. When we returned in 2013 there was still no new Sultan. However our visit in 2014 just preceded the official Coronation of the new Sultan of Tidore. One of our voyagers, Randall Rutledge, stayed on to view the proceedings and our thanks go to Randall for the following account and photos of the event:

One does not normally think about monarchy in relation to the unitary Republic of Indonesia, but monarchies do indeed exist within the confines of the republic. One such polity is the Sultanate of Tidore located in the Province of Maluku in eastern Indonesia. On October 22 this year, the 37th Sultan of Tidore, Husain Syah, was enthroned in a ceremony held at the newly restored palace (istana) in the royal capital town of Soasiu. I was fortunate enough to secure an invitation, along with eight other foreigners, to attend the ceremony.

Preparations at the Sultan's Palace

Preparations at the Sultan’s Palace

Starting at around 8:00am, the thousands of invited guests, ranging from local citizens to representatives of the republican, provincial and regency governments, to members of the ulama and representatives of other traditional monarchies, started to arrive. We were all seated beneath enormous tents arrayed around the periphery of the palace grounds. All attendees were required to dress in traditional clothes. I certainly stood out in my poorly fitting borrowed outfit, but the locals seemed to appreciate and enjoy the fact that we made the effort.

Much to our surprise, and slight embarrassment, our group of nine was ushered to front row seats in one of the tents facing the royal dais in front of the Istana’s grand dual staircase. From this vantage point we were able to take in all of the festivities. The actual coronation of the Sultan with the crown (mahkota) of Tidore took place out of sight of the gathered guests within the palace itself. The ceremony was described to those outside the palace over a public announcement system in three languages: Bahasa Tidore, Bahasa Indonesia and English. After the coronation, the Sultan, wearing the mahkota, which is made of gold and human hair, made an appearance on the second floor balcony of the palace giving all of those in attendance an opportunity to see him in his regalia.

Soon after, about twenty cars and vans drove into the Istana grounds with government officials and representatives of other traditional monarchies, who proceeded into the Istana to offer their congratulations to the Sultan and his wife. After lunch was served the the Sultan rose from his throne and delivered a speech in Bahasa Indonesia, to the gathered multitudes.

The Sultan of Tidore and his wife

The Sultan of Tidore and his wife

Once he concluded all of the guests were invited to come to the dais and greet and congratulate the new sultan and his wife (who has the title of Boki). And they all did! The event took on a festive air at this point as thousands of people queued up to shake hands with both the Sultan and his wife. The Sultan sent one of his aides to ask our group to wait till the end so that we could pose for photos with the royal couple. In the meantime while we waited we must have been photographed by everyone with a camera. Foreigners apparently aren’t that common on Tidore, especially a group of such motley dressed ones. I couldn’t tell if they were laughing with us or at us. But it was fun none the less. By now it was close to 2:00 as we were escorted onto the stage to greet the Sultan who welcomed us in English and gladly posed for photographs with all of our group. We then took our leave and returned to our hotel on the neighboring island of Ternate; exhausted from the heat, but excited about the rare event we had been fortunate to witness.

Randall Rutledge with the Sultan and his wife

Randall Rutledge with the Sultan and his wife

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The Forgotten Founder of Singapore

I have always been surprised by the lack of recognition in Singapore for its co-founder William Farquhar. Please correct me if I am wrong but I cannot find a street or place named after him anywhere in the city.

William Farquhar Image 3

In 1818 the Governor-General of India authorized Stamford Raffles to establish a post at the southern end of the Strait of Malacca provided it did not cause a conflict with the Dutch and his orders stated:

The long experience and peculiar qualifications of Major Farquhar, the late resident of Malacca, and his late employment at Riau and Lingga, eminently fit him for the command of the post which it is desirable to establish, and the local superintendence of our interest and affairs.

While the British Resident in Malacca from 1803 to 1818, William Farquhar had established friendly relations with the Temenggong Abdu’r-Rahman of Johor. Knowing that the Dutch would soon be returning to the Strait of Malacca after the hand-over of Java and its dependencies by the British in 1816, he concluded an agreement with the Temenggong (A Malay Chief) allowing the British to establish a settlement in the Riau Islands. Subsequently the Dutch had installed their Resident in the Riau Islands and forced the Temenggong to annul the agreement with Farqhuar.
It was Raffles and Farquhar who landed together at the Singapore River on 29 January 1819. The Temenggong who lived nearby came out to welcome his old friend William Farquhar. Introduced to Raffles, he told them of the current dispute within the Johor-Riau Sultanate. In 1810 the Sultan of Johor had died, his eldest son Tengku Long was his successor; however, the powerful Bugis faction in the Johor-Riau court exploited Tengku Long’s absence at his own wedding to declare his more compliant younger brother as Sultan.

Raffles took advantage of this dispute to sign an agreement on 6 February 1819 with ‘the legitimate successor to the empire of Johor’ for the British to set up a trading settlement on part of Singapore Island and his official Proclamation reads:

The Honourable Sir T.S.Raffles, Lieutenant-Governor of Bencoolen and its dependencies, Agent to the Governor-General is pleased to to certify the appointment by the Supreme Government of Major William Farqhuar of the Madras Engineers to be Resident and to command the troops of Singapore and its dependencies and all persons are hereby directed to obey Major Farquhar accordingly.

Farquhar with his long experience in Malacca was an effective Resident of Singapore for the next four years until churlishly dismissed by Raffles on 1 May 1823, just before his term was about to end.

William Farquhar Book

During his twenty years in Malacca and Singapore, William Farquhar amassed a unique collection of 477 paintings of native flora and fauna especially commissioned from local artists. The William Farquhar Collection of Natural History Drawings was presented to the Royal Asiatic Society London in 1827 where it remained until put up for auction in the 1990’s. Thanks to the generosity of Goh Geok Khim, founder of the brokerage firm GK Goh, the collection was purchased for S$3 million in 1995 and donated to the Singapore History Museum in honor of his father. The William Farquhar Natural History Collection is now listed as one of the National Treasures of Singapore.

William Farquhar.Collection

For those interested in knowing more about the founding of Singapore, the book or e-book of East Indies is available on order from your favourite bookstore, or the usual online retailers.

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The Ambon War Cemetery

AustraliaLargeFlag

They shall grow not old as we that are left grow old, age shall not weary them nor the years condemn, at the going down of the sun and in the morning we will remember them.

051

The Commonwealth Graves Cemetary in Ambon is green oasis in the busy town of Ambon, carefully maintained in honour of our fallen soldiers, sailors and airmen, a visit here is a deeply moving experience.

After the fall of Ambon in February 1942, a former Dutch army camp on the island was used to hold Australian, American and Dutch prisoners of war, captured during the invasion. The recently published book Ambon by Roger Maynard tells the story of the Australian 2/21 Battalion known as Gull Force sent to defend Ambon from the expected Japanese invasion. This Japanese prisoner of war camp had the highest death rate of any similar camp during the war. With food reduced to starvation levels combined with forced labour, the death toll soared in 1945. By the time of the Japanese capitulation only 123 of the 532 Australians left on Ambon in late 1942 remained alive. It was one of the highest death tolls that Australians experienced in captivity and many of these survivors would continue to suffer the effects of their long ordeal.

Private Leo Ayres

Private Leo Ayres

The Gull Force Associaton conducts a pilgrimage to Ambon every year to coincide with Anzac Day, where a service is held at the Tantui War Cemetery with full military support.

GullForcememorial Tantui

The War Cemetery was constructed on the site of this camp (known as Tantui) after the war. The cemetery contains Australian soldiers who died during the Japanese invasion of Ambon and Timor, plus those who died in captivity in one of the many camps constructed by the Japanese on the Moluccas Islands, including many British prisoners who were transferred from Java to the islands in April 1943. Soon after the war, the remains of prisoners of war from Haruku and other camps on the island were removed to Ambon and in 1961, at the request of the Indonesian Government, the remains of 503 graves in Makassar War Cemetery on the island of Celebes were added to the cemetery.

Ambongrave stone

The total number of graves in the cemetery is over 2,000. Of this total over half are Australians, of whom about 350 belonged to the 2/21st Australian Infantry Battalion. Most of the 800 British casualties belonged to the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force; nearly all the naval dead were originally buried at Makassar. The cemetery is laid out in a series of terraces approached by short flights of steps on the central axis. The Ambon Memorial, which is in the form of a shelter, stands on the first terrace. It commemorates over 450 Australian soldiers and airmen who died in the region of Celebes and the Molucca Islands and have no known grave. The Cross of Sacrifice stands on the highest terrace in a wide expanse of lawn; the terrace below it contains most of the burials from Makassar. All the graves are marked with bronze plaques mounted on concrete pedestals and set in level turf. Tropical trees and shrubs are planted throughout the cemetery and around its boundaries. There are 1,956 Commonwealth burials of the 1939-1945 war here,357 of these are unidentified. There are 186 Dutch burials here, 15 being unidentified, and 1 American Airman. The American airman was killed with 7 Australian airmen in July 1945; all were buried in a collective grave in Plot 28.

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