A Death in Paradise

The whitewashed residence of the former Dutch Governor on the island of Banda has some classical architectural features. From the golden lions mounted on the entrance gates, to the now defunct fountain on the lawn in the forecourt, to the elegant simplicity of the four columns on the terrace and the symmetry of its shuttered doors and windows. Inside the building it’s tiled floors and high ceilings tell of a by-gone splendor.

However, one of the front windows tells a tragic story.

The Dutch Governor's Residence

The Dutch Governor’s Residence

Etched on a glass window pane using a diamond ring, are the last word of Charles Rumpley, believed to have been a minor colonial official. Words written on 1 September 1831, words which if they had been written on paper would have been forgotten in the intervening 180 years, but words which still resonate today in his desperate cry to be reunited with his family:

Quand viendra t’il le temps que formera mon bonheur?

Quand frappera la cloche qui va sonner l’heure,

Le moment que je reverai les bords de ma Patrie,

Le soin de ma famille que j’aime et que je benis?

When will come the time that will form my happiness?

When will the bell strike the hour,

The moment I will see again the shores of my country,

The bosom of my family that I love and bless?

Photo by Uta Domnitz

Photo courtesy of Uta Domnitz

What his fateful words tell us is that, isolated in the middle of the vast Banda Sea, cut off from his family and with no prospect of any immediate return to Europe, what could seem like a tropical paradise to one person can be a personal hell to another.

For after writing these words, Charles Rumpley took his own life.

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Revenge is sweet

Fort Revenge. Just the name conjures up boyhood images of the sound and fury of battle, with cannons booming, muskets firing, military flags waving, the clash of swords, and the sound of battle cries. Fort Revenge still stands on the island of Ai (called Poule Way on this map), one of the remote Banda islands in Eastern Indonesia, but how did it get its name?

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Map of the Banda Islands showing Run and Ai on the west, Jan Janssonius 1652

When the English East India Company vessel Expedition arrived in the Banda Islands in 1609, Captain David Middleton found Admiral Verhoef and his Dutch East India Company (VOC) war fleet had occupied the main islands and were busy building their garrison on Banda Neira. The only place he could trade for nutmeg were the outer islands of Ai and Run whose headmen had steadfastly refused to sign any agreement with the Dutch. These outer islands were claimed by the English in 1616 when the inhabitants of Run signed an agreement accepting James I of England as sovereign of the island.

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View of the main Banda Islands from Ai ,only 10 km away

The English and their local allies built a fort on Ai, which was the first line of defense against a possible Dutch attack from nearby Banda which is only 10 kilometres away. This came in 1615, when 900 Dutch soldiers and their mercenaries landed on the island and after a day of fighting captured the fort. However that night the English and their island allies’ counter attacked, killing 200 Dutch soldiers as they slept and forcing the others to flee the island as best they could.

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The interior of the fort, currently being used as a vegetable garden

The English placed gun batteries on the highest part of Ai in preparation for the Dutch counter-attack, which came a year later. The gun batteries had the range to damage the Dutch ships before they could force a landing, but when their ammunition ran out the fort was overun and the remaining Englishmen forced to retreat to their base on the adjacent island of Run. For obvious reasons the fort on Ai was renamed Fort Revenge and stands as a symbol of the Dutch conquest of these outer islands.

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Entrance tunnel through the broad walls of the fort

A long entrance tunnel allows you to walk through the broad walls of the fort and enter the interior courtyard, which is now used as a vegetable garden. The interior buildings of the fort have long since disappeared but evidence of the forts purpose and survival still exist, that is the dungeons, the gunpowder magazine and the water well. On the far wall is a Dutch plaque which must have some historic significance and I hope someone can identify the coat of arms. 

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Does anyone recognize the Coat of Arms on this plaque?

Stone steps lead up to one of the bastions, overlooking the Banda Sea and the adjacent village, where an ancient cannon no longer needed to defend the fort lies on the ground. From this bastion you can see the shape of the fort which is a five sided pentagon with a diamond shaped bastion at each corner.

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The entrance and looking towards the SW bastion

 

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‘East Indies’ —- Book Reviews II

Some more ‘East Indies’ book reviews have come in.

SydneyBookLaunch

Armed Enterprise – Competition and Monopoly in the East

Burnet tells of the struggle between the Portuguese Crown, the Dutch East India Company (VOC) and the English East India Company for trade supremacy in the Eastern Seas.
It’s with vivid historical anecdotes, that Australian author Ian Burnet navigates the long and complex history of European expansion into the Indian Ocean, South East Asia and the China Seas, lured by the wealth to be gained by wresting control of the world’s oldest and richest trades and sea lanes … Burnet’s challenge has been to turn this tumultuous history into a readable, short narrative for a wider, more general audience. To this end he structures the book into three sections from the perspective of the key European players, chronicling the activities of first the Portuguese , then the Dutch and then the English … two features of the book that make this popular history so enjoyable are the many quotes from the mouths of the story’s protagonists, and the well selected historic colour images that closely enhance the narrative.

— Jeffrey Mellefont, Signals, Australian National Maritime Museum

This comprehensive work is highly recommended to students, researchers, and general audiences … it is a worthwhile regional history in and of itself, while on a more scholarly level, it serves as a contribution to the literature on globalization and imperial expansion,
Overall, the book is well written and provides a solid narrative chronicling the embryonic European presence from India to Japan, and ultimately informs the reader of the region’s robust trade networks over a span of centuries, enriching an understanding of the dynamic geographic dimensions of globalization.

— Dr. Thomas J. Sigler, School of Geography – University of Queensland, The Globe

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Ambon Medley

KeronjongTugu

Time to have fun with some timeless classics. Join in with the audience —- clap your hands, stamp your feet, whistle, shout, and have fun with Keroncong Tugu Band

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The Manhattan Transfer

Originally posted on spiceislandsblog:

This is a story that never ceases to fascinate. Whenever I give a ‘Spice Islands’ book talk, I am always asked “Is it true that the island of Run was exchanged for Manhattan?”
Manhattan is often referred to as the ‘capital of the world’, this densely populated island on the Hudson River is home to the United Nations where the world’s political leaders decide the fate of nations and Wall Street is undoubtedly the financial capital of the world.

However, before Manhattan there was New Amsterdam.
And before New Amsterdam, there was the island of Run.
The island of Run?

40_Map of the Banda Islands showing Ai and Run

The island of Run, only 3 km long and 1 km wide, is a speck on the map of Eastern Indonesia. It is part of the six Banda islands which surround a central volcano in the middle of the Banda Sea. To reach these tiny islands we sailed overnight from…

View original 463 more words

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The Manhattan Transfer

This is a story that never ceases to fascinate. Whenever I give a ‘Spice Islands’ book talk, I am always asked “Is it true that the island of Run was exchanged for Manhattan?”
Manhattan is often referred to as the ‘capital of the world’, this densely populated island on the Hudson River is home to the United Nations where the world’s political leaders decide the fate of nations and Wall Street is undoubtedly the financial capital of the world.

However, before Manhattan there was New Amsterdam.
And before New Amsterdam, there was the island of Run.
The island of Run?

40_Map of the Banda Islands showing Ai and Run

The island of Run, only 3 km long and 1 km wide, is a speck on the map of Eastern Indonesia. It is part of the six Banda islands which surround a central volcano in the middle of the Banda Sea. To reach these tiny islands we sailed overnight from Ambon on the Ombak Putih, a traditional Indonesian sailing schooner owned and operated by Sea Trek Sailing Adventures.

P1020046

The outline of Run appeared in the first pink light of dawn. Its limestone cliffs rise directly out of the sea and as we are looking for a place to anchor I can see the green foliage of the nutmeg and kenari trees that cover the island. It is still a mystery to me but for some reason the nutmeg tree originally only grew on these remote islands in the middle of the vast Banda Sea. The mere existence of this magical tree on these isolated islands still seems incredibly unlikely, nutmegs when they reached Europe were said to be worth their weight in gold and the Portuguese, Dutch and English fought over access to this valuable commodity.

Coming ashore

The Dutch East India Company (VOC) captured the the fort on the main Banda island from the Portuguese in 1605, which meant that when the English East India Company ships arrived, they could only trade for nutmegs on the outer islands of Run and Ai.
We anchor opposite the main village on Run in probably the same place where Nathaniel Courthope anchored the English East India Company vessels Swan and Defense in 1616 to claim the island for King James I of England. This was the very first English colony and King James was able to declare himself, ‘King of England, Scotland and Puloo Run’.
The thin, wizened headman receives us and arranges for a guide to take our group around the island. I ask him “Do you know that your island was exchanged for Manhattan”, he says yes and then asks for the historical details.

Kids and Nutmeg

Walking along the village street that follows the shoreline we see fishermen repairing their nets, the food staples of fish, coconut and cassava drying in the sun, as well as nutmegs which are still the main export from the island. I even find the neat and freshly painted Manhattan Guest House (only US dollars accepted?).

Manhattan Guest House sign

Kid posing

On the other side of the world the Dutch started construction on Fort Amsterdam in 1625 after Dutch colonist had acquired rights to the island in exchange for sixty guilders of trade goods. It was after the Treaty of Breda in 1667 that the Dutch claim to the island of Manhattan was exchanged for the English claim to the nutmeg island of Run.
This was not just the real estate deal of the century but probably of the millenium. Who would have believed that Manhattan would become the ‘capital of the world’ and the valuable nutmeg island of Run would sink into obscurity?

Nutmeg Belanda 1

Ian Burnet and Sea Trek Sailing Adventures sail to the Banda islands in October this year and details are available at http://www.seatrekbali.com

Ombak Putih

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Spice Islands Sailing Adventure 2014

Ombak Puith with sails 2

The Ombak Putih is sailing again to Ambon-Banda-Lease-Obliatu-Bacan-Makian-Tidore-Ternate from October 8-19, 2014. Nutmeg and clove plantations, historic forts, old VOC buildings, dive spots, remote villages, local markets, Sultan’s Palaces, and lazing on board, are all on the agenda.

Follow our adventures in this short film produced for Sea Trek Sailing Adventures (www.seatrekbali.com) and Ian Burnet (www.ianburnetbooks.com)

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