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Saturday, 7 April 2012


12th March, 2012: Our visit to Andaman & Nicobar Islands would not have been complete had we not visited Ross Island, the seat of British Administration for this area. Situated at a distance of barely 2 km from Aberdeen Jetty, this small island has less than a square kilometre area and is clearly visible from Port Blair.

Memorial for Battle of Aberdeen, May 1859 at Aberdeen Jetty, Port Blair
The island was discovered by the British in the year 1858 when they came here first in search of some land mass for building a jail where they could deport the convicts and prisoners from the mainland India.  The Andamanese aborigines who were the original residents of this island, fought with the British, in what is known as the Battle of Aberdeen, in May 1859.  A Memorial at the Aberdeen Jetty today stands tall as a tribute to this brave tribe. It is stated that within 20 years of the initial British occupation, the number of aborigines dwindled from 5,000 to just 28.

Ross Island as seen from the boat
Ross Island served as the administrative capital of Andaman from the year 1858 to 1941 when it was taken over by the Japanese. The island was a complete office cum residential complex. It was a self-contained centre with all possible infrastructure in place. The Chief Commissioner’s Residence, the British Officers’ Mess,  the Officers’ Quarters, Officers’ Club, Junior Officers’ Club, a Water Treatment Plant, a printing Press, a Presbyterian Church, a Bakery, a Hospital, the Cemetry, a shopping centre, you name it and it is all  there. And to top it all, Ferar Beach on the other side of the island provides a fabulous view of the unrestricted sea.

This is where the Officers' Club existed in those days
During World War II in the year 1941, the Japanese took over this island from the British and converted it into their POWs (Prisoners of War) site. The Japanese bunkers at the island stand testimony to this even today.

This building was the printing covered with  roots

Visiting the island now when you can visualise its glory only by looking at the ruins all over the place, was quite an experience. The trees have grown tall and their roots have covered the ruins. Are the ruins seeking strength from the roots or are the roots taking their revenge from the ruins by trying to devour them? Who can say?

Everything looks like a dream now.

Time and again, I was drifting into the past and visualising how it must have  been when the British occupied it…the Ma'am sahebs walking around in their flowing gowns, the Gora sahebs playing tennis or swimming in the treated water swimming pool, the Indian orderlies in white turbans bowing down to their masters with eyes looking down, the khansamas cooking and baking the delicacies and of course the gong at the Church,  all this must have been such a real but different world. 

The famous Bakery of Ross Island

Ross Island boasted of a superb Bakery which offered some of the best confectioneries, bread loaves, buns and croissants. The bakery was a tastefully constructed  building based on the 19th Century British architecture with all modern facilities including a self-contained cook house.

The Presbyterian Church....even the ruins are glorious.
The Presbyterian  Church on the Island was a Protestant Church made of stone. Doors and windows were made of Burma Teak. The glass panes behind the altar were made of stained glass brought from Italy. The quality of the wood was so good that it has withstood the test of time for over 100 years. The south side of the Church also had a structure to house the parsonage.

And today, the India Navy is managing and maintaining the island. One can see innumerable deer roaming around the island without any fear and posing for photographs with the tourists. Yes, I am not joking. They are quite friendly and not scared of human-beings.

Ferar Beach
Ross Island is a serene, peaceful and charming place where one could spend hours with the slow breeze and the lazy palms. The roaring sea waves are incessantly threatening to lap up the shore from time immemorial but failing as the rocks continue to stand as rocks by the side of the shore and holding it in place.

The island has taaaaaall trees with alround lush green ambience.

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