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Tuesday, 17 April 2012


The main gate of Chatham Saw Mill
When I was told about Chatham Saw Mill, I wondered what is there to see in a saw mill. There must be some machines, some logs of wood and intolerable sound of saw machines. After visiting the place, I realised what an important place this mill was and how much history it must have witnessed over the years. 
Chatham Saw Mills is one of the oldest saw mills in Asia and it is huge. It cuts wood of all types into various sizes and pieces and is the main supplier of wood for all the local requirements. The mill which is the back-bone of the wood industry in these islands is owned by the Forest Deptt. and bears testimony to the contribution of the British towards putting industries in place. We can't simply criticise them for their ruling our country ignoring their contribution to our land.

A 100m bridge connects the mill with Port Blair
Chatham Saw Mill is connected  to Port Blair by a 100 m long bridge. The history of Chatham Island dates back to the year 1789 as this was the first landing place for Lt. Archibald Blair who reached here in his vessel Viper in the year 1789 in search of a land mass for British settlement. As the “Viper” crashed near a small island now named after it as Viper Island, Lt. Archibald Blair set his foot on Chatham Island which is very close to Viper Island before he identified Port Blair as the place for housing the convicts in a jail.

Elephants were used to push the heavy logs around
Chatham Saw Mill was started by the British  in the year 1883 with second hand imported machinery to process and cut locally available wood for using in the construction of various buildings including the Cellular Jail in Port Blair and development of the administrative and residential set up of the British at the Ross Island.
During World War II, the Japanese bombarded the factory on 10th March, 1942 for over an hour destroying the factory, the machines and taking the lives of hundreds of workers. The mill lay crippled during the next three years and was revived only in the year 1946 when the Japanese left and the British returned.

Outside the Forest Museum in Chatham Saw Mill

There is a Museum within the compound which is a storehouse of information on Andaman & Nicobar Islands displaying almost all the possible data about the history, geography, flora and fauna available in Andaman Islands apart from various types of wood available here.

Outside the Forest Museum

On display in the museum are a number of wooden handicrafts and furniture made in the area showcasing the skills of the locals. The sections of the various tree trunks displayed looked absolutely gorgeous. Some of the tree trunks were unbelievably large in diameter. The natural design within the wood were exotic. The museum also provided detailed information about various types of corals in this area.

Pillar of the Planet

There is a Memorial called PILLAR OF THE PLANET in the mill’s premises which came into existence in March 2009 to commemorate 125 years of Forestry in the Island. 

The Mill's building is mostly made of wood and one could go around the place provided you do not go too close to the saw machines.
Photography within the Mill is not permitted denying me a opportunity to capture the activity in my camera.

Section of a tree trunk on display in the museum

During the British rule, the timber processed here was supplied to western countries and even to USThe beautiful crimson walls of the Buckingham Palace are made of the local Padauk wood processed in this ancient saw mill. 
How I wish I could bring this lovely wood from here to build the doors and windows of my house in Delhi. Unfortunately, you cannot do so. What a pity!

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