The Maritime Heritage Project

World Harbors from The Maritime Heritage Project in San Francisco.

Seaports of the World


Malay Archipelago (Maritime Southeast Asia)

° Batam Island ° Batavia ° Borneo ° Java ° Panjang ° Surabaya ° Tidore

Indonesia is the world's largest archipelago. Estimates are that the country is made up of over 13,000 islands, many of which are mountainous and have active volcanoes. Another name for the group is the Moluccas. (This is the group of islands Christopher Columbus was seeking when he sailed into the Americas in 1492.)

The Spanish and Portuguese had a monopoly of the East Indies spice trade until destruction of the Spanish Aramada in 1588, which permitted the British and Dutch to seek their share of this wealthy import business. Because of the risks taken to bring spices to Europe, they were very expensive.

Early on, their delivery was largely in the hands of the Moslem world which Catholic Europe was often at war with. Spices attained luxury status as emblems of conspicuous consumption.

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Indonesia Map 1996

Fortunes were made in the East Indian and Spice Island trade, since precious spices brought huge rewards to successful importers. The glittering wealth of the Portuguese and Spanish courts, of Italian port cities, Dutch trading firms, German bankers and British speculators was followed by the extraordinarily successful entry in 1672 of the United States into the spice trade.

Over the course of the nineteenth century, Southeast Asia was colonized by Britain, France, and Holland. The Dutch virtually excluded company members from the East Indies after the Amboina Massacre in 1623 (an incident in which English, Japanese, and Portuguese traders were executed by Dutch authorities), but the company's defeat of the Portuguese in India (1612) won them trading concessions from the Mughal Empire. In 1799, the Dutch government took over the Dutch East India Company's rule of parts of the Indonesian archipelago. Over the next hundred years, control extended throughout the entire archipelago, including Sumatra and Bali, and the modern boundaries of Indonesia were established at this time. By the early 1800snew plantations of spices in Africa and India opened up new supplies to the traders. As a consequence, prices fell.

Britain's East India Company went out of existence in 1873. During its heyday, the East India Company not only established trade through Asia and the Middle East but also effectively became of the ruler of territories vastly larger than the United Kingdom itself. In addition, it also created, rather than conquered, colonies. Singapore, for example, was an island with very few Malay inhabitants in 1819 when Sir Stamford Raffles purchased it for the Company from their ruler, the Sultan of Johor, and created what eventually became one of the world's greatest trans-shipment ports.

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Borneo - Panoramic Map

Merchants sailing the world also faced many natural disasters, such as Krakatoa Volcano which erupted in 1883.

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The Island of Krakatoa
Front cover of "The Illustrated London News."
September 8, 1883

Its fine ashes followed wind streams as far away as over New York City, whereas the eruption's tidal waves reached the American West Coast. At that very instant, Krakatoa vanished as if devoured by the sea, causing formidable tidal waves which in turn swept off just about everything alive from the surrounding coastal areas.

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Ocean Steamship Carried Inland in Sumatra
by Tsunami from the Krakatoa Eruption

However, the disappearance of the gigantic Krakatoa also meant the birth of small islands in its place, one of which is called Anak Krakatau or Krakatoa’s Child which is at present an extremely active young volcano. From both West Java’s West Coast and from Sumatra’s Lampung Province, this young and very active volcano is clearly visible. A boat trip to this place may be worth making.


Article 17, about the Company’s factory at Batavia from 1619-1740, is not so much the story of Dutch settlement, as it is one of a Chinese colonial town within Batavia. Batavia had been founded as the center of an inter-Asian maritime trading empire competing with the Spaniards and the Portuguese. When trade with the Dutch Republic became more important than Asian trade in the late 1600s, the Company gradually became a territorial power collecting tributary payments, and Batavia lost its position in the maritime trade empire.

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Insulae Lavae, a Large Folding Map of Java
with two insets both depicting views of Batavia Dutch

Agriculture was almost completely controlled by the Chinese in Batavia by 1649, using both Javanese and Chinese labor. New Chinese immigration occurred after 1683. The effort to develop sugar plantations and sugar mills was almost entirely in the hands of the Chinese, and population was growing outside the city. The administrative system did not change to meet the needs of this rural population and the cooperation between the Dutch and the Chinese gradually deteriorated.

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A View of Batavia also known as Djakarta

When the sugar market declined, mass poverty, unemployment and ruin followed. The rural Chinese revolted in 1740. Not only were they defeated, but there was also a massacre of urban Chinese. By 1781, only sixty sugar mills were operating. Still, half of Batavia’s population profited from the industry. The company's encounters with foreign competitors eventually required it to assemble its own military and administrative departments, thereby becoming an imperial power in its own right, though the British government began to reign it in by the late eighteenth century.

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The Castle of Batavia, as Seen from Kali Besar West
c. 1656. Andries Beeckman 

Daily Alta California, February 10, 1864

The Capture of the Amanda and Winged Racer.

BATAVIA, November 14th. 1863.— 0n the morning of tbe 12th instant the officers and crew of the American ship Amanda (660 tons register) arrived here at the United States Consulate, reporting that on the night of Friday, the 6th instant, one hundred and twenty miles south south-west of Java Head, in the Indian Ocean, the Amanda was burned by the so-called Confederate steamer Alabama, Semmes commander. She had on board a full cargo of sugar and hemp shipped by Messrs. Ker & Co. of Manila and bound to Queenstown. After the crew of the Amanda were taken on board the Alabama the vessel was burned, and the Alabama steered for Sunda Straits, where she arrived at night-time and anchored close under the coast of Sumatra. When there, she was informed by a Dutch vessel lying at anchor, that the U. S. Steamer Wyoming was at Batavia, upon which she steamed on, always keeping close to the Sumatra coast, and finally running out of Sunda Straits, stood in near North Island on the 10th, and at 5 p.m. signalized the American clippership Winged Racer (770 tons register, Cummins, commander, which was owned by Robert L. Taylor. Esq., of New York, and had on board a full cargo of sugar and hemp, bound from Manila to New York, shipped by Messrs. Peele, Hubble, & Co. After distributing, her crew in three of the ship's boats, they were permitted to take such clothing, provisions and water as they wanted and the boats could carry, and the ship was burnt. Captain Cummins, who had his wife and child, went on board the British shipJulia bound from Shanghai to London, then at anchor not far off, and they were landed at Anjer. The Alabama then put the crew of the Amanda into a boat in which they arrived at Batavia.

The Winged Racer sunk at half-past eight. When the Alabama was last seen she was steering far the northward. The U.S. steamer Wyoming left Batavia, on the morning of the 8th inst., for a cruise, having been detained at Batavia in order to repair her machinery. The Amanda was the first vessel destroyed by the Alabama since she left Cape Town.

By later telegram, the Alabama was cruising between North Island and Nicholas Point. The Wyoming had gone on a cruise to Christmas Island, supposed to be a coaling station for rebel steamers.


January 17, 1876, London and China Telegraph
London, United Kingdom


The report of Acting Consul General Low, on the trade and commerce of Borneo for the year 1874, has just been issued. The foreign trade of the Port of Brunei for that year consisted, as usual, chiefly of imports and exports to the British Colonies of Singapore and Labuan, and the results taken at Brunei are —imports, from Singapore, £26,545, Labuan, £17,595, total, £44,140, against a total of £31,840 in 1873. The trade with the provinces from Labuan was to the value of £33,326, against £30,268 in 1873, thus making the total British import trade at Brunei £77,466, against £56,466 in 1873. The total exports from. Brunei were £77,444 in 1874, against £56,161 in 1873, or an increase of £21,283. The Consul points out that if the valuable coal mines of Borneo be worked, "revenues would be obtainable which, while supporting the Eajahs, would permit the introduction of a regular fiscal system in place of the irregular exactions now made upon the people of the various rivers by their territorial lords." Mr. Low says :—

I have known the coast for many years, and remember that in 1845 the trade of Borneo Proper was conducted with Singapore in a very few native prahees, which, at great risk, made annual voyages. It was dangerous at that time to move by sea from one village to another during the fine season, and the river of Brunei was annually blockaded by squadrons of Llancon and Balinini pirates. No instance of piracy has occurred during the last two years, on the whole coast line from. Tanjong Api to Sancakan Bay, a distance of 700 miles, and for many years no considerable fleet has been known to visit these waters.

That a steam vessel has been placed in the trade is entirely owing to the efforts of Sir H. Bulwer in forcing this question on the attention of those whom it was intended to benefit. So apathetic and so averse to innovation were they, that every kind of objection was raised to the trial of the experiment, and it was only by great perseverance on Sir Henry's part that the necessary energy and enterprise could be aroused. This vessel, while paying as a commercial undertaking exceptionally well, has been of signal service in relieving the famine caused by the invasion of the small-pox, the ripening harvests having been abandoned ungarnered at its approach, and the whole community now see and acknowledge the propriety of Sir Henry's disinterested exertions. It is believed that it will soon be necessary to establish another vessel of the same size to carry the increasing trade of Brunei and Labuan to Singapore.


A 19th century system of agricultural exploitation and taxation in kind in Java, Netherlands East Indies (NEI), introduced by governor-general Van den Bosch (1830–4) to pay for the expensive Java War (1825–30). The Javanese had to produce cash crops on an agreed proportion of their land, initially 20 per cent, which were shipped to The Netherlands and sold for the Dutch government by the Nederlandse Handelsmaatschappij (Netherlands Trading Company).

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Java - Indonesia - Stableboy with Horse

By 1850 about 45 per cent of the population of Java was subject to the system, which was liable to be abused by local officials, particularly in the selection of the land to be used, and the percentage of the yield involved. This policy led to an improvement of the NEI infrastructure, and was very profitable for The Netherlands, with profits from the colonies providing up to a third of the government income in the 1850s. But liberals regarded it as forced labour.

Bradstreet Rairden, Jr. (son of Mary Tarbox Rairden of Woolwich, Maine, and Captain Bradstreet Rairden of the 347-ton bark Henry Warren) went to sea in November 1874. He took command of the bark Evie Reed at Portland Maine in August 18, 1881 at the age of 23 and left the vessel due to sickness with Java fever, at Batavia, Java on March 1884. He settled at Aujer and set up as ship-chandler and commission merchant. He also became the United States consul in Batavia.

In July 1888, Emma Pray of the China trade ship Governor Goodwin, arrived at Anjer-Lor to discover that the ship chandlers were Scott and Rairden, "the only English speaking men in Anjer." When he met Emma, Mr. Rairden courteously invited her to "go down to his house, and see his wife, and said we ere to stop of tiffin with him. I didn't know that the had a wife," Emma commented, but went along anyway, to "a very pretty little house, and found Mrs. Rairden to be a young Englishwoman." Her maiden name was Frances Elizabeth Collins (born in Bootle, England, July 16, 1865); she had arrived in Java on the bark John A. Gaunt with her sister, her brother-in-law being the captain. Over the five weeks that the ship had lain in Anjer, Frances "met Mr. Rairden, became engaged to him, and two days before the vessel was to sail, they were married on board ship by a minister whom they sent for from Singapore.

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Old Port,, Jakarta, Java, Indonesia
Charles Bowman, Photographer

The Indonesian coat of arms bears the inscription ‘Unity in Diversity’. There are over 300 socio-linguistic groups in Indonesia, each with a distinct culture and heritage. Only about one in six Indonesians speaks the national language at home. Even fewer speak Indonesian as their first language. The mother tongue of the vast majority is a regional language, for example, Javanese, Balinese, Minangkabau or Acehnese. Nursery rhymes, childhood stories, myths, legends and cultural mores are as diverse as the languages. Not surprisingly, most Indonesians first develop a regional identity, only learning the national language, Indonesian, when they begin school and with it an Indonesian identity.

January 29, 1896, Echo
London, United Kingdom


While boring for water north of Burlington, Java, the operator who was running the drill, found it had struck a layer of sand and wet earth, in which was thickly mixed seaweed and small shells, at a depth of 150 feet. After passing through this the drill struck a mass of bones, that were so hard the 6-inch casing was broken and the drill destroyed. Samples of the bone brought to the surface show it to be pure ivory. It is thought to bo the bed of an ancient lake, and that the bones of some monster of a remote period have been discovered.

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Ship from China and Java Rigged with Mat Sails


Volcano on Tidore in the Moluccas

Tidore is an island located in the Maluku archipelago. Before Islam came to earth archipelago, known by the name of Kie Tidore Duko, which means the island is volcanic.

Like nearby Ternate, Tidore was the seat of an ancient and powerful sultanate. In the year 1495 AD, Sultan Ciriliyati ascended the throne and became the first ruler of Tidore who took the title of sultan. At that time, the center of the kingdom was in Gam Tina. When Sultan Mansur ascended the throne in 1512 AD, he moved the center of the kingdom by establishing new settlements in North Tidore Rum. Position adjacent to the new capital of Ternate, and flanked by the Cape and islands Mafugogo Maitara. With state of the beautiful and tranquil sea, the location of the new capital rapidly developed and became a bustling port.

In the 16th and 17th century as Spanish strength in the region diminished prior to their withdrawal from the region in 1663, Tidore became one of the most independent kingdoms in the region, resisting direct control by Dutch East India Company. Particularly under Sultan Saifuddin (1657-1689), the Tidore court was skilled at using Dutch payment for spices for gifts to strengthen traditional ties with Tidore's traditional periphery. As a result he was widely respected by many local populations, and had little need to call on the Dutch for military help in governing the kingdom, as Ternate frequently did.

Tidore remained an independent kingdom, albeit with frequent Dutch interference, until the late eighteenth century.

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Indonesia.Spice The History of a Temptation. 
Spice: The History of a TemptationIndonesia.
Jack Turner
Vintage Books, 2004

Krakatoa: The Day the World Exploded: August 27, 1883
Simon Winchester, New York Times bestselling author of The Professor and the Madman, examines the legendary annihilation in 1883 of the volcano-island of Krakatoa, which was followed by an immense tsunami that killed nearly forty thousand people. The effects of the immense waves were felt as far away as France. Barometers in Bogotá and Washington, D.C., went haywire. Bodies were washed up in Zanzibar. The sound of the island's destruction was heard in Australia and India and on islands thousands of miles away. Most significant of all -- in view of today's new political climate -- the eruption helped to trigger in Java a wave of murderous anti-Western militancy among fundamentalist Muslims, one of the first outbreaks of Islamic-inspired killings anywhere. Krakatoa gives us an entirely new perspective on this fascinating and iconic event.

Batavia by Peter Fitzsimons.Indonesia. 
Batavia, Peter Fitzsimons
(Kindle Edition) 
The Shipwreck of the Batavia combines in just the one tale the birth of the world's first corporation, the brutality of colonisation, the battle of good vs evil, the derring-do of sea-faring adventure, mutiny, ship-wreck, love, lust, blood-lust, petty fascist dictatorship, criminality, a reign of terror, murders most foul, sexual slavery, natural nobility, survival, retribution, rescue, first contact with native peoples and so much more. Described by author Peter FitzSimons as "a true Adults Only version of Lord of the Flies, meeting Nightmare on Elm Street," the story is set in 1629, when the pride of the Dutch East India Company, the Batavia, is on its maiden voyage en route from Amsterdam to the Dutch East Indies, laden down with the greatest treasure to leave Holland. The magnificent ship is already boiling over with a mutinous plot that is just about to break into the open when, just off the coast of Western Australia, it strikes an unseen reef in the middle of the night.

Batavia's Graveyard by Mike Dash.
Batavia's Graveyard: The True Story of the Mad Heretic Who Led History's Bloodiest Mutiny
Mike Dash
In 1628 the Dutch East India Company loaded the Batavia, the flagship of its fleet, with a king's ransom in gold, silver, and gems for her maiden voyage to Java; the ship itself was a tangible symbol of the world's richest and most powerful monopoly. The company also sent along a new employee to guard its treasure. He was Jeronimus Corneliszoon, a disgraced and bankrupt man with great charisma and dangerously heretical ideas. With the help of a few disgruntled sailors, he hatched a plot to seize the ship and her riches. The mutiny might have succeeded, but in the dark morning hours of June 3, 1629, the Batavia smashed through a coral reef and ran aground on a small chain of islands near Australia. The captain and skipper escaped the wreck, and in a tiny lifeboat they set sail for Java—some 1500 miles north—to summon help. More than 250 frightened survivors waded ashore, thankful to be alive. Unfortunately, Jeronimus and the mutineers had survived too, and the nightmare was only beginning.

Rare & Collectible Books at

First Migrants
Ancient Migration in Global Perspective
Ancient Migrations.
Peter Bellwood

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