Sunday, June 23, 2013

ARLHS IDO-061 Damar Besar/Edam (Java) Lighthouse

Damar Besar/Edam (Java) Lighthouse

Pulau Damar Besar {Edam}
1881. Active; focal plane 55 m (180 ft); four white flashes every 20 s. 50 m (164 ft) 12-sided cast iron tower with lantern and gallery. Entire lighthouse painted white. Deni Adam Malik's photo is at the top of this page, a portfolio of photos and another photo are available, and Google has a fuzzy satellite view. Staffed by a crew of five. This famous lighthouse traditionally welcomes travelers to Jakarta. It was prefabricated in the Netherlands by Nering Bögel, Deventer. Located on Pulau Damar Besar in the center of the entrance to the bay of Jakarta. Accessible only by boat, but apparently boats can be chartered in Jakarta. ARLHS IDO-061; Admiralty K1062; NGA 23404.

Further out, about 17 kilometers from shore and right in the center of the semicircle described by Jakarta Bay, lies Damar Besar island. Known by the Dutch as Edam, the island takes its current name from the fact that a lighthouse stands on it: damar means torch and is also the name of the combustible resin that oozes from certain tropical trees. The lighthouse currently standing at one end of the island was built from a standard kit of iron parts shipped out from the Netherlands. This one was assembled in 1879 and there is an identical one at Anyer on Java's west coast of about the same age.

The lighthouse keeper will happily let visitors climb to the top of the tower (225 steps) in exchange for some lunch money. (Not that there is anywhere to buy lunch -- you have to take your own.) From the tiny iron walkway at the top of the lighthouse, you look down over a dense canopy of secondary forest, from which the calls of birds and cicadas drift up. The boat at the landing stage lies far below. Unfortunately, it was not a clearday and the blue-green sea receded into a gray haze past the skeletal fish traps and scores of fishing boats.

Most of the island is occupied by dense secondary forest, but this was not always the case. If you wander around the paths between the trees, you will come across two Japanese gun emplacements from World War II. One assumes the forest was cleared at that time for visibility. Now, the humid silence of the jungle shrouds these solemn reminders of past conflict.

There is also a group of graves, one holding the remains of Ratu Syarifa Fatima, the wife of Banten sultan who died on the island in 1751, having been ousted by the people of the historic port city west of Jakarta. At that time a splendid mansion stood on Damar, built by Dutch governor-general Camphuijs. It is said the foundations still remain but you will have to search for them. The English did a pretty good job of destroying the house in 1800.

Decades ago, there was a ""resocialization center"" on Damar. It seems the idea was to get criminals and other undesirable elements of society together and try to teach them better ways. To us today, it sounds more like a ""send-them-offshore-and-let's-forget-about-them center"". These ruinsstill remain: tall rooms stand ceilingless, cement rots slowly and the jungle steadily asserts its grip.

After a look around Damar, it is highly recommended to take the boat out a little way and dive in. The water on the day we went was crystal iridescent turquoise. Irresistible.

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