(From the Straits Times, February 12.)
To the kindness of a friend we are indebted for a few items respecting the island of Labuan ; although somewhat scanty, they are nevertheless acceptable, especially as peculiar care appears to be exercised in keeping us as much as possible in the dark respecting an island which it is thought will prove the el Dorado of the Malayan Archipelago.
H.M.S. Iris and Wolf reached Labuan December 18th, , soon after arrival in Victoria Bay, tents were erected on shore and parties sent from H.M S. Iris and Wolf for the purpose of clearing away the jungle at Pasley Point, and erecting a temporary jetty, formed of trunks of trees, which was constructed to run out about 100 yards. The flagstaff was erected at Point Pasley, (named after Sir Thomas Pasley, Bart, R.N.), the top of which is about 100 feet above the sea level ; the base of the flagstaff being about ten feet above high water mark, and situated about 200 yards from the extremity of the point. On a plot of ground being cleared, cocoanuts, several varieties of fruit-trees, vegetable and flower seeds from Singapore, were planted ; they were thriving remarkably well, indeed before the Iris left, the ships were receiving a foretaste of crops of potatoes and other vegetables, which promise soon to be abundant. Some of the officers of both vessels made a tour to the opposite side of the island, penetrating through thick jungle and mangrove swamps, and were enabled to make a survey of the country passed over. The soil is described as luxuriant ; there was some food for the sportsman, comprising enormous wild pigs, snipe, sand-pipers, and others of the winged tribe. On one part of the island, a large extent of ground was found in a partially cleared state, and had evidently been at some distant period under cultivation. A report was current among the natives that the spot alluded to had been cleared by some English settlers who fled from Balambangan in 1775, on their being expelled the latter place by the Sooloos. The shores of Labuan abound with excellent fish, including mullet, pomfret, turtle, &c.
Sometime must elapse ere the jungle is removed ; when that is carried into effect it is impossible to conceive a more fruitful soil, or eligible spot for a tradal as well as naval depot. The officers above mentioned, who passed over the island, are unanimously favourable to the healthfulness of the climate ; the air is more temperate than Singapore, and the atmosphere is free from those violent disturbances experienced at the latter settlement ; while regular land and sea breezes offer amenities not to be lightly esteemed.
As is generally the case at the first establishment of a new settlement, a heavy amount of sickness manifested itself ; it attacked only those who were much exposed during the preliminary operations. Captain Gordon, of H.M.S. Wolf, was seized with fever of so violent a nature as not to yield to the usual remedies he expired on the morning of Wednesday, the 6th of January, and was buried on the evening of the same day. Captain Gordon was deeply respected ; his remains lie interred in the centre of a grove of trees (a short distance from the flagstaff) whose boughs hang over the grave of the first victim to Labuan fever.
The following items supplies us with particulars relative to the erection of the British flag at Labuan, on the afternoon of December 24.
Captain Mundy got upon a platform, previously erected near the flagstaff, and addressed the officers, native princes of Borneo, and others present at the ceremony, in the following terms
"Let it be known to all here assembled, that I take possession of this island. and the islets in its immediate neighbourhood, in the name of Her Most Gracious Majesty Queen Victoria. To all be it known, that the British Government will protect and encourage tradal intercourse, but will pursue with the utmost vengeance all those found in the capacity of a pirate."
Each sentence was interpreted in, Malayu by Lieutenant Heath, R.N., now commanding H.M.S. Wolf. Mr. Midshipman Morgan then, by desire of Captain Mundy, raised the British ensign to the flagstaff head, which was followed by three hearty cheers, under a salute from the temporary battery erected on shore, and responded to by the guns of H.M.S. Iris and Wolf, concluded by a feu de joie from marines on shore. Captain Mundy again addressed all assembled around the platform, and remarked:- "The Queen of England and the Sultan of Borneo are now friends : we are now standing on British territory."
The above was interpreted by Lieutenant Heath. Captains Mundy and Gordon then led the way, followed by the officers, chiefs, &c., to a tent near the flagstaff, where was prepared a dejeuner, of which the party partook, and at which the healths of Queen Victoria and the Sultan of Borneo were received with due honour.
SG & SGTL ; Vol 4 ; Page 135.
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