THE STATE OF
BRITISH NORTH BORNEO
A Fishing Village in North Borneo
THE STATE OF
BRITISH NORTH BORNEO
REPORTS OF THE GOVERNOR
AND STAFF OF NORTH BORNEO
Showing the Progress and Development
of the State io-the end of 1920
Issued by THE BRITISH NORTH BORNEO
I. History ______ Tâ€”27
II. Geography ------ 28â€”39
III. Population ------ 4Â°â€”45
IV. Climate, Meteorology and Health 46â€”51
V. Natural and Forest Products - . 52â€”59
VI. Timber ______ 60â€”66
VII. Minerals ______ 67â€”69
VIII. Agriculture _____ 70â€”82
IX. The Administration _ _ _ _ 83â€”85
X. Sport and Natural History 86â€”90
XI. Principal Towns _ _ _ _ 91â€”94
XII. Openings for Capitalists and Settlers 95â€”97
XIII. General Information - - - - 98â€”104
Appendices and Map - - - - 105â€”112
A Fishing Village Frontispiece
A â€œ Travellersâ€™ Palm â€ - â€” - - - Facing page 12
African' Oil Palm - - ,, 24
Transporting Sago Logs to Factory - Â» â€ž 36
Planting Padi ------ â€ž â€ž 48
Barking Sago Logs - ,, ,, 60
Manila Hemp ______ â€ž 72
Stripping Manila Hemp - Â» â€ž 84
A handbook of British North Borneo was prepared
in 1886 for the Colonial and Indian Exhibition held in that
year in London, and was chiefly intended as a guide to the
British North Borneo Court and its contents on view
in the buildings. This handbook was revised in 1890.
lhe present issue contains much of the contents of
the previous handbooks, but has been carefully re-
edited, and all more recent data added from the most
reliable sources of information, so as to give the latest
intelligence available up to the end of 1919, and wherever
possible up to a later date.
In the Appendix will be found information gathered
from official documents, returns and statistics, likely
to be useful for reference. A Map is also appended.
All enquiries should be addressed to the Secretary,
British North Borneo (Chartered) Company, 37 Thread-
needle Street, London, E.C. 2.
- â– - ...........................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................- - -..........................................................- â–
State of North Borneo
To a very great extent the history of Borneo is veiled in
obscurity. It was apparently known to the Arabs many
centuries ago, and by them was recognised as a-land rich
in precious stones, gold and spices. Somewhere about 1300
it is likely that the island was invaded by Kublai Khan,
the ruler of the huge Mogul Empire which Genghis Khan
founded about 1200. The traditions of Brunei and Sulu show
that about this period there was established a Chinese province
somewhere in the northern part of the island, very probably
in the neighbourhood of the Kinabatangan River, and this
province had dominion also over the islands of the Sulu
The names of many geographical features in northern
Borneo are prefixed â€œ Kina,â€ which to some appears proof
of Chinese influence, but it must be mentioned that this
argument has been much disputed of late years.
There are, however, many proofs of Chinese influence,
leaving the above out of the question. Jars, of which the
Chinese origin is beyond dispute, are used and revered by
all the aboriginal tribes of the north of Borneo, and in several
other directions there is considerable evidence of Chinese
influence, particularly in the agricultural methods of some:
?of the tribes. It is known that the daughter of a Chineseâ€™
prince, who was in all probability the Governor of the Province
referred to above, came from the Kinabatangan river to-
marry the second Sultan of Brunei, and from this couple
originated the royal family of Brunei of the present day.
This story is also repeated in Sulu history, which fixes the
date at 1375.
The Hindu Empire, which extended over Java and left
there so many marks, most probably reached as far as Borneo,
and this seems to be proved by the discovery of ornaments
of undoubted Hindu origin. The Hindu sway was succeeded
by that of the Malays, whose origin is uncertain, but who are
thought to be the result of a fusion between Mongols and some
former inhabitants of Southern Asia.
The Malays are first heard of at Menangkabau, in Sumatra,
whence they seem to have migrated to what is now known as
the Malay Peninsula, where they established settlements,
which eventually became Sultanates. They succeeded
finally in overthrowing the Hindu Empire in the Eastern
Archipelago, and asserted their influence to a very considerable
extent, founding several Sultanates in Borneo.
It is probable that the first visits to the island of Borneo
by Europeans were made by Spaniards and Portuguese. The
companions of Magellan, after the death of their chief in the
Philippines, are known to have called at Brunei in 1521,
and it is stated by Pigafetta that this city then was of con-
siderable importance and contained no less than 25,000
The Portuguese also are recorded to have paid visits to
Brunei in 1526 and 1530. At that time they were well
established in Malacca and no doubt kept up a regular trade
with Borneo until they lost Malacca to the Dutch in 1640.
It seems fairly certain that the Portuguese had a trading
station in Brunei itself; undoubtedly trade between that
town and their settlement at Macau in China was maintained
up to the end of the 18th century.
In 1521 Manila was conquered by the Spaniards, and
records prove that very soon after that date they established
relations with Brunei, and in fact they placed upon the throne
of that State a Malay Sultan of their own choice, though
he was before long expelled. It is also stated that, as a
punishment for piratical acts against them colonies in the
Philippines, they sent an expeditionary force on two occasions
to Brunei, the last resulting in the total destruction of the
town. A Dutchman visited Brunei in 1600, and the Dutch
founded establishments in Borneo about that time.
The first visit of an Englishman to the island seems to
have been in 1665, when a certain Captain Cowley â€œ visited
a small island which lay near the north end of Borneo.â€
Dampier mentions that Captain Bowry was in the island
The earliest Dutch and British navigators all saw a splendid
property in the island, and in 1602 the States-General
of the Netherlands, in pursuance of a monopolising policy,
consolidated their various companies and created the â€œ Nether-
lands and East India Company.â€ This proved to be the
turning point in the commerce of Europe. It was the spices
of the East, particularly the nutmegs and mace, the taste
for which had rapidly spread throughout Europe, that brought
â– about this revolution. The English were slow to follow the
example of their commercial rivals. No serious action was
taken in this direction until the wreck of a Portuguese mer-
chantman on our coasts, the â€œ Mother of God,â€ attracted the
attention of the public. This vessel, which was of 1,600 tons
burden, was towed into Dartmouth and was found to contain
a cargo of Eastern produce valued at Â£150,000. It was after
this that we started an Eastern trade of our own, and the
merchants of London, Bristol and Plymouth combined to
contest the Dutch monopoly. A company was formed, and
granted a charter by Oueen Elizabeth. This was the East
India Company, the foundation of our Eastern Empire.
In 1773 the East India Company founded a station at
Balambangan, an island to the north of Marudu Bay. This
island and all the north-east promontory of Borneo had been
â– granted by the Sultan of Sulu to Alexander Dalrymple in
1756, as a reward for procuring his release from captivity in
Manila. The settlement at Balambangan was attacked by
Sulus and Ilanuns in 1775, and, the garrison being taken by
surprise, its occupants were forced to flee in their vessels,
leaving to the assailants booty valued at no less than half
a million pounds. This attack was said to be the result of
ill-treatment of the natives of the neighbouring islands, and
there is little doubt that the European adventurers of those
days were inclined to be harsh in their methods. The sur-
vivors of Balambangan fled to Brunei, where the East India
Company had another station, and eventually some of them
settled in Labuan, an island off the west coast. In 1803
the Company again formed an establishment in Balambangan^
but shortly afterwards abandoned it as well as the settlement
Though at the present day there is little trace of the former
prosperity of the island, the records of our early navigators
leave no doubt on this subject. Captain Blackman, in 1714,.
relating his voyage to Borneo, alludes to a considerable
trade with China ; and Mr. J. Hunt, in a report to Sir Stam-
ford Raffles in 1812, says that â€œwhen the Portuguese first
visited Borneo in 1520, the whole island was in a flourishing
state. The numbers of Chinese that settled on her shores
were immense; the products of their industry and an
extensive commerce with China in junks gave her
land and cities a far different aspect from her appearance
at this day, and their princes and courts exhibited a
splendour and displayed a magnificence that has long since
For some years after the abandonment of Balambangan,
it appears that the Dutch were the only Europeans to make
their influence felt in Borneo, and in course of time they
acquired the control of all but the northern part of the island.
Their influence was not of the best. The policy followed
by the first settlers in the Eastern Archipelago, among
islands so rich and populated, destroyed all security for
life or property for the natives. With this loss of security
their commercial and agricultural prosperity rapidly dis-
appeared and Borneo was reduced, in common with many
other productive and flourishing islands, to a wilderness, and
the inhabitants converted into pirates and head-hunters.
Under the Dutch, vessels of other nations were excluded,
trade was only allowed with their own markets, and conse-
quently the prosperity of the ports suffered. The result was.
the cessation of fair trade and development. The native
princes were not able to maintain their state nor the people
to satisfy their requirements. Sir Stamford Raffles, in 1821,
wrote : â€œ The destruction of the native trade of the archipelago
by this withering policy may be considered as the origin of
many of the evils, and of all the piracies of which we now
complain. A maritime and commercial people, suddenly
deprived of all honest employment or the means of respectable
subsistence, either sank into apathy and indolence, or ex-
pended their natural energies in piratical attempts to recover
by force and plunder what they had been deprived of by fraud.â€
Dampier relates that the natives had always been willing to
trade with all nations, but the Dutch not only monopolised
the trade of countries under their control but prevented
adjacent .countries trading with countries other than them-
The north and west coasts of Borneo were in a condition
of wretchedness and anarchy when James Brooke visited
the island in 1840. Rajah Muda Hasim of Sarawak at that
time was engaged in the suppression of a rebellion, and asked
Mr. Brookeâ€™s assistance. This was given with some reluctance,
and with ten of the English crew of his ship, the â€œ Royalist,â€
and two guns, he joined the Rajahâ€™s forces and proceeded
against the rebels. Finally, after several engagements, a
meeting was obtained with one of the insurgent chiefs, who
eventually came in to see Mr. Brooke. This meeting led to
others with various of the chiefs, and they agreed to lay down
their arms, but only on condition that Brooke should become
Rajah. He was so installed as Rajah and Governor of
Sarawak in 1841.
Foremost among the new Rajahâ€™s ambitions was the sup-
pression of piracy. The principal piratical races at the time
were the Ilanuns, the Balanini, the Bajaus and the Sulus,
all living near the north of the island. Their vessels were of
large size, sometimes reaching a burden of 60 tons, and 90
feet in length, and they were heavily armed. Their cruising
grounds were extensive, covering the coasts of the Philippine
Islands, Borneo, the Celebes, Sumatra, Java, the Malay
Peninsula, and even the Bay of Bengal. They had settle-
ments of considerable size "in Marudu Bay, in North Borneo,
and towns along the west and east coasts. Their chief in
Marudu at this time was Usman, who, in addition to piracy,,
made profit by supplying others with ammunition, payment
being made in slaves.
In 1843 Rajah Brooke, after several efforts, succeeded
in getting the British Government to consider the question
of the suppression of this piracy, which was doing much
damage, not only to native craft, but to large European
sailing vessels, and H.M.S. â€œ Dido â€ was despatched to Borneo
for this purpose. In 1846 another fleet of warships was
sent to destroy the stronghold of Sherip Usman in Marudu
Bay, and this was accomplished after considerable resistance
and with a loss of six killed and fifteen wounded. Patrols
were also sent among the numerous islands in the north,
and many piratical craft were destroyed, while the pirate
villages in Pendasan and Tempasuk were demolished.
In the same year, in conjunction with the chiefs of several
friendly villages, who requested assistance, British warships
attacked and destroyed the stronghold of Haji Saman, on the
Shortly after this the Ilanuns abandoned their old haunts
in the north and fled to Tunku on the east coast. As late as
1872 Dutch squadrons had to be sent against them, and in
1874 piracy was so prevalent on the east coast that the Spanish
Government ordered its cruisers to destroy all prahus proceed-
ing from the Sulu Islands and Tawi-Tawi. In 1879 the pirate
stronghold in Tunku was destroyed by H.M.S. â€œ Kestrel,â€
and upon the establishment of a Government by the Chartered
Company, piracy virtually ceased.
The modern history of North Borneo may be said to have
commenced in 1846, when the British Government entered
into a treaty with the Sultan of Brunei, wherein it is recited
that their desire was â€œ to encourage commerce between
Her Majestyâ€™s subjects and the subjects of the independent
rulers of the eastern seas, and to put an end to piracies which
have hitherto obstructed that commerce.â€ A small additional
effort in this direction was made at the same time, by the
cession of Labuan, an island on the western coast of Borneo,
supposed to be important as a naval station, with its harbour
and coal mines. If was accordingly made a Crown Colony,
with a Governor and other officers, but the naval station has
not developed, and the coal mines have been closed for some
A "Travellers Palmâ€ Facing 12
After the pirates had been extirpated, there was an im-
mediate increase in trade. As the Singapore Free Press said
in 1850 : â€œA very few years ago no European merchant
vessel ventured on the north-west coast of Borneo ; now they
are numerous and safe. Formerly shipwrecked crews were
attacked, robbed and enslaved; now they are protected,,
fed and forwarded to a place of safety. The native trade now
passes with careless indifference over the same track between
Marudu and Singapore where, but a little while ago, it was
liable to the peril of capture ; the crews of hundreds of prahus
are no longer exposed to loss of life and prosperity.â€
It was hoped that the opening of a free port at Labuan
under the English flag would tend to develop the rich resources,
of Northern Borneo, and that the establishment of settled
Governors on the island would exercise a beneficial influence
to the mainland. Such, however, did not prove to be the.
case, and the Government of Brunei, freed by the prestige
of the British flag from the necessity of guarding against
the incursions of the pirates, sank lower and lower in ad-
ministrative weakness and corruption. Its power soon be-
came limited practically to the districts in the immediate
neighbourhood of the capital, though nominally the authority
of the Sultan extended as far as the shores of Marudu Bay,
whence, to the Sibuku river on the east coast, the overlordship of
the Sultan of Sulu was recognised in an equally nominal manner.
The United States was the only other Power which followed,
the example of England by entering into a treaty with the
Sultan of Brunei and appointing a Consul. This Consul,
Mr. Moses, in 1865, procured for himself from the Sultan a
cession of territory including most of the provinces now
under the administration of the North Borneo Government,,
with the rights of government. These rights and cessions
he transferred to the American Trading Company of Borneo,
which proceeded to form a settlement on the Kimanis river,
some 60 miles from Labuan. The companyâ€™s capital was-
far from adequate for the purpose, and, after a few years of
experimental planting and ship-building, with no attempt at
real government, the companyâ€™s representative died at
Kimanis, and the settlement was abandoned.
In 1872 the Labuan Trading Company, under the manage-
ment of the late Mr. W. C. Cowie, established itself in San-
dakan, on the east coast. This company carried on a pros-
perous trade for three years, when its business was taken over
by Mr. Cowie in conjunction with the Sultan of Sulu, whose
â€¢chiefs were in possession of the whole of the north-east coast
from Marudu to Sibuku.
Further action was taken in 1875, when, it having been
ascertained that the American cessions were still regarded
as valid by the Brunei Government, Mr. Alfred Dent and
Baron von Overbeck formed a private Association. In 1877,
the Brunei Government vested in the new Association in
perpetuity the government of that portion of North Borneo
which extends from the river Kimanis on the west to Sibuku
on the east, with the exception of a few small rivers, the pro-
perty of independent chiefs, the Association undertaking to
pay an annual tribute to the Sultan of 15,000 dollars, which
was afterwards reduced by mutual agreement to half that
As stated previously, the Sultan of Sulu claimed sovereign
rights over much of the country which had been ceded by
Brunei, and in 1878 he transferred all his rights to the Associa-
tion for an annual payment of 5,000 dollars. In the same
year the Association, flying the flag of the house of Alfred Dent
& Company, established stations at Sandakan, Tempasuk
and Papar. After visiting North Borneo personally, Mr.
Dent returned to England, and considerable interest was soon
evinced in the novel venture.
Early in 1881 the British North Borneo Provisional Associa-
tion, Limited, was formed, taking over the cessions with all
rights. A Charter was petitioned for and was granted on
November 1st, 1881. After this was obtained the British
North Borneo Company was formed in May, 1882, and thus
armed and authorised it took over all the rights, sovereign
and territorial, conveyed in the original grants of the two
Sultans, and proceeded to organise a Service for the admin-
istration of the territory, and the development of its resources.
The Company further acquired the Putatan river and the
Padas district in 1884, including the important rivers of Pa das
and Klias, the Tuaran and Bangawan rivers being included
in the same deed of cession. The Kawang river and the
Mantanani islands were acquired in 1885. More recently,
in 1898, as the outcome of the Mat Saleh rebellion, arrange-
ments were successfully completed by which the Sultan of
Brunei transferred to the Company all his sovereign and other
rights over the districts of Mengkabang, Menggatal, Inanam,
Api Api, Membakut, and Kuala Lama, and all lands, seas,
bays and rivers in North Borneo lying north of the Padas
river which had hitherto been in the possession of the Sultan.
By this means the many â€œenclaves â€ which had been the
resort of disaffected inhabitants and a source of continual
annoyance and trouble to the administration, became valuable
possessions of the Company, and enabled it to consolidate its
territory into one compact whole.
At the outset the Spanish Government, then the pos-
sessors of the Philippine Islands, strongly objected to the
cessions made by the Sultan of Sulu, on the ground that the
territories in question had previously been ceded to the Spanish
Crown, which claimed suzerainty ovei' the whole Sulu Archi-
pelago and the States tributory to the Sultan. This contention
was finally waived on the signing of the Protocol by the
representatives of Britain, Spain and Germany in 1885.
This instrument provided that : â€œ The Spanish Government
renounces, as far as regards the British Government, all
claims of sovereignty over the territories of the Continent
of Borneo, which belong, or which have belonged in the past,
to the Sultan of Sulu, and which comprise the neighbouring
islands of Balambangan, Banguey and Malawali, as well as
those comprised within a zone of three maritime leagues from
the coast, and which form part of the territories administered
by the Company styled â€˜ The British North Borneo Company.â€™ â€™â€™
The Dutch Government also raised objections to the estab-
lishment of the Companyâ€™s Government in Borneo on the
grounds that (i) the Company being British, there had been,
indirectly, an infringement of the provision in the Treaty
of London of 1824 whereby a mixed occupation by England
and the Netherlands of any islands in the Indian Archipelago
was to be avoided ; (ii) the Sibuku river was included in the
cession from the Sultan of Sulu, whereas the Dutch claimed
that their boundary extended to the north of that river as-
far as Batu Tinagat at the entrance to the bay now termed
The first objection was withdrawn, but for some years-
the second was a matter of dispute. In the meantime the
Company in 1883 hoisted its flag on the south bank of the
Sibuku, while the Dutch erected an obelisk at Batu Tinagat
and stationed a gunboat there. The dispute was finally
settled in 1891 on terms which will be found in the boundary
agreement mentioned in that portion of this book dealing
with the geography of the country.
The Sarawak Government at the time also took up a some-
what unsympathetic attitude towards the Company, but,
since the cession by the Company of the Lawas territory to
the Rajah, however, the relations of the two Governments
have been of a cordial nature.
The early notices in the Press were neither sanguine nor
encouraging. The Times, in 1875, commenting on the report
of the Borneo-Sulu cessions, remarked: â€œThe Batavian
papers received give a great deal of space to the purchase, by
Baron von Overbeck, an Austrian acting for an English
Company, of territory on the north coast of Borneo. The
land acquired is described as of great wealth, but the Dutch
Batavian journals suggest that the Netherlands Government
have the right to compel the native chieftains, who sold the
land to Baron von Overbeck, to acknowledge that the suzer-
ainty of Holland extended over the territory parted with,
which might thus be brought within the control of the Dutch-
Ten years later, however, the tide of doubt and suspicion
had so completely turned that in a long article in the Straits
Times, in 1888, it was stated that the country had received
â€œ an incalculable advantage in the chartering of the British
North Borneo Company, which, it may be remembered,
caused some excited discussion a few years ago. Whatever
doubts or suspicions may have been felt at its birth the Com-
pany is rapidly living down. It has justified its existence by
the energy and breadth of mind with which it has conducted
its administration. Grants of land have been given to culti-
vators on very liberal terms. Every encouragement has been
afforded to the introduction of capital and labour on its
lands, until at last it is reaping the fruit of its enterprise in a
general rise in values.â€
The circumstances in which the Charter was granted merit
detailed consideration. When the project was first mooted
in the British chamber, doubts and distrust of the policy of
recognising a chartered company as the heirs or successors of
the Malay Sultans with territorial possessions and sovereign
powers were freely ventilated. Considerable delay arose
owing to the revival of the old Dutch and Spanish jealousy of a
competitor to dispute their monopoly. This was hotly pressed
by the two Governments in question, each of which claimed
in Borneo rights of pre-emption in opposition to any cessions
on the part of the Sultans.
The pretensions of the Spanish to any valid claim on North
Borneo territory were definitely disposed of by H.M.â€™s Govern-
ment after a diplomatic correspondence extending over three
years, furnishing material for two Blue Books. In this
correspondence may be found two very significant statements
from Lord Granville, then Secretary of State for Foreign
Affairs, giving a summary of the British Governmentâ€™s ap-
preciation of the contentions raised.
In the one Lord Granville remarks that :
â€œ The Protocol of Madrid, which secured foreign trade
from further molestation in the Sulu Archipelago, does not
extend to the mainland of Borneo. The territorial limits
of the sovereignty formerly claimed by Spain in the Sulu
Archipelago are clearly defined in the Treaty between Spain
and Sulu in 1836, wherein they were declared to extend
â€˜ from the western point of Mindanau to Borneo and Palawan,
with the exception of Sandakan and the other countries
tributary to the Sultan on the continent of Borneo.â€™ â€
â€œ North Borneo lies in the fairway of an immense British
maritime trade between China, Australia, India and the
United Kingdom. Its occupation by a foreign Power would,
be a source of disquietude to this country, and for that reason
clauses were inserted in the British Treaties of 1847 and 1849
with the Sultans of Sulu and Brunei, under which they respect-
ively engaged not to make any cession of territory to any
other nation than Great Britain, without the consent of Her
Lord Granville concludes :
â€œ As regards the general features of the undertaking, it
is to be observed that the territories granted to the Company
have been for generations under the government of the
Sultans of Sulu and Brunei, with whom Great Britain has
had treaties of peace and commerce ; and far from any
disorders arising out of the occupation of these territories
by British subjects, under the concessions of the Sultans, the
advent of the Company-: has been welcomed everywhere by
the inhabitants. The experience of three years show's that
the peaceful and intelligent development of the great natural
resources of the country is steadily increasing, and there is
every reason to believe that a sound and liberal system of
administration will be established by the Company, which
will spread the benefits of civilisation among the native
population, and open up new and important fields to British
trade and enterprise, and to the commerce of all nations.â€
There could be no doubt as to the importance, both com-
mercially and politically, of this territory being in British
hands, and on the whole there was at the time a very general
approval of the action of the Government in the grant of a
The debate in both Houses, which terminated in the House
of Commons by a large majority approving of the policy of
granting the Charter, and without a division in the Lords,
was important in other respects. The Foreign Secretary and
Mr. Gladstone, Premier of a Liberal Ministry, laid down
very clearly the principles which should influence a British
Government in granting a Charter to colonising and trading
companies, and at the same time the limitations and restric-
tions which these grants should be held to create.
Lord Granville began his speech with a short retrospective
view of the historical and political events respecting Borneo
bearing upon the present policy, and said : â€œ Borneo, one of
the largest, if not the largest, island in the w'orld, has vast
natural resources and abounds in mineral and vegetable
riches. It has long been a subject of jealous observation
between this country, the Dutch and the Spaniards, and has
been colonised partly by each of these Powers. During the
last sixty years diplomatic communications have been going
on with regard to itâ€”during that time the Dutch have made
immense acquisitions, not only in the islands south of Singa-
pore, but also in the south of .Borneo. The claims of Spain
as lately developed would, if they had been verified, have
placed the whole of the Eastern Archipelago, extending 2,000
miles in one direction and 2,500 in another, with the exception
of the land lying on the track of our immense trade with China
and Australia, the Straits Settlements, Labuan and Sarawak,
entirely in the power of these two nations, with both of whom
we desire to be on the most friendly terms, but whose com-
mercial arrangements are far from being as liberal as our own.
In 1877 a Protocol was signed by which England and
Germany agreed with Spain as to a modus vivendi securing
the freedom of navigation and commerce to this country in
Sulu Archipelago. Subsequently, however, England and
Germany thought they had reason to complain of acts which
appeared to them entirely in disaccord with its provisions, and
which showed that the Spaniards intended to occupy portions
of North Borneo. The Dutch, on the other hand, made
new claims, being alarmed by concessions which had been
made by the Sultans of Borneo and of Sulu to Mr. Dent, who,
on his part, applied in 1878 to Her Majestyâ€™s Government for a
Charter of Incorporation.
â€œThere seemed to be three courses open to us: either our-
selves to annex this vast territory ; to leave it to Mr. Dent
and the important Company which he represented to make
the best of the concessions granted to themâ€”in other words,'
we might have left matters to take their own course; or to
leave the whole country to its almost inevitable absorption by
foreign nations. There were grave objections to the first and
third courses that did not appear to apply to the second.
â€œ Borneo is a most valuable and important part of the world,
and, if the resources of the country are developed under the
honest and intelligent supervision of a certain number of
Europeans, I believe that great results may be achieved, while
no additional burden, either military or financial, will be
thrown upon this country.â€
Lord Carnarvon, from the Opposition benches, spoke in
support of the Charter, and said that the annexations which
Holland had made in the last thirty or forty years were simply
enormous. They stretched 2,000 miles in one direction,
and still further in another. It was impossible not to remember
that Holland has not shown, and indeed, did not possess the
power to make use of the territory she had acquired. It
would have been a source of great inconvenience and risk to
ourselves if any other country than England had been lodged
in the north-eastern part of Borneo, and there could be no
doubt that, if we had not established our position there, some
other European Power would. It was very important that
the country should recognise what an enormous stake it had
in the trade that passed through those waters. The trade
from the west between England and China was simply vast,,
but there was also the trade growing up between China and
Australia, which was very considerable. There could be no
doubt that their position in the north-east of Borneo, whether
looked at as a matter of peace or war, was of very great con-
sequenceâ€”and he concluded by saying that they would have
done a great wrong if they had allowed this territory to pass
into the hands of any foreign state. He believed that the
possession would be a valuable oneâ€”and as such he welcomed
It may be assumed that the British Government saw
insuperable difficulties either to annex so large a territory
or to allow it to lapse to a foreign Power, or to adopt the
alternative of allowing Mr. Dent or his Company to exercise
the powers that actually existed under the Sultanâ€™s grants,
irresponsible to Great Britain, unrestrained and uncontrolled.
The Government adopted the only course left, which was the
grant of a Charter, with a majority in the Commons of 63, in a
House of 187 members.
As regards the fitness of Chartered Companies for such
special colonising work and the value of the services rendered by
them in past and present times, a few examples may be given..
What the East India and Hudsonâ€™s Bay Companies did
in the past for England is too well known to need mention.
In a valuable article contributed by Mr. Thomson in the early
â€™eighties to the Fortnightly Review, entitled â€œ Downing Street
versus Chartered Companies in Africa,â€ writing with all his
personal knowledge and experience of what had taken place in
Western and Eastern Africa in recent times, he showed con-
clusively that, where Governments had failed, two Chartered
Companies, the Royal Niger Company in the west of Africa,
and the Imperial Eastern African Company on the eastern
coast, had made greater and successful progress. The com-
parison he instituted between what had been achieved by the
ordinary Government machinery in the interests of Great
Britain, and that achieved by Chartered Companies, was as
conclusive as it was unanswerable. He restricted himself
to ground with which he was familiarâ€”West and East
Africa, where he had seen the two methods at work side
by side. He showed that at one time we had no rivals
in colonial enterprise; and that, by the active enter-
prise of the French and Germans, at the time we were
practically confined in the west to the coast region â€œ to strive
and fester among its deadly swamps.â€ He pointed out that
the French had grasped â€œ within their exclusive sphere of
political and commercial influence the whole of the upper
basin of the Niger, shutting in Sierra Leone from all advance
into the interior, and cutting off all hope of its ever being
anything but a petty settlement,â€ and he stated that, â€œbut
for the National African Company, the middle zone of the Niger
at this day would have been lost to us, as has the upper basin
already, and practically have become German.â€
For many years past, he further contended, we have devel-
oped under the Government â€œ the policy of treating West
Africa with indifference and contempt, and, as ah incubus
the sooner got rid of, or at least the smaller kept, the better.â€
And he believed â€œ this policy of crippling all natural expansion
is no doubt largely traceable to that new school of so-called
Liberal politicians who have so little read their national his-
tory, and so utterly failed to grasp the secret of Britainâ€™s great-
ness, that they advocate the stoppage of all foreign enterprise,
and our complete withdrawal into our own islands.â€ And
lastly he asked, â€œ Of what use would our geographical position
have been to us if it had not been made use of for action
abroad, and without such action where would our greatness
have been?â€ If asked what would have been his remedy
â€˜for all this mismanagement in the past, and what the cure for
the future, with no uncertain voice he would answer that a
Chartered Company would have prevented the one, but for
the other he wanted a total reorganisation of our ad-
ministrative machinery and policy in Downing Street.
He pointed out that in tropical Africa (as in other tropical
countries) the answer to objections urged against the iniquity
of granting Charters to private individuals or companies
as being little more or less than monopolies is the fact â€œ that
enormous difficulties from the climate and the natives have to
be faced, and vast sums of money spent in treaty-making,
road-making, administration, exploration, etc.â€”work which
would not be done except by a powerful company, which must
have some guarantee that it will not be deprived of the fruits
of its enterprise.â€
Mr. Thomson, referring to the progress made already
by the Imperial British East African Company, whose first
yearly report told a tale of work and progress of which they
had a right to be proud, in a country which it was only five
years since he explored for the first time. â€œ And yet we
now hear of piers, roads, and telegraphâ€™lines as in process
of construction, and of railway lines projected into the
heart of the country, on the faith of a purely prospective
trade and profits.â€
All the more recent colonising and commercial enterprises
in uncivilised or semi-barbarous countries have been en-
couraged and sanctioned by the grant of Charters to Companies.
The latest instance of this policy on the part of the British
Government was the grant of a Charter to the British South
African Company, which included among its founders men of
wealth, distinction, and practical experience. A debate
took place in the House of Commons in which objections were
raised similar to those adopted when the Charter of the
British North Borneo Company was granted. The object
of this Company was to carry out on the territory between
Cape Colony and the Zambesi in the south the same work
which the East African Company was doing in another part
of Africa. The proposal was passed by a very satisfactory
majority, the Government, in this case, as in the Charter
of the British North Borneo Company, reserving to itself
the fullest control over the proceedings of the Company,
which would thus carry on its work with a full sense of
responsibility to the Imperial Government.
By pursuing this policy the Imperial Government secure
the opening of valuable territory to British commerce and
enterprise, while the native chiefs are protected from the
traps laid for them by unscrupulous speculators. The Im-
perial Government is called upon for no expenditure or respon-
sibility beyond a general exercise of a protecting influence
against aggressive action from without. Such a policy will
benefit England, which, as Prince Bismarck said, was the
greatest Colonial Power in the world ; and, as a consequence,
British trade, unburdened with an Imperial administration,
enjoys the complete liberty of action that alone renders
an elastic commercial policy possible and profitable.
The object of the British North Borneo Company has been
to develop the great natural resources of their territory by the
introduction of capital and labour, and of all the benefits
of a civilised Government. North Borneo has this, among
other exceptional and special advantages, that, while the
native population is small and easily governed, there is,
within a few daysâ€™ steam, a supply of Asiatic labour fitted to
the climate in the overflowing populations of China and Java.
The Chinese are a race which has already brought to fertility,
by industry and persevering labour, nearly all the islands and
colonies east of the Cape, and which still affords an inexhaust-
ible reserve of labour wherever in these seas the workers can
count upon fair wrages and security for the fruits of their
labour. This is an inestimable advantage for Borneo, where,
under a tropical sun, it is impossible for Europeans to under-
take the labours of the field. Enterprise in North Borneo
is, therefore, not hampered as it is for example in the West
Indies, where planters arc reduced to great straits from the
difficulty of securing continuous labour at reasonable wages.
Nor is it a less important and exceptional advantage for
North Borneo that it is out of the region of typhoons and the
earthquakes and volcanoes which periodically work such,
havoc and ruin in the American Settlements of the Philippines
in the north, and the Dutch possessions in Java and Sumatra
With similar, if not equal advantages to those of Hong Kong
and Singapore, there is reasonable ground to hope that a
brilliant future may be in store for the Companyâ€™s territory.
Hong Kong and Singapore were small and insignificant
settlements in their first years, but they now form the great
central depots of a trade which takes the whole world in its
circuit. Not very many years ago Hong Kong was a barren
island, a bare rock, with only a few fishermen for its inhabitants,
and granite boulders its only produce. At the present time
there is a large city with a population of more than 380,000
Chinese domiciled in the island, while ships crowd its capacious
harbour under every flag which flies in the two hemispheres.
A similar history has marked the development of Singapore
and the Straits Settlements. These have only risen to their
present state of wealth and prosperity within recent years.
The value of the united exports and imports of Singapore
amounts to Â£100,000,000, due mainly to three great factors :
a convenient geographical situation, a benevolent Government,
and a plentiful supply of cheap labour in the Chinese colonists.
From its central position, moreover, North Borneo possesses
advantages, both political and strategical, which no other
territory in the Eastern Archipelago can offer, and, under
existing circumstances, its value from a political no less than
a commercial point of view cannot well be overestimated.
That this opinion is shared by a numerous body of merchants,
planters, and others is well exemplified by the fact that up to
1918 some thirty-two companies had been formed, holding
from the North Borneo Government concessions in
the aggregate amounting to some 373,109 acres, for the
development of which Â£4,430,000 capital had been subscribed
by their shareholders, chiefly but not exclusively for the
cultivation of rubber and tobacco. The soil and climate
African Oil Pai.m Facing 24
have been proved to be eminently favourable for tobacco
growing, and capable of producing a leaf fully equal to the
best Deli tobacco grown in the Dutch Colony of Sumatra,
which formerly had the complete command of the markets in
Europe, to the great enrichment of the planters and the
revenues of the Dutch Government; while the plantation
rubber grown in North Borneo has always commanded the
The contentions so persistently raised by the Dutch and
Spanish Governments against a British occupation of any part
of Borneo, taken in connection with the recent aspirations
of all the chief Continental Powers for colonial extension, and
the numerous annexations made in furtherance of this
object in Africa and the Pacific, give an increased value and
importance to the Companyâ€™s concessions. Even in New
Guinea, the southern fringe of the Malayan Archipelago, the
disputed and rival claims there are facts which give increased
importance to the acquisition of North Borneo by a British
Company, secured as it is by a Royal Charter, and by the
British flag from all aggression or encroachment by any alien
or foreign State. Neither the Charter, nor the Protectorate,
were granted too soon. That the necessity for prompt occu-
pation of the territory was recognised by those more im-
mediately interested was demonstrated at one of the early
meetings held in March, 1878, at the Westminster Palace
Hotel. The meeting was called to consider the desirability
of a Company being formed for that object. Sir Rutherford
Alcock, who had been requested to take the chair, plainly
indicated the danger of delay in his introductory remarks,
when he said :
â€œ I confess, in taking a larger range than a merely com-
mercial view admits, that it seems to be a matter of very great
national importance that this northern part of Borneo should
not pass into the hands of any other country, considering'the
naval supremacy we have in those seas, and that it is on the
fairway to so many of our possessions ; remembering, too,
that for some 1,400 miles from Singapore to Hong Kong we
have not a single port where any fleet of merchant ships
-could find refuge in case of warfare, and that there might be
the greatest possible injury, if not destruction, to our commerce
and to our mercantile navy, from any enemy possessing such a
port as there is in Gaya, on the north-west of Borneo, within
the territory now conceded. It is a magnificent port, and in
these seas there is nothing until you come to Labuan, which,,
it is very well known, possesses only a coaling station, and
affords anchorage for but a fewy ships. Certain it is that, if we
were at war to-morrow, and an enemy had possession of the
country and port now under consideration, the first thing
we should have to do would be to drive them out of it. It is.
wiser, in my opinion, to take it when it is offered, and, extend-
ing the protection of our flag over it, to occupy the ground,
than to let others take and fortify it. So that, whether you
look at it commercially or politically, I consider this acquisition
one of the greatest importance.â€
The time has now arrived when it may safely be trusted
that the encouraging anticipation expressed by Lord Granville
(see page 17) will not be found too sanguine. As to the
progress which has since been made in the â€œ peaceful and
intelligent development of the great natural resources of the
country,â€ and in the development of â€œ a sound and liberal
system of administration,â€ spreading benefits among the
native population, and opening up new and important
fields to British trade and to the commerce of all nations,
evidence will be found in the following pages of this handbook
and in the appendix of trade returns. It may justly be
asserted that the aims and purposes of the Chartered Com-
pany, so clearly expounded by Lord Granville, have been
unswervingly pursued from the foundation of the Company..
The efforts to introduce civil government in harmony with
British laws, and to develop all the latent resources of a
country so richly endowed by nature, have produced results
sufficiently apparent and assured to attract a large invest-
ment of capital subscribed by numerous Companies.
In forming an estimate of what has been accomplished, it
must be borne in mind that, unlike the East India Company,
which began simply as traders in a country possessing the
accumulated wealth of ages of industry, and a civilisation
dating from ancient times, the British North Borneo Company,
on the contrary, had to take possession of a large territory
covered for the most part with virgin forests. As pointed out
in an early reportâ€”North Borneo was a land inhabited by
â€œa barbarous few, scattered about in independent tribes, and
where it was necessary to inspire confidence and attract
capital before any good results could follow.â€
The progress made by North Borneo will bear comparison in
revenue and trade with any othei colony where valuable
mineral deposits have not produced a sudden prosperity due
largely to that source. Even without these advantages,
a steadily increasing revenue, and a trade return in exports
and imports, also increasing year by year, are very satisfactory
It only remains to add that, in 1888, the territory of the
British North Borneo Company was constituted under a
British Protectorate, with the title of the State of North Borneo,
and placed in the same independent position as regards its
internal administration as Brunei and Sarawak; they on their
part claiming and obtaining a British Protectorate: and thus
the difficult problem which so long vexed the heart of Rajah
Brooke, how to secure internal independence combined with
British Protection, was satisfactorily solved. This placed
these States in a recognised and well-assured position inter-
nationally, while leaving them all needful independence in
internal administration and commercial activity.
Borneo is one of the largest islands in the world, being only
exceeded in area by Australia and New Guinea. It is 800 miles
from north to south, and its greatest breadth is 600 miles.
The greater part of the island is in the possession of the Dutch.
On the west coast lies the territory of the English Rajah of
Sarawak, and adjoining Sarawak is the ancient Sultanate of
Brunei, the administration of which is assisted by a British
Resident, the Sultanate forming one of the Federated Malay
States. Close to Brunei is the island of Labuan, now under
the control of the Governor of the Straits Settlements, whilst
the apex of the island is formed by the State of North Borneo.
In extent, North Borneo roughly approximates to the size of
Ireland. It includes the whole of the northern portion of the
island from the Bengkulit river on the west (between Lawas and
Mengalong), which divides it from the territory of the Rajah
of Sarawak, to the centre of Sebatik island on the east, where
it meets Dutch territory.
Its form is roughly that of a pyramid, with its apex to
the north, the China Sea washing its western, and the Sulu
and Celebes Seas its eastern coasts.
Boundary Agreement.â€”The boundary between British and
Dutch Bornean territories is defined in the convention of the
20th of June, 1891, between Great Britain and the Netherlands,
as follows :â€”
â€œ The boundary between the Netherlands possessions
in Borneo, and those of the British protected States in the
same island shall start from 4 degrees 10 minutes north latitude
on the east coast of Borneo.â€
" The boundary line shall be continued westward from
4 degrees 10 minutes latitude, and follow in a west-north-west
direction, between the rivers Simangaris and Soedang, up to a
point where the meridian ii7east longitude crosses the parallel
4 degrees 20 minutes north latitude, with a view of including
the Simengaris river within Dutch territory. The boundary
line shall then follow westward the parallel 4 degrees 20
north latitude until it reaches the summit of the range of
mountains which forms on that parallel the watershed between
the rivers running to the north-west coast and those running
to the east coast of Borneo, it being understood that in the
event of the Simengaris river, or any other river flowing into
the sea between 4 degrees 10 minutes, being found on a survey
to cross the proposed boundary line within a radius of five
geographical miles, the line shall be diverted so as to include
such small portions or bends of rivers within Dutch territory ;
a similar concession being made by the Netherlands Govern-
ment with regard to any river debouching above 4 degrees
10 minutes on the territory of the British North Borneo
Company, but turning southward.â€
â€œ From the summit of the range of mountains mentioned
in Article 2 to Tanjong Datu on the west coast of Borneo, the
boundary line shall follow the watershed of the rivers running
to the north-west and west coasts, north of Tanjong Datu,
and those running to the west coast south of Tanjong Datu,
the south coast, and the east coast south of 4 degrees 10
minutes north latitude.â€
â€œ From 4 degrees 10 minutes north latitude on the east coast
the boundary line shall be continued eastward along that
parallel, across the island of Sebatik ; that portion of the
island situated to the north of that parallel shall belong
unreservedly to the British North Borneo Company, and the
south of that parallel to the Netherlands.â€
The actual demarcation of the Anglo-Dutch frontier was
not completed until 1912.
British North Borneo extends to the north as far as latitude
7 degrees 25 minutes. The most westerly point is that of
Klias, longitude 115 degrees 20 minutes east, and the most
-easterly Hog Point 119 degrees 16 minutes east. The area,
including the islands, is over 31,000 square miles. The coast-
line of the mainland measures some 800 land miles. From a
geographical and strategic point of view the State is favourably
situated as regards ocean routes, being about midway between
Hong Kong and Singapore, while the course recommended
-on the English Admiralty Charts to vessels trading with China
and Japan in the north-east monsoon brings them within a
short distance of the harbours of the west coast. On the
â– east coast the trade route between China and Australia is
close to the magnificent bays known as Sandakan and Cowie
Harbours, both of which are now regularly visited by several
The following table gives the distances between Sandakan,
which is the principal port of the State, and the larger com-
mercial ports of the Far East :â€” Sandakan to Singapore 1,000 miles
9 9 Hong Kong 1,200 ,,
99 Manila 600 ,,
9 9 Macassar 750 â€ž
9 9 Port Darwin 1,500 ,,
Mempakul, the most westerly station in the State, is only
700 miles from Singapore.
Physical Aspect.â€”The country consists mainly of mountain
ranges, varying from four to thirteen thousand feet in height,
and rising somewhat sharply from ranges of low hills. These
hills are traversed by big valleys and occasional plains. The
coast line is mostly formed by alluvial flats, with many creeks
The hills and valleys in most cases are covered with dense
forest, and there is an extensive system of rivers.
Harbours and, Roadsteads.â€”On the whole, as Wallace re-
marks, the island of Borneo is very little indented with bays,
the few it possesses being towards the north-eastern extremity,
where the coast is somewhat higher and more abrupt. On the
other hand, owing to the gradual tapering to its apex of the
northern portion of the island, the only good navigable rivers
are to be found towards the south. A detailed description
of the coast line can be found in the China Sea Directory,
Vol. 2, which is published by the Admiralty. It will suffice
here to mention the principal anchorages, commencing with
the west coast.
The islands constituting the small group known as Pulau
Tega, a few miles from Nosong Point on the Klias penin-
sula, afford an anchorage on one side or the other during
both monsoons. Further to the north, before Gaya is reached,
there is an anchorage at Dinawan with over 25 feet of water.
Gaya Island gives protection in two deep bays on its southern
side, and together with the island of Sepanggar, and the
point on the mainland known as Gaya Head, forms the fine
bay of Gaya, on which is situated the port of Jesselton, on the
west coast. The united length of the two bays is about seven
miles, and there is a depth of water up to 13 fathoms. The
width is about four miles, narrowing to one and a half at the
north end. It has been remarked that, for the purposes of
commerce, this anchorage is large enough to afford shelter
to every vessel trading to the east during both monsoons.
Jesselton has a good wharf, to which additions are likely to be
made before long, with an excellent and unlimited supply of
water piped to it, and stores for ships are always available,
including fresh meat.
North of Gaya between Ambong Cape and Soundal Bay,
there are three bays with a good depth of water, but open
to the west and north winds.
Usukan Bay is three miles to the north of Ambong, and
is an inlet about two miles long, affording good anchorage in
the north-east monsoon, but exposed to the south-west.
The Mantanani Islands, twelve miles from the mainland,
afford anchorage in either monsoon. They are not inhabited
-except in the season for collecting the edible birdsâ€™ nests
found in the caves.
Adjacent to the most northerly point of the island is Marudu
Bay, famous formerly as one of the great strongholds of the
Ilanun pirates. This bay runs nearly due north and south
-for some 28 miles, and is 17 miles broad at its entrance, de-
creasing to 9 at its southern end. It has a depth of water
ranging from 3 to 20 fathoms. On its western shore 11
miles from the entrance is Kudat Harbour, where there is
an important Government station. There is here a wharf,
at which vessels may lie and where supplies, except water,
may be obtained.
Twelve miles north of the entrance to Marudu Bay lie
the two large islands of Balambangan and Banggi (Banguey),
the former 40, the latter 167 square miles in area. On the
east side of Balambangan, which is not inhabited, are two
inlets, known as North and South Harbours. These inlets are
seldom used, and are not free from dangers.
Mitford Harbour, on the south side of Banggi, has three
entrances, of which the middle is the principal. It is sheltered
in both monsoons. An experimental station was started
here by Government, but was afterwards abandoned. The
island is sparsely inhabited by Dusuns, and is much visited
by Bajaus for the sake of the sea produce it affords.
In the Malawali Channel are numerous islands or islets,
of which Malawali, 15 square miles in area, is the largest.
Off most of them anchorages can be found, affording shelter
from the prevailing winds, but the channel is little used
except by vessels of moderate size, on account of its dangers,
although these are beaconed.
Paitan, Marchesa and Labuk Bays, although of large
extent, are too shallow to be of much value as anchorages for
vessels of large size.
About midway down the east coast of North Borneo is
the magnificent harbour of Sandakan, which has often been
compared with that of Sydney, and is said to be one of the
finest in the world. The entrance is a mile and a quarter
wide, and the bay gradually increases to a width of five
miles, and is fifteen miles in length. Sandakan, the largest
town in the territory, is built on its north shore about a
mile from the entrance. Sandakan has a good wharf, at
which vessels can lie, and water and supplies can always be
obtained, while an abundant stock of coal is stored on a
Dent Haven, south of Tanjong Unsang, is nearly two miles
wide, and affords a good anchorage in the south-west monsoon
in five fathoms of water. At the head of the fine expanse of
water known as Darvel Bay, the north end of Sakar island
forms with the mainland a fine harbour, well protected in all
weathers. On it is situated the town of Lahad Datu, the
centre of a large tobacco and coco-nut industry.
Silam Harbour is well sheltered, but has many coral banks.
In the southern portion of Darvel Bay there is deep water
along the north and west of the island of Timbu Mata. To
the south of this point is a deep passage, well beaconed,
separating the island of Kuli Babang from the mainland and
known as Trusan Treacher. At the northern end of Trusan
Treacher, on its western side, is the Government station of
Simporna, founded in 1887 for the reception of Chinese
refugees from Sulu, after the destruction of that place by
the Spaniards in the course of their operations against
Sultan Al Karim.
Between the mainland of Borneo and Sebatik Island is the
magnificent bay known as Cowie Harbour, with sufficient
depth of water for any ship. The entrance is about five miles
in width, and has some dangers which, however, are all
beaconed, while at Batu Tinagat there is a lighthouse
showing 25 miles.
Cowie Harbour has a length of about 24 miles, and is used
by vessels from all parts which call for coal, of which there
is a plentiful supply at a depot on the north of Sebatik Island.
Near the entrance of the harbour is the flourishing town of
Mountains.â€”Speaking roughly, there is a back-bone range
through the State, commencing at the south end of Marudu
Bay, and following the west coast at a distance of some 30
miles. This range, four to six thousand feet in height, sends
short spurs to the west coast, which are dominated by the
stupendous granite mass of Kinabalu. This mountain is
certainly one of the finest in the Far East, and reaches a height
of 13,455 feet. Situated some fifty miles from the coast,
it can be seen from a very great distance. The summit
is of syenite granite, and consists of ten peaks running east
and west, and of another detached peak lying towards the
south. From the altitude of 9,000 feet the mountain consists
of rocks which rise nearly perpendicularly, and in all probability
it can only be ascended from the Tempasuk side.
For some distance to the north-east the mountain throws
out a spur some eleven thousand feet in height, separated
from the main mass by a deep chasm. This spur leads to a
lower mountain mass, of which the principal peak is Tam-
buyukan, which attains a height of some 7,000 feet. Another
very steep spur runs to the north-west.
On the west side of the mountain there are only minor spurs,
dominated by an enormous precipice of some 5,000 feet.
From the south two big spurs run out. Of these the eastern
is the most important, and forms the range which is seen
from the sea off the west coast.
The ascent of Kinabalu has several times been made by
Europeans, and does not present any exceptional difficulties
from the Tempasuk side, though naturally it is a stiff climb.
Several ladies have scaled its heights, and, as one of them has
written: â€œ The natives have invested it with a wealth of
legendary lore. On its mist-crowned summit, the souls of
the departed find their eternal home ; phantom herds of
buffalo follow their masters to graze on the shadowy grasses
which abound in that fabled kingdom. By those who would
climb its sublime heights many ceremonies have to be per-
formed to propitiate the spirits of the mountain, and mollify
their resentment at the intrusion of mortals on their sacred
The extreme north-eastern portion of the island has a
mountain range running north-west and south-east, but
of this not much is known. One peak named Paliu is estimated
to reach a height of 4,000 feet.
There is a high range forming the watershed between
Labuk and Sugut rivers, one of the peaks of which,
Mentapok, was estimated by Hatton to reach a height of
The Witti range, named after the first explorer of the
interior, who lost his life at the hands of natives on the Dutch
boundary, separates the Pegalan system from the rivers
flowing into the Sembakong.
On the borders of Sarawak and North Borneo, not far
from the sea, and a notable landmark as one approaches
the territory from Singapore, is the Limbakauh Range. Lim-
bakauh itself is some ten thousand feet in height and, like
Kinabalu, the source of many legends. It is an object of
awe to those living in its vicinity, who do not dare to scale
Behind Silam, oi' Darvel Bay, is a range of which Mount
Silam, which rises to a height of some 3,000 feet, is the greatest
peak. Madai is also in this locality, and is a limestone
mountain in the caves of which are found edible birdsâ€™ nests.
There is a range north of Cowie Harbour, which centres
in the sharp peak of Magdalena, the height of which is not
far short of 5,000 feet. A ridge projects from this mountain,
culminating in Mount Saint Lucia.
Trusmadi, on the borders of the Keningau and Tambunan
districts in the interior, reaches a height of 8,000 feet, while
ranges of from four to six thousand feet are not uncommon
in the neighbourhood of the Dutch border.
Plains.â€”The most extensive plain in the country is that
through which flows the river Kinabatangan. It is bordered
on the north by the Labuk Hills, on the west by the mountains
of the interior, and on the south by the Silam Hills. Its
area is some four thousand square miles, and its soil is rich and
very fertile. Many rivers flow through this plain, which is
covered with forest and swamps.
Keningau and Tambunan plains in the interior are
traversed by the Pegalan river. The former contains great
stretches of grass land, a rare thing in the interior, and is
not particularly fertile, while the Tambunan plain maintains
a large population of padi planters.
The Suk Plain, in the Keningau district, is of large extent,
and contains some very fine land, but has only a scanty
Among the plains on the coast may be mentioned the delta
of the Padas river; the low lands on the south of Kimanis
Bay ; Mengkabong Plain, and the extensive grassy lands in
the Tempasuk valley.
At the head of the Labuk river is the great plain of Ranau,
which lies some 1,600 feet above sea level, and seems a vast
oasis in the wilderness of mountains and forests. It is grass-
covered, and Supports a moderate population.
Rivers.â€”The rivers of the country are very numerous, and of
considerable importance, constituting as they do the only
highways in some parts of the country.
The largest and by far the most important river in the
State is the Kinabatangan. It is navigable for steam launches
drawing up to six feet as far as the mouth of the Lokan
tributary, some 120 miles from the sea, and for smaller launches
as far as Tangkulap. The river enters the sea through a
swampy delta of a breadth of fifty and a length of twenty
miles, and has three main exits, the one most used being that
named Mumiang, which has a fair depth of water on the bar.
The Dewhurst Bay entrance is also used. In the lower reaches
population is very scanty, and it is not until Sukan is reached
that a village of any description is found. Sukan is the
depot for the nests obtained from the famous Gomantan caves.
Up to Sukan the banks of the river are low and swampy, but
further up these swamps give way to high banks, covered
with a great entanglement of undergrowth. Lamag, further
up the river, is a Government station, and the headquarters
of the officer in charge of the Kinabatangan district. The
tributary Lokan has a fair population. Between the Lokan
and the Kwamut rivers the country becomes more hilly,
but not less densely wooded, with occasional native clear-
ings. The Kwamut, although a river of considerable length,
is much impeded with rapids, and on it only small boats can be
used, and those only for a short distance. Above the Kwamut.
and reached after the passage of many rapids, is the Penungah,
where there is a small trading station, practically in the centre
of North Borneo.
Above this place the river divides into three branches,
named Melian, Melikup, and the Mungkwago. These rivers are
inhabited by the Tenggara section of the Murut race, but
the population is very scattered, and is not large.
The Labuk enters the sea to the north of the Sandakan
Peninsula. It rises in the mountains not far from the
Ranau Plain, and, passing through dense forests, enters the
sea through a wilderness of mangrove swamps.
Its principal tributary is the Tungud, which enters the
main stream some 15 miles from the sea. The Labuk here
Transporting Sago Logs to Factory Facing 36
ceases to feel the effects of the tide, and the village of Tandu
Batu, a few miles further up stream, is the limit of navigation
for launches. Tampias, at the mouth of the Kagibagang
tributary, is a village of some importance, but the country in
the vicinity of the upper waters of the Labuk is only sparsely
To the north of the Labuk is the river Sugut, which is of
considerable importance. It rises in the mass of mountains
near Kinabalu, and its upper waters are full of rapids. It is
navigable for boats for about 70 miles, but is only available
for launches for some 30 miles from the sea.
Three rivers enter Marudu Bay, the Bengkoka, the Bongon
and the Marudu. Of these the Bengkoka is the most important.
It has a shallow bar, and therefore can only be used by small
boats, but it passes through a rich country which is of con-
siderable value for planting purposes.
The Bongon is not navigable for launches, and, owing
to its rapids and its liability to sudden floods, is not much
used except by native boats. Timbang Batu, a Government
station on this river, lies some 11 miles from the sea.
On the west coast are numerous rivers, but as a rule they are
of no great length, and are seldom navigable, while many of
them are hardly to be distinguished from salt creeks.
The Tempasuk flows for 20 miles through a grassy plain,
and originates from Kinabalu. On it at Kotabelud there is a
The Tuaran enters the sea through flat and open country,
with very fertile soil, and much of this district is under cultiva-
tion. The Government station of Tuaran is some three miles
up the river, and is the headquarters of the officer in charge
of the North Keppel district.
The Putatan, south of Jesselton, is a winding river, passing
through rich native rice plantations. Near its mouth is a
Government station, and higher up the river is the site of a
â€œ temu,â€ or place of barter, where the tribes inhabiting the
hills and plain near Tambunan bring their rice and tobacco
to exchange for the produce of the coast.
The Papar is navigable for boats for about 30 miles, but
has a bad bar. It rises in the Crocker range, no great distance
from Tambunan, and its lower reaches are well inhabited and
cultivated, constituting one of the largest rice-producing
districts of the State.
The Padas is the longest river on the west coast, and is
certainly the most important. It flows through fertile
districts, and is navigable for small launches as far as Beaufort,
60 miles from the sea. Its mouth is a vast delta of mangrove
and nipa swamps, intersected by many salt water channels.
Above the delta the river passes through large sago plantations,
and rice fields, with numerous small native settlements.
At Beaufort the low plains give way to steep ridges, and
navigation ceases, even for the smallest boat, at Rayoh.
The river above this is a succession of dangerous rapids and
cataracts, until the Penotal rock is reached, but above this, for
some miles, the river is sluggish, and is navigable for native
boats as far as Tomani. Above Tomani is a further succession
of impassable rapids and cataracts as far as the Pematang
country, where again small native boats can be used. The
source of the river is in the mountains which form the boundary
of British and Dutch Borneo, and of Sarawak.
The principal tributary of the Padas is the Pegalan, itself a
wide stream of considerable length, rising near Kinabalu,
which, after passing through the plains of Tambunan and
Keningau, joins the Padas at Tenom, just above the entrance
to the Penotal Gorge. Native tradition has it that the country
above this gorge was formerly a vast lake, which finally
burst through the mountain range at Penotal.
The Klias is a river which enters the sea at Menumbuk,
neai' Mempakul, and is navigable as far as Kota. It has it$
origin in the swampy land between Beaufort and Membakut,
and on its banks are important sago plantations.
From Kota to the sea at Kuala Penyu there is a small
channel, named Tunggulian, which can be used by boats at
high tide. This widens into a lake just before its junction
with the sea.
In the south-east portion of the territory are several rivers
of considerable importance. The Segama has its mouth some
14 miles from that of the Kinabatangan. It is navigable for
small launches for some 60 miles, and has been ascended with
difficulty in a native boat for over 200 miles, until the Barrier
Falls have made further progress impossible. On this river
are some of the most prosperous tobacco estates of North
Borneo, and the gold which was found in its vicinity gave rise
to considerable hopes several years ago, hopes which, up to
the present day, have not been fulfilled.
Several rivers flow into Cowie Harbour, of which the most
important are the Kalabakang and the Serudong. The Kala-
bakang is navigable for launches for a few miles, but its upper
waters are full of difficult rapids. This river is important on
account of the magnificent forests which fringe its banks and
which contain very considerable quantities of valuable timber.
The Serudong is also navigable for a short distance, but
above the village of Serudong progress is barred by a succession
of difficult rapids, over which, however, boats can be dragged
for some distance. From below Bukit Apas, a hill which
marks the boundary of British and Dutch Borneo, for some
twenty miles, there is a grand gorge, totally impassable for
human beings. A well-known Swiss explorer and Alpine
mountaineer attempted to force its passage some years ago,
but without success.
The Sasui, a tributary of the Serudong, which joins the main
river some distance above this great gorge, is again navigable
for boats for some distance, but at one spot it narrows to a
few yards and falls sheer for some 200 feet, and above this the
country is practically unknown, except to the collectors of
Of the Sibuku and Sembakong only the upper waters are in
The population of North Borneo, although increasing steadily
since the advent of law and order, is nevertheless very scanty,
and vast tracts of country on the east coast and in the interior
are merely uninhabited forest.
Census.â€”The census taken in 1911 gave the total popula-
tion of the State as 208,183, including some 400 Europeans,
but it is probable that this census did not give full details
of the population of the more remote districts.
The census taken this year (1921) shows the population to
be 258,355. This figure was much in excess of the estimated
figure, which was however admittedly unreliable as the re-
turns of births among the native tribes, particularly those
in the more remote districts, are far from accurate. With
the native a birth is a matter of little interest, except to those
directly concerned, and is in consequence possibly not re-
ported, whereas a death is an event of importance to the whole
village, necessitating much publicity and entertainment.
The ethnology of the native races of Borneo is still a matter
of doubt. It is generally considered that, owing probably
to the dense forest which covers most of the country, and
which renders travelling no easy matter, tribes which may have
descended from a common stock now differ to a very con-
siderable extent in their customs and language.
The census returns show that the Dusuns are the most
numerous of the races, their numbers amounting to almost
half of the total population. They are followed, by the
Muruts, the Chinese, and the Bajaus.
Dusuns.â€”Dusun is a Malay word which signifies " people
of the gardens,â€ and was originally used by the Malays to
denote large sections of the aboriginal people of the State.
The tribes now known by that name, which is loosely but
practically universally used in the country, although no
doubt all members of the same family, have a multitude of
sub-divisions and a variety of names for themselves.
They are, on the whole, a peaceable and law-abiding race,
with a strongly developed agricultural instinct, and they may
be looked upon as the farmers of the country.
They are found in many parts, mainly on the north and
west coasts, and their plantations are as a rule considerably
superior to those of other native races. The theory has been
propounded that they are the descendants of the Chinese,
who formerly visited Borneo in great numbers, but there
appears to be no doubt that this is not the case, although
it is probable that in past times, when a large trade was
maintained between Borneo and China, many Chinese who
visited the island married women of the country. This is
in fact going on to a considerable extent at the present day,
and many of the shopkeepers, gardeners and artisans marry
native women, thus effecting a slow infiltration of Chinese
blood, but not of Chinese speech or manners generally.
In certain of the Dusun districts, particularly in Bundu
in the Klias country, many Chinese customs are followed,
and the mode of agriculture adopted is far superior to any-
thing of the kind elsewhere in the State, and may be regarded
as due to Chinese influence.
Munits.â€”The Muruts, generally speaking, inhabit the
hills of the interior, and are possibly of a Negrito type. They
are of small size, and have a somewhat limited standard
of intelligence. They are inclined to immorality, and all
of them, not omitting the children, are very addicted to the
consumption of a fiery liquid made from rice and tapioca.
They are excellent hunters, and exist to some extent by
barter of the produce collected by them from the jungle.
They again are known amongst themselves by a variety
of names, and that of Murut is not generally used by them
in reference to themselves. They may be considered as a
somewhat lower type than the Dusuns, and it is only within
recent years that some of the more remote tiibes have been
weaned from the practice of head-hunting.
Their modes of agriculture are as a rule inferior to those
employed by the Dusuns, and they are generally of a more
restless nature, the Hill Muruts frequently changing their
localities, while some of them are almost nomadic.
It is not easy to trace where the Dusun ends and the Murut
begins. The languages are very similar in many respects,
and a large number of their customs are identical. Both
races have the same veneration for the old jars mentioned
before as being of undoubted Chinese origin. Both are firm
believers in dreams and omens. Both tribes are pagan,
although a certain number of Dusuns have embraced the
Chinese.â€”The Chinese, who number about thirty thousand,
are the trading, gardening and artisan section of the com-
munity. Their shops are to be found everywhere, even
in the most unlikely places, and in the more remote districts,
and their traders used frequently to risk travelling in the
more dangerous parts of the country, before the establishment
The race is remarkably hard-working under circumstances
where it can see a chance of good profit, and, though the
Chinese idea of a reasonable profit is somewhat high, these
people generally may be considered honest. The Chinese
intermix readily with all the pagan native tribes of the island,
and are respected by them. There is not at present in North
Borneo, as is the case in Singapore and Sarawak, a large
Chinese community which regards the country as its only home,
but this is gradually developing, and will certainly be the
case as the Chinese establish themselves more on the land,
and make permanent cultivations. A very considerable
proportion of estate labourers are Chinese, but those, as a
rule, are of a different type from those referred to above,
and it is doubtful if they generally will find a permanent
home in the country.
The Malay Tribes.â€”Of the real Malays there are few in the
State, but there are several tribes of Malay origin. They, as a
rule, are intelligent and quick, but probably not capable,
without foreign influence, of rising much in the scale of civilisa-
tion. These Malay tribes are found scattered around the
coast, and they are all Mohammedans of no particular zeal
Bajaus.â€”The Bajaus form about one-tenth of the popula-
tion. They are found all along the coast, gaining their living
as a rule by fishing, while many families make their boats
their only home. They were formerly one of the great pirate
races of North Borneo and the neighbouring islands, and
they trace their ancestry to Johor, in the Malay Peninsula.
Lawless and arrogant, they were greatly feared in this part
of the east for the raids they made, not only on neighbouring
tribes, but also far afield. Reference to the annals of the
Straits Settlements, Dutch Borneo and Java bears testimony
to this. At the present day they cause little trouble and in
many cases have settled down to agricultural pursuits, though
the old predatory instinct breaks out at times in the form of
The. Ilanuns.â€”Of the Ilanuns, the principal pirate tribe of
old; there are few now living in North Borneo, the census
showing under two thousand, and these are confined to the
north part of the island.
The Orang Sungei.â€”The Orang Sungei (river folk) are to be
found on the Kinabatangan river, and in the neighbouring
districts. There are some ten thousand of them and their
origin is not clear. They are partly pagan, partly Moham-
The Kedayans.â€”The Kedayans, of whom there are a few
thousands in Provinces Dent and Clarke, .are Mohammedans
and are assiduous cultivators of the land. It is said that they
are the descendants of people who came originally from
Sumatra as body-guards to the Sultan of Brunei. They are
of very different appearance from the other Mohammedan
tribes of the island, and are of a most peaceable disposition.
The Besahyas.â€”The Besahyas are found, in the neighbour-
hood of the Padas river, and are Mohammedans of a very
lax type. It is probable that they are of Murut origin,
their language being to all intents and purposes the same.
They are padi planters and sago growers, and have an evil
reputation among the other tribes as poisoners. They are
of particularly small stature, and are far from clean in their
Sulus.â€”There are some five thousand inhabitants of the
Sulu Archipelago settled in the State, most of them being on
the coast between Sandakan and the Dutch border. They
are engaged mainly in fishing, but some have settled on the
land, and formed coco-nut plantations, and the race has not
given the North Borneo Government a tithe of the trouble
given by their countrymen in the Sulu Islands to the Americans
in recent years, or to the Spaniards formerly.
Other Tribes.â€”Other races found in the State are Bugis,
from the Celebes, a Malay race of somewhat gentle nature and
great plausibility ; Tidongs, the â€œ men of the mountains,â€ a
tribe found mainly in Dutch Borneo, but also settled to some
extent in the country round Cowie Harbour ; Dyaks from
Sarawak, a race inured to forest work and somewhat more
arrogant than the native tribes of North Borneo ; Tutongs,
from Brunei ; Javanese, generally employed as estate labour-
ers ; and several others of whom no particular mention is
necessary. Curious iron-wood coffins have been found in
caves near the Kinabatangan river, the history of which is
unknown to the natives of the vicinity, and there are also
other traces which indicate that this region was formerly-
inhabited by a race that is now extinct.
Varieties of speech naturally are many, and it is recorded
that during one year in the Sandakan court 32 languages
were spoken. Malay is the â€œ lingua franca â€ of the country,
and is understood almost everywhere, except in the far interior,
where it is only known to a few.
From the above it will be gathered that the principal
race in North Borneo is Dusun. On the coast the tribes
intermix to a large extent, and a very cosmopolitan race
is springing up.
Speaking generally, any bad tendencies among the tribes,
to which circumstances and lack of proper restraint had
driven them, have now been abandoned, and the native
tribes on the whole show every symptom of thriving and in-
creasing, and there does not appear to be any fear of their
disappearing, as so many races have done when brought into
contact with Europeans. The native tribes breed prolifically,
but mortality among children, as elsewhere in the tropics, is
unfortunately very high, and is, no doubt, intimately
connected with improper feeding and lack of attention. It was
stated by a high medical authority in the early days of the
British occupation that nearly a fifth of the native children
seemed to die within 24 hours of birth, while many more died
within the first few weeks of life, and that altogether probably
one-half died within the first year.
Government is doing its utmost to teach the people the
proper treatment of their children, and in some districts there
are travelling dressers who go from village to village giving
advice and treatment. Under improved sanitary conditions
and with effective medical supervision, there is no doubt that
the native population will increase to a very considerable
extent. The natives themselves are beginning to take interest
in the welfare of their children, and frequently come to the
medical and administrative officers for advice and medicine.
The anarchical condition of the country previous to the
establishment of any real government was undoubtedly
responsible, to a very large extent, for the present lack of
population, while the country formerly was visited frequently
by scourges of smallpox and cholera. Native traditions
declare that whole districts were depopulated by the ravages
of these diseases.
Climate, Meteorology and Health
The climate of British North Borneo is particularly noticeable
for its equability and absence of extremes. The temperature,
rainfall, winds, and natural phenomena generally are, for a
tropical country, of the most mild and temperate types.
Temperature.â€”The temperature recorded on the coast has
varied from 6iÂ° to 940. Meteorological tables will be found in
the appendix, which will show that the difference in tem-
perature between different seasons of the year is only slight.
The lowest average temperature for both maximum and
minimum registers is during the wet season, which, though
variable, is generally to be expected in December and January.
The highest average temperature during the day is generally
in August and September. The lowest actual temperatures
are as a rule recorded during rain squalls in the evenings or
the early part of the night, but as a rule the lowest average
temperature is reached about 2 a.m. In the hills of the
interior the temperature falls far below the figures given above,
and it is probable that freezing point is reached near the
summit of Kinabalu. During the day the clear atmosphere
and free evaporation prevents as a rule any feeling of oppres-
siveness, while during the night throughout the country a
woollen covering is generally found acceptable.
Rainfall.â€”The annual rainfall near the coast has during the
past ten years ranged from 51â€™33 to 178â€™06 inches, and has
averaged 88â€™36 inches. The real wet season occurs in the
north-east monsoon, and includes the months of November,
December and January, and as a rule part of either October
or February. During this wet season the greater part of the
rain falls from a uniform dull grey sky and is fairly well
distributed between day and night. This wet season does not,
however, imply what is commonly understood in England by
CLIMATE, METEOROLOGY AND HEALTH 47
that expressionâ€”â€œincessant rain â€™â€™â€”and it is very uncommon
for rain to continue uninterruptedly for more than 24 hours.
During the wettest months there are generally several days upon
which no rain falls.
The dry season immediately follows this wet season, and
includes March and April and generally the whole of May and
part of February. During this time any rain that falls gener-
ally does so in showers during the night and early morning.
Severe droughts are very rare, and even in 1885, when there
was a particularly long drought both in Borneo and Singapore,
there was a rainfall of one and a half inches in' two months.
The dry season is followed by a period of moderate rainfall,
generally commencing about June. The first part of this
period almost deserves to be called a second wet season, and
the rest of the period up to the commencement of the true
wet season may be described 'as the second dry season.
During this period the rain falls chiefly in heavy squalls,
generally accompanied by thunder, occurring most frequently
in the afternoon and evening, but not confined to that period ;
and it is during these squalls that the heaviest falls of rain
occur, such as in 1884, when over two inches fell in forty
minutes. Details of rainfall are given in the appendix.
The water supply of the country is so intimately connected
with the rainfall that some mention of it may appropriately be
made here. The rain does not collect in lakes and pools, but
disappears quickly, either carried off by the free surface
drainage, or absorbed by the porous soil. Thus the supply of
fresh water must be obtained from springs, wells, or artificial
reservoirs. As a rule the soil is generally absorbent, and
retains the moisture: thus there is little difficulty in this
matter in most places. Mention may also be made here of the
heavy mists that frequently occur in the vicinity of the rivers
during the night, and which are not dissipated until the full
force of the sun is felt.
Winds.â€”The monsoons are the north-east and south-west.
The former commences about the middle of October and
continues until about the middle of April. During the
greater part of this time the wind blows steadily and with
moderate strength from north and east. In the course of this
48 CLIMATE, METEOROLOGY AND HEALTH
monsoon, more particularly in December and January, there
are, as a rule, one or two moderately strong gales lasting
from three to nine days. At other times the wind is a moderate
breeze from about n a.m., getting rather stronger in the late
afternoon and dying away at night, when a gentle land breeze
prevails. At the beginning and end of this monsoon the
wind is not strong or steady, and the land breeze continues
until later in the forenoon.
The south-west monsoon lasts from about the middle of
April until the middle of October. The wind generally is not
so strong in this monsoon, and the land breeze in the morning
is more marked, while the gales are not so strong nor so long-
continued as in the north-east monsoon.
On the other hand, there are frequently squalls in the after-
noon and evening, lasting sometimes for two hours, and
sometimes blowing with the strength of a fresh gale.
In regard to peculiar natural phenomena there is little
to be said. The absence of cyclones, typhoons and earth-
quakes is to be noted, and there is no indication of any recent
volcanic action, unless it be in a hot spring which has been
found on the Apas river on the east coast near Tawau. Thun-
der storms with much lightning are frequent from July to Sep-
tember and are at times severe. Mirage is generally present
in the afternoons to a slight extent, and phosphorescence
occurs to great perfection, particularly in Sandakan Bay.
The general opinion as to the salubrity of the climate
is that it compares most favourably with other tropical
regions. Diseases are generally of a mild type and amenable
to treatment. As regards the influence on health of the
different forces that go to make up the climate, it is difficult
to draw any general conclusions. It is even impossible to say,
for the country as a whole, which season of the year is the
least healthy. In some individual parts the south-west
monsoon is by far the more unhealthy, and this is particularly
noticeable at Kudat and on the south-east coast, where,
during this monsoon, fever is prevalent and somewhat severe,
while during the north-east monsoon it is seldom present.
The only other well-marked influences for evil in the climate
are (i) in certain places diminution in the quantity and
CLIMATE, METEOROLOGY AND HEALTH 49
deterioration in the quality of the water during the dry
season ; (2) impurities in the water in places deriving their
water supply from streams on the first commencement of
rains after a drought; (3) the effect of the floods that every
year cover large areas near the bigger rivers is to increase
the tendency to fever and allied diseases among the inhabitants
of the neighbourhood ; (4) heavy river mists aid in the pro-
duction of fever and asthma. Beyond this, all is mere vague
impressions, the most definite of which is that there is an in-
crease of sickness, especially of the respiratory system, about
the change of the monsoon. It may be pointed out that the
unhealthy season of India, the so-called â€œ cold season,â€ does
not exist in North Borneo.
Diseases: Fever.â€”Malaria is the most prevalent disease,
and all these forms are found, the sub-tertian variety being the
most frequently seen. Reclamation work of some magnitude
and the drainage of pools and swamps has done much to
Beri-Beri.â€”Beri-beri is fairly common on estates, and is,
no doubt, due to the small use of fresh vegetables and the
excessive use of highly polished rice. The disease generally
appears almost in the form of an epidemic, and is usually
closely restricted both to the locality and to the races among
which it first appears. It is known in two forms, wet and
dry, of which the former is considered the more dangerous.
In Borneo it does not appear to be particularly common
among the native population, but it has caused anxiety at
times to planters and others who employ large forces of coolies.
The Government has endeavoured to persuade all those who
employ coolie labour to supply parboiled and unpolished rice,
and to see that a plentiful supply of vegetables is available,
with satisfactory results in cases where the advice of the
medical officers has been followed.
Ankylostomiasis.â€”Hookworm or Ankylostomiasis is a disease
that is very prevalent among the estate coolie population of
the country. It is surmised that at least half such labourers
on the estates are affected, but as a rule the more severe cases
present themselves for treatment. The disease is supposed
to have been brought from Java by the coolies imported
50 CLIMATE, METEOROLOGY AND HEALTH
from that country, and to have thence spread to the neighbour-
ing population. The disease, though not as a rule dangerous
of itself if treated properly, causes a considerable amount of
lowered vitality, and consequent predisposition to the attacks
of other diseases.
The Rockefeller Institute has interested itself in the extir-
pation of this disease in eastern countries, and has expressed
its intention of adopting large and comprehensive methods
of stamping it out in North Borneo, and will supply its own
medical staff for that purpose. An expert appointed by the
Institute has already (March, 1921) arrived in the territory.
Dysentery.â€”Dysentery is not prevalent, and wdiere it does
occur is generally mild and amenable to treatment.
Stmstroke.â€”Sunstroke is of very rare occurence.
Epidemics.â€”At various times, smallpox and cholera have
appeared in the country. Universal vaccination, to which
the people have submitted generally without any trouble, was
introduced, and the former disease is not now much to be
feared, although formerly it was very virulent, depopulating
whole villages and even large tracts of country. Native
report has it that the last epidemic previous to the British
occupation accounted for more than half the population.
Cholera has appeared but rarely, and, as a rule, has caused
very little trouble, although an epidemic in 1882 is said to
have carried off over a thousand victims. In recent years,
although it has been introduced from time to time, its progress
has been promptly arrested. The last epidemic was on the
east coast in 1913, when the principal medical officer reported
that the disease had been responsible for 150 deaths, and gave
it as his opinion that the fatal cases were 70 per cent, of the
As to the means of safeguarding the country from similar
outbreaks in future, these diseases can, to a considerable
extent, be prevented by quarantine regulations, and such
are applied strictly.
On Europeans the climate has a somewhat enervating
effect, but with proper precautions it cannot be considered
in any way dangerous. Few have fallen victims to disease,
which can fairly be attributed to the climate, and the same
CLIMATE, METEOROLOGY AND HEALTH 51
applies to Eurasians, who, however, seem rather more liable to
Indian races on the whole stand the climate remarkably
well, and few deaths occur among them.
Chinese, when fresh from their country and sent to work
in the jungle before they are acclimatised, have suffered
considerably from disease, but, as soon as they are accustomed
to the country, the climate does not appear to affect them
The natives of the country suffer chiefly from fever, rheu-
matism, ringworm and spleen, and occasionally phthisis.
Precautions to be taken are the same as in all tropical
countries, and need only be enumerated briefly. The most
important are temperance and regularity in food and drink,
cleanliness, regular exercise of not too violent a nature, and
avoidance of chills.
Unnecessary exposure to the sun should be carefully avoided,
while prompt attention should be paid to what may be looked
upon as petty ailments. Houses should be well away from
jungle and swamps, and preferably raised from the ground.
The water supply should be watched carefully, and all water
should be boiled before drinking.
Government Hospitals are established at Jesselton,
Sandakan, Beaufort, Kudat, and Tawau. In addition, all
estates have their own hospitals well equipped and supervised.
There are wards for European cases in the Government Hos-
pitals at Jesselton and Sandakan, and a resident nurse at the
former. It may be pointed out that, on an order from the
local administrative officer, any person without means may
obtain admission to a Government Hospital.
Up to the present no actual sanatoria have been established
in the country, although several sites have been suggested.
A visit to any of the interior stations will ensure a considerable
change of climate, while a sea voyage to Singapore or Hong
Kong has a most recuperative effect in convalescence from
sickness. Quite recently also increased shipping facilities
have made a voyage to Java or Australia a matter of no great
Natural and Forest Products
North Borneo and its surrounding seas are exceptionally
rich in natural products, many of which, even at the present
time, are very little collected and utilised.
The native himself is of an indolent disposition, while
the country, previous to the British occupation, was in a state
of such disorganisation that it was impossible to store up
wealth without exciting the cupidity of some more powerful
neighbour. It therefore became the habit for the native to
provide only for his immediate wants, and this, added to the
natural laziness of his character, became so ingrained that,
even at the present time, the bulk of the people have little
thought for the morrow.
Most of the trade is in the hands of the Chinese, many
of whom carry on thriving businesses. Though the major
portion of the trade of the country is with Singapore, a con-
siderable business is carried on between the east coast ports
and Hong Kong.
Sea Produce.â€”Sea produce is very varied. There are large
quantities of excellent fish in the waters surrounding the island,
many of them resembling the cod, mullet, mackerel and
whiting of our own country, while a great variety of others
have no parallel types in our English waters, but are none the
less remarkably good eating.
The fishing industry gives employment to large numbers
of natives and Chinese, the former, for the most part, selling
in the local markets, the latter preferring to salt and cure
their catch for export. This industry is capable of being
largely increased, the demand for dried fish being very great
in all Asiatic countries.
The native inhabitants of the coast districts and the Bajaus
who frequently have their homes in their boats, also period-
NATURAL AND FOREST PRODUCTS
ically collect the beche-de-mer, or sea slug, the repulsive-
looking creature which occurs in quantities all round the coast.
These are dried, and eventually find their way to China,
where they are much appreciated for their soup-making
Enormous cockles and clams are also found, which again
are much sought after in the Chinese market. Agar-agar,
an edible seaweed, is found in many places, and is used by
the Chinese cook in the preparation of jellies for the European
table. Mother-of-pearl shell, the produce of an exceptionally
large oyster, is collected and sold at very considerable profit.
Pearls, although frequently seen in the Sandakan market,
are not often found locally, although seed-pearl beds occur in
various localities. These small pearls, found in the oyster
locally known as â€œ selisip,â€ are ground to a powder and utilised
as medicine by the Chinese. Very few of them are large
enough to be of any value individually.
Turtles are fairly common in Borneo waters, and there is a
good trade in both the shell and the eggs. Sharksâ€™ fins and
tails are brought in by the fishermen, and find a ready market.
They are used exclusively by the Chinese.
Excellent oysters are obtained in many places. Those
found adhering to the rocks make good eating, but the variety
found clinging to the roots of the mangrove and other sea
trees are apt to cause a violent colic, and should be avoided,
although they are said to be quite innocuous when dried.
Forest Produce.â€”Forest produce, exclusive of actual timber,
forms a large proportion of the exports of the country.
This term includes all products of the forests, exclusive
of the timber itself, details of which will be found in another
chapter. They are usually collected by natives, and sold to
Chinese traders, and most of them are also used locally in
Rattan.â€”The quantity of rattan collected is great, and the
enormous stretches of forest land provide an abundant and
constant supply. The rattans are spiny climbing palms,
belonging to the genus Calamus. They are erect in their
early youth, but, after they attain a height of a few feet, the
stem needs support, which it secures by the aid of a long
NATURAL AND FOREST PRODUCTS
flagellum, armed with hooked thorns, by means of which the
plant clings to tree trunks. The rattans attain great length,
sometimes more than 200 yards, and are among the longest
plants known. The long flexible stem is the part which is used,
and in certain forms of rattan the whole of it is utilised. These
are usually of small size, and are used in certain types of furni-
ture. In many other forms of larger size, the stem is split,
and only the hard outer portion is utilised. The lightness,
elasticity and strength of the rattan render it unequalled for
certain classes of work. The working of rattan has long
been an industry in the East, and of recent years has extended
to some parts of Europe and America.
Rattan is very widely distributed in the forests, and is of
fairly rapid growth. It will apparently reproduce itself.
There are many varieties, of which eight in North Borneo have
a commercial value.
Gutta Percha.â€”Certain forest trees of the family Sapotacese
produce a sap or juice, which, when hardened, is known as
gutta percha. To obtain this sap the tree is felled; and
naturally the amount collected has decreased with time,
as the collectors have to go further into the jungle year after
year. The method of collection has been described in the
North Borneo Herald, as follows :
â€œ The collector only fells gutta trees over six inches in dia-
meter, because, as he says, trees of a smaller size have too thin
a bark to yield gutta. Consequently, the gutta collector
does not exterminate, he merely collects a ripe crop and leaves
nature to furnish a further supply in years to come. Having
felled a tree, the collector rings the trunk at intervals of
about 17 inches, cutting through the bark to the wood, and
placing below each cut a piece of bamboo to receive the
The most conspicuous property of this product, and one
that distinguishes it from rubber, is its capability of becoming
soft and plastic on immersion in hot water, and retaining
any shape then given it on cooling. It then again becomes
hard but not brittle. Rubbers, on the other hand, do not soften
in hot water, and retain their original elasticity.
Gutta Percha is remarkable as a non-conductor of heat, and
NATURAL AND FOREST PRODUCTS
of electricity. Consequently, it is particularly useful in
insulating electric cables, and is used for handles for surgical
instruments and in dentistry.
No satisfactory substitute has been found for gutta percha,
and it is possible that in the near future plantations will be
necessary for its production on account of the destructive
practice of cutting down the tree when it is tapped. Ex-
perimental planting has been started in the Federated Malay
States, and has shown encouraging results.
The largest amount of this produce was exported from the
State in 1901, when its value was 224,428 dollars. The
export of this product has gradually decreased, and in 1918 the
reported value of gutta percha exported was only 4,800 dollars.
Forest Rubber.â€”There are several forest trees and vines in
the country which contain rubber. One creeper in particular
grows everywhere, and the rubber obtained from it by native
collectors fetches a very fair price, although this does not
approach that obtained for the plantation product. Planta-
tion rubber is of a better and more uniform quality than the
jungle article, but there will always be a demand for a certain
amount of the latter to mix with the estate product in the
preparation of grades of rubber for certain industrial uses.
There are eleven kinds of jungle rubber recognised in
North Borneo, some of which produce a very low grade rubber,
while many plants produce rubber which is not collected
because of its poor quality.
The largest export for any single year of forest rubber was in
1904, when its value was over 100,000 dollars.
Resins, Gums and Oils.â€”The gum or resin, which exudes from
various trees, is known in Borneo as damar, and the collection
of this from the ground beneath these trees gives employment
to many men, women and children of the tribes of the interior.
The gum is of various qualities, some of it, the â€œ mata
kuching,â€ for instance, fetching a very high price, while
much of it has no market value, and is only used by the
natives for illuminating purposes. Its principal use is in the
preparation of varnish and drying oils.
The largest export was in 1912, when the value of the
damar exported was 160,000 dollars.
NATURAL AND FOREST PRODUCTS
Camphor.â€”Borneo camphor is a crystalline camphor,
occasionally found in small pockets in the wood of Dryo-
balanops Aromatica and other species of Dryobalanops,
known in Borneo as Kapor. This camphor has a very high
value, and is used by the Chinese for embalming and medicinal
purposes. The tree itself is common in the forests, but it is
only at a certain stage of its growth that the camphor forms,
and generally only a small amount of it is to be obtained from
any one tree.
The collection of camphor is the subject of many super-
stitions among the natives, and is generally only pursued by
the tribes of the interior.
The camphor appears to exist in the first place in the form
of oil, which is of considerable value in itself, one kind being
the well-known â€œ kayu puteh â€ oil, which is known in England
as â€œ Cadjeput.â€
The largest export of camphor was in 1915, when the value
was over 50,000 dollars.
Wood Oils.â€”The different species of Dipterocarpus produce
what is known in Borneo as Minyak Kruin, a sticky oil which
is used as an illuminant, for the caulking of boats, and medicin-
ally. The oil is collected in some places by digging out a
cup-shaped place in the trunk of the tree, into which the oil
flows readily. When the flow becomes scanty, fire is applied,
and greatly increases the flow. Some other trees produce
wood oils, but these are not much collected.
Vegetable Fats.â€”Vegetable fats or tallow are extracted
from the fruit or seed of several forest trees, and are used by
the natives for cooking as well as for embrocation and lighting
purposes under the general name of â€œ tengkawang.â€ These
fats will keep for a very long period without becoming rancid,
and have a considerable value. â€¢
Incense Wood.â€”Occasionally a tree forms a very resinous
wood, which, when burnt, gives off a sweet odour. Such
woods are known as incense woods, and are used in religious
ceremonies. The best known of these in Borneo is named
â€œ Garu,â€ and is occasionally produced by trees of the genus
Gonystylus. These are large trees of soft, light-coloured
wood, and occasionally a very small blackish heart-wood is
NATURAL AND FOREST PRODUCTS
formed. This is by no means constant in its occurrence,
and is exceedingly valuable when found. There is another
rather low-grade incense wood, which is called â€œ Laka,â€ and is
produced from the roots of some plant of the family Legu-
Swamp Produce.â€”The enormous mangrove and nipa palm
swamps, with which the greater part of the coast is fringed,
contain many valuable products. Baku, a small to medium-
sized mangrove tree, is much used as fuel, and large quantities
of it, cut into billets, find their way to the Hong Kong markets.
The bark, which contains a very large percentage of tannic
acid, is valuable as a dye, and for tanning purposes.
Nipa grows where the water is brackish, and large swamps
of it intervene between the mangrove and the solid land.
The total area of nipa swamp in North Borneo has not yet
been computed, but in all probability it is considerably
in excess of 300,000 acres. Dense and extensive stands
of it are to be found in Labuk Bay, and along the north-east
coast from Sandakan Bay to Tambisan. There are also large
areas in Darvel Bay and Cowie Harbour on the east coast,
and at the mouth of Padas river on the west coast. It is
estimated that one acre of nipa swamp under proper manage-
ment will yield approximately 4,000 gallons of sap a year.
If the alcohol content is taken as 7I per cent., the yield of
alcohol will be 300 gallons. The above estimate is taken
from recent data from the Philippine Islands, where the
manufacture of alcohol from nipa sap is an old-established
The nipa leaves attain a height of twenty feet or more,
and resemble the fronds of some huge fern. The palm is
utilised in various ways, the principal being in the manu-
facture of thatching for houses. This is quite an industry
in itself, and affords employment to many natives, particularly
women and children. Mats are also made from the leaves ;
young leaf is the favourite covering for the native cigarette ;
the fruit is eaten, and salt is obtained from the stem and
underground roots by burning them.
Above the nipa and where the water is almost fresh are
to be found the nibong palms. The stem, unsplit, is used for
NATURAL AND FOREST PRODUCTS
the posts of native houses, and for temporary buildings and
bridges. Split, it is used for flooring and rafters.
Bamboos of all sizes abound in many parts of the country,
and are largely used in the erection of native houses.
Birds'-Nests and Beeswax.â€”Under the heading of forest
produce may also be mentioned edible birdsâ€™-nests and
The nest of a small swift is used by the Chinese for making
soups, and a very high value is attached to the whiter kinds.
The birds, whose nests are formed of a glutinous substance,
build high up in large caves of limestone rocks, frequently
several hundred feet from the ground. The task of collecting
these nests is one of considerable risk, and fatal accidents
occur at times.
The supply of beeswax from the very large nests which
are found on the branches of some of the forest trees is con-
siderable, and its collection is sometimes quite an important
local industry. The trees chosen by the bees for their nests
are the Mengaris or Tapang, and the collection of the wax
or honey is difficult and attended with much risk, the trunks
of the trees being so large that rough ladders have to be
made to reach the nests, which are generally a very great
height from the ground.
The largest export was in 1905, when the value of the bees-
wax exported was over 26,000 dollars.
Cutch.â€”The principal source of tanning material is the
bark of several trees of the mangrove swamps, the best known
and most useful of these being Bakau and Tengah. They
contain a very high percentage of tannin, and are used ex-
tensively in the preparation of tanning extract, to which the
trade name of Cutch is given.
Cutch was originally prepared from the wood of Acacia
Catechu in India and Burma, but later it was found that a
very satisfactory tanning extract with similar properties
could be prepared from the bark of certain mangrove swamp
trees. The large extent and uniform composition of the
mangrove swamps was favourable to factory production on a
large scale, and the resultant product was more uniform in
quality than the cutch which had formerly been prepared.
NATURAL AND FOREST PRODUCTS
In North Borneo the Bakau Syndicate began to export
cutch from Sandakan in 1892, and has continued a vigorous
export since that time, while at the present time cutch is
exported to a greater value than any other kind of the jungle
produce of the country. The largest value ever exported
in one year was in 1916, when it was valued at 500,000
In 1897 another company was started in Marudu Bay,
but had rather a precarious existence for some years before
it was taken over by the Bakau Syndicate. The export of
cutch in 1918 fell to 1,612 tons as a result of reduced shipping
facilities, but there is every indication that the trade will
flourish greatly when times are normal.
Up to the present the Bakau Syndicate has confined its
operations to the north and east coasts.
The Island Trading Company of Brunei has recently been
given concessions on the Klias Delta, and is now working
Of the large areas of virgin forest in North Borneo, the Depart-
ment of Forestry estimates that there are more than two
million acres of commercial forest within twenty miles of the
coast. In this belt there can be located a number of blocks
of fifty thousand acres on which the stand of saleable timber
will average more than two thousand cubic feet to the acre,
while some of the areas in the Cowie Harbour region, notably
the Serudong Valley, have a stand running to well over three
thousand feet to the acre, and it is safe to say that this whole
area is covered with a forest which will yield an average of over
two thousand cubic feet an acre of timber which the market
will gladly take.
Hong Kong is the principal market for North Borneo
timber, most of which is exported in the form of logs. Serayah,
or Borneo cedar, is the timber which is most in demand, and
this is as it should be, as this wood occurs in greater quantity
than any other. Kruin, Kapor, Selangan Batu, and Billian
are in considerable demand, but, as mentioned by Dr. Fox-
worthy, the well-known American expert in the Philippine
Islands, none of the woods have been exported in anything
like sufficient quantity to cause any fear of extinction, and
he has further remarked that it would be possible to remove
each year from an area on the east coast of 176,000 acres,
which has been carefully studied, three times as much timber
as has ever been exported from the country in any one year,
and to do so without danger to existing forests of that region
for several years. It is estimated that a supply of well over
1,000,000,000 cubic feet of workable timber is in sight.
Hong Kong can be depended upon to continue to take
steady amounts of the very durable woods, notably Billian,
Selangan Batu, Kruin and Kapor, and will also probably
take increasing amounts of the lighter Scrayahs, for light
Barking Sago Logs Facing 60
construction and for furniture. The Australian market in
past years has received shipments of Borneo woods which
have been well reported on, and there should develop a good
demand whenever transportation again becomes available.
The London market has taken many shipments of Serayah,
which has been named Borneo Cedar, and will probably
take much more in the future, and has also taken smaller
shipments of Kapor and of Selangan Batu, which, under the
name of Argillo Wood, has been used in the manufacture
of spokes for ordnance.
Wood needs to be very much more durable for use in a
tropical climate than in a temperate one. The continuous
warmth and moisture are favourable to the growth of organ-
isms producing decay, and there is an abundance of animal
forms which attack wood. Most woods of temperate climates
would be speedily destroyed if exposed to eastern conditions,
and there are a number of Borneo woods which, though not
very durable here, would be sufficiently durable for use in a
The following list of woods for various uses is based on
Woods exposed to salt water.â€”The use of a wood for
piling purposes is the extreme test of durability, principally
because of the attacks of the toredo, which speedily destroys
most w'oods. It is to be doubted if there is any wood in exist-
ence which is entirely free from its attacks. The best woods
for piling purposes are :â€”Billian, Angriting (Griting), Bangka-
wang or Mangilas, Dungun and Perapat, while the following
are also suitable for the purpose : Aru, Oba, Bakau, Tengah,
Selangan Batu, Rasak, Nibong, Kayu Dusun.
Woods for Ship and Boat Building.
Foi' Keels :â€”
Dungun, â€¢Penaga, Selangan Batu, Angriting.
For Planking :â€”
Kapor, Selangan Batu, Kruin, Oba Sulu.
For Ribs and Knees :â€”
Penaga, Dungun, Mirabau, Tengah.
For Masts and Spars :â€”
Woods in contact with the ground.â€”These woods need to be
resistant to decay, and to the attacks of white ants. The
following are the best:â€”Billian, Mirabau, Nungun, Selangan
Batu, Sasak, Kapor, Angriting.
Selangan Batu is an admirable wood for the above purpose,
and can be secured in very large quantities.
Woods for Bridge and Wharf Construction.
For Beams :â€”
Dungun, Mirabau, Perapat, Selangan Batu, Oba,
Kapor, Kruin, Aru, Kambang, Billian, and Angriting.
For Planking :â€”
Mirabau, Perapat, Billian, Angriting, Kapor, Kruin,
Woods for House Construction.
For Flooring :â€”
Selangan Batu, Kruin, Sapetir, Mirabau, Perapat,
Rangu, Oba, Kambang, Oba Sulu, Kayu Pangiran.
For Walls :â€”
The Serayahs and practically any of the other woods.
For Doors and Windows :â€”
Mirabau, Rasak, Perapat, Sapetir, Bintang Rangu,
Oba Sulu, Kambang, Nyatoh, Kruin, Kapor, Kayu
Pangiran, Seraiah, Gagil, Selangan Kacha, Selangan
Kuning, Miamot, Nirih, and Selangan Batu.
Woods for Cabinet Making.
Kayu Arang, Kayu Malam, Mirabau, Impas, Miamot,
Penaga, Oba Sulu, Perapat, Kamuning, Kambang,
Rangu, Bentangor, Simpor, Taarp, Kasak, Selangan
Batu, Nirih, Angsana, Kranji, Kapor, Madang.
Furniture Woods.â€”All of the woods mentioned as suitable
for cabinet making, and the following :â€”Sapetir, Mengaris,
Rengas, Seraiah, Gagil, Selangan Kuning, Selangan Kacha,
Pulai, Jelutong, Oba Nyatoh, and Madang....
A brief description of the principal woods may be given
Ser ay ah (Borneo Cedar), a soft, light wood, is the most
abundant * timber in the State. It is obtained in almost
any size up to a diameter of five feet, and a clear length of
eighty feet can be obtained. It has a reddish tinge and a more
or less cedar-like odour. There are apparently some fifteen
species of this timber in the country, which is of the genus
Shorea. It weighs from 25 to 40 pounds a cubic foot, and its
logs float. The wood has a very pretty grain and is easily
worked. Several of the species produce resin in considerable
Krtiin.â€”This is a moderately hard timber and is produced
by 15 to 20 species of the genus Dipterocarpus. It is a
fairly heavy, cross-grained, dark reddish-brown wood, and
contains a considerable amount of an oleoresin. It is the
second most abundant wood in the country and makes up
11 per cent, of the forests of the east coast. Its weight is
from 40 to 55 pounds a cubic foot, and it can be obtained in
lengths up to eighty feet with diameters up to five feet. It
is stated that rather more than half the logs will sink when
freshly cut. It is a strong and stiff wood but not generally
suitable for contact with the ground, but if used in proper
surroundings and painted it is very durable. As Dr. Fox-
worthy points out its abundance, cheapness, and the ease with
which large-dimension material can be obtained, will pro-
bably some day cause it to become the most important struc-
tural wood of the country.
Urat Mata.â€”Urat Mata, the produce of one or more species
of the genus Parashorea is plentiful and is a wood of a light
grey or pink colour. It is very widely distributed in the coun-
try and makes up 9 per cent, of the stand of the trees of the
east coast. Its weight is from 35 to 40 pounds a cubic foot
and its logs float. Logs up to five feet in diameter and with
50 feet clear length can be obtained. This wood is not very
durable and should not be used in contact with the ground.
Camphor.â€”Camphor or Borneo Camphor wood is obtained
from three or four different species from the genus Dryo-
balanops. The wood is moderately hard and heavy, straight-
grained, of a brownish red colour, with a camphor-like odour
when freshly cut, and the sapwood and heartwood are distinct.
Camphor weighs from 40 to 50 pounds per cubic foot, and about
50 per cent, of the logs will float when freshly cut. This wood
is very good for all classes of construction, except where it is
placed in water or in contact with the ground. The supply
is abundant. Camphor oil and crystalline camphor are
obtained from the wood and used medicinally.
Selangan Kacha is produced from one of our largest
trees, and the wood is pale yellow, soft, moderately heavy, and
straight grained. It is fairly common and widely distributed
over large areas. It weighs about 39 pounds per cubic foot
and the logs float. It is used in construction and in the
manufacture of furniture.
Oba Sulti is a dark red fine-grained, soft to moderately
hard and moderately heavy wood. The heartwood is fine-
grained and very suitable for furniture, panelling and con-
struction. It is a very good substitute for mahogany, but
unfortunately the quantity is not great. The bark is used for
dyeing. This wood weighs between 40 and 45 pounds per
cubic foot and the logs float.
Very hard woods.â€”The excessively hard woods which are
found in fairly large quantities are Billian and Selangan
Billian or Borneo Ironwood is a dark brown, very heavy,
very hard and very durable wood. It has a fairly straight grain
and splits readily. The wood becomes much darker in colour
after prolonged exposure to the air. Its weight is from 60 to
70 pounds a cubic foot and the logs sink. It is the fifth most
abundant wood in the east coast and makes up 6 per cent,
of the total stand. It is often to be obtained 2 to 3 feet in
diameter and 100 feet in height, though much larger sizes are
found. It can be used advantageously in logs of as small a
diameter as 12 inches. It is the best-known and most esteemed
Borneo wood because of its very great durability and strength
and its ability to withstand changes of moisture and tempera-
ture. It is remarkably resistant to the attacks of teredo and
insects. It is one of the strongest woods known and shows
exceedingly little checking or warping, even when placed under
the most extreme conditions.
Selangan Batu is produced by several species of the genera
Shorea Hopea and by Isoptera Borneensis It is a very hard
and heavy wood, yellowish brown when first cut, but rapidly
darkening on exposure to air, showing a glistening surface in
transverse section. It is strong, elastic and durable, and
breaks with a long splinter. The timber is very widely
distributed and makes up about 8.5 per cent, of the volume of
the east coast forests. It weighs from 52 to 65 pounds a
cubic foot and its logs sink. Logs up to five feet in diameter
and fifty feet long can be obtained.
Mirabau is the 24th timber in order of abundance on the
east coast and is very hard and very heavy. It is a coarse-
grained dark yellowish-brown wood with sulphur-yellow
deposits. It grows as a rule inland on flat land and weighs from
48 to 75 pounds a cubic foot, and its logs sink. It can be ob-
tained in logs of five feet in diameter and with a clear length
of 50 feet. It is a very strong and durable wood, and is
resistant to the attacks of insects, but it is not suitable for
use in salt water.
Angriting is a hard, heavy, dark grey wood of a fine grain.
It weighs about 50 pounds a cubic foot and its logs sink..
It is of common occurrence in the mangrove swamps, but
its worth is so generally recognised by the natives that it is
usually cut before it attains a large size* It is still possible
to obtain a limited number of logs as much as 2 feet in diameter
and 30 feet long. The wood keeps its shape even though
exposed to severe weather conditions, and in regard to dur-
ability it is second only to Billian.
Kayu Dusun is very hard and very heavy, and is a dark-
brown fine-grained wood. It is of common occurrence on the
East coast, and is of a very durable nature. Its weight is
86 pounds a cubic foot, and its logs sink. The tree is not
usually more than one-and-a-half feet in diameter, and is-
from 80 to 100 feet high.
Mengaris is very hard and heavy. It is a coarse-grained
dark-red wood, which becomes harder as it dries. It is the
eighth most abundant wood on the east coast and is some-
times known as Tapang. â€˜Its weight is from 61 to 67 pounds
a cubic foot and its logs sink. It is one of the largest trees of
the forest. It is not particularly durable but burns readily.
The commercial possibilities of the timbers of North Borneo
are very great. Since the establishment, in 1914, of the
Forestry Department much valuable data of the timber
resources of the territory has been obtained. Timber was
worked for many years by four companies, two European and
two Chinese, and in 1920 a powerful new company, the
British Borneo Timber Company, with a subscribed capital
of Â£300,000, was formed with the object of exploiting the
forestry resources of the State on a large scale, and with
modern logging equipment.
Complete descriptions of the various woods of the country
and their main uses are given in a pamphlet written by Dr.
Foxworthy and published by the Government. The data
contained in this and the preceding chapter have been copied
for the most part from the Forestry Department Bulletin
No. 1, written by that gentleman.
The minerals of the island of Borneo have long been reported
as gold, diamonds, silver, lead, tin, copper, antimony cinnabar,
coal, iron, and petroleum ; and it is now known that coal, iron,
gold and petroleum exist over large areas in the northern
Coal.â€”Coal seams are found in North Borneo at
Naluyan, near Weston on the west coast; in Marudu and
Sandakan bays; and in the country at the back of Cowie
Harbour. In the latter district a seam on the Serudong River
was opened many years ago, and for some years the Cowie
Harbour Coal Company has had workings on the Silimpopon
River. This is the only coal at present worked in the State,
and the Company, after some years of anxiety, is now in a
position of considerable strength. An up-to-date plant has
been installed under efficient management and the annual
output has reached 85,544 tÂ°ns- The coal has good steam
qualities and has recently been used to a considerable extent
by the Japanese Navy. The actual workings are some miles
up the Silimpopon River, in the midst of dense forest, and the
coal is conveyed by railway to a loading station where the
water is deep enough for barges. These are then towed to a
depot on the island of Sebatik, which is accessible to ocean-
going vessels of any size. Later on it may be possible to
â– extend the railway to a point on the west shore of Cowie
Harbour, where a coaling station will be built to take the
place of the present depot on Sebatik.
A large proportion of the coal is eventually taken to San-
dakan, where it is supplied to vessels trading from Hong
Kong and Singapore to Australia and Java and the
The supply available at Silimpopon is estimated at eight
million tons, and there are further large seams in the upper
waters of the Serudong River, of which the Silimpopon is a
tributary. The amount taken from Sandakan by overseas,
vessels in 1918 was 26,745 tons, and there is no doubt that the
coaling facilities at that port and at Sebatik have attracted
much shipping which otherwise would not have visited the
country. Cowie Harbour coal has a caloric of 14'13, and
produces 7'68 per cent of ash and 60 per cent of coke, which is.
a very high percentage. It has been stated by an authority
that the coal is the best to be found east of Suez, and con-
siderably better than that obtained from India and Japan.
Petroleum.â€”Petroleum indications occur in many parts of
the State, particularly in the Klias Peninsula and in the
neighbourhood of Kudat and Cowie Harbour. The mining
rights are in the hands of the British Borneo Petroleum Syn-
dicate. Deep borings have been made by the Petroleum
Syndicate which owns the rights on the Klias Peninsula, and
oil of a particularly good quality has been discovered, but at
present apparently not in sufficient commercial quantity to
justify extensive operations. A wealthy Japanese company
is now (April, 1921) pursuing the search for oil in this
neighbourhood, having concluded an arrangement for this
purpose with the syndicate.
Gold.â€”Gold occurs on the east coast, particularly in the
vincinity of Darvel Bay, in the form of fine sand in the
alluvial deposits, and traces of it are to be found through
the territory. . Its existence was known as early as 1812, and
in 1898 dredging operations were conducted on the Segana
River. These were later abandoned and at the present time
no effort to work gold on a large scale is being made.
Iron Ore.â€”In the Labuk district of the east coast, there
are large deposits of iron ore, and "blue ground," said to be
identical with that of Kimberley, is found, but neither has
yet been fully investigated. The existence of tin on the west
coast and in the interior has been reported.
For many years the monopoly of the mineral rights of
the State were vested in a company known as the British
Exploration Company. With the exception of an unsuccessful
â€¢attempt to work manganese in Marudu Bay, little work
was done by this company, the rights of which have recently
reverted to the Chartered Company. It is hoped and
believed that a thorough investigation of the territory will
result in the discovery of minerals in paying quantities.
Agriculture ranks easily first among the industries of
North Borneo. Directly or indirectly it furnishes a livelihood
to all but a small minority of the population and contributes
the bulk of the Government revenue, and its expansion in recent
years has brought about the present prosperity of the State.
As in most other tropical countries the development of
agriculture in North Borneo has resulted chiefly from the
introduction of alien plants. That this would be the case was
foreseen in the early days of the Chartered Company's exist-
ence, and trials of a variety of crops were made at experimental
stations at Tenom in the interior and at Silam on the east
coast. There was no difficulty in proving that the climate
and soils were eminently suited to a large number of crops.
In attempting to found industries, however, a new country is
handicapped by the competition of other countries where they
are already well established, and occasions are but rare when,
owing to this competition being practically eliminated by a
sudden large increase in the demand for a commodity, a new
country can enter the field on more or less equal terms.
Fortunately two opportunities of this kind have occurred
since North Borneo came under European rule. The first
was in the 'eighties, when there was a boom in the cultivation
of cigar-wrapper tobacco ; the second, dating from the begin-
ning of the present century, was afforded by the mushroom-
like growth of the plantation rubber industry. For many
years tobacco was the chief agricultural product of the ter-
ritory, but in the last decade it has yielded the premier place
to rubber, which therefore merits first mention here.
Rubber.â€”The history of the plantation rubber industry
well deserves to be called romantic. Until a quarter of a.
century ago the rubber of commerce was obtained entirely
from jungle trees and vines. It appeared highly probable
that supplies from these sources would not always be adequate-
to meet the growing demand, and Sir Joseph Hooker, the
Director of Kew Gardens, induced the Government of India
to send an expedition to Brazil to procure seeds of Hevea
Brasiliensis, which he considered, with remarkable foresight,
to prove the most remunerative tree under cultivation.
The first attempt was unsuccessful, but in 1876 Mr.'Wickham
obtained a large number of seeds, which had to be smuggled
out of Brazil owing to Government opposition to their export.
Plants raised at Kew from these seeds were sent out to
Ceylon and Singapore. Mr. Ridley, who had much to do with
nursing the cultivation through its infancy, states that the
idea of growing the plant for profit was ridiculed at first by
almost everyone. The experiments were persisted in, however,
and at length, in 1898, the fall in the price of coffee and the
sudden demand for rubber led planters in Malaya to turn their
attention to the new product. Since that date the industry
has developed with sensational rapidity. Its rise gains an
added interest from the fact that rubber is one of the only two
important commodities (the other being quinine) which were
once derived entirely from wild sources and which have been
brought into cultivation within historic times.
North Borneo comes into the story in 1882, when rubber
plants were sent to the State from the Singapore Botanic
Gardens. There is also a record of seeds being despatched
from Ceylon in 1887. What happened to these early consign-
ments cannot now be ascertained. It is hardly to be expected
that the new product would arouse more enthusiasm in North
Borneo than it did in neighbouring countries, and trials on a
commercial scale do not appear to have been made until about
1892, when the Messrs. Wade started to plant rubber for the
Mortgage Investment and Contract Corporation, Ltd., at
Bongaya on the river Labuk. They appear to have cleared
about 200 acres, but, according to the British North Borneo
Herald, for 1899 only 75 acres were planted ; in 1901 the estate
was advertised for sale. In 1900 seeds obtained from Ceylon
were planted by the Government at Tenom, and late in 1905
or early in 1906 some of the trees were, under the agreement
with the Government, tapped by Mr. F. E. Lease. This planta-
tion was the nucleus of what is now called the Penotal estate.
By 1905, when rubber-growing had been proved to be a
sound commercial undertaking, the suitability of North Borneo
for its cultivation had been amply proved. The rapid expansion
of the industry offered a chance of attracting capital to develop
the natural resources of the State, which the Chartered Company
was quick to seize. As the country was then comparatively
unknown it was necessary to put forward special inducements
to possible investors, one being the promise that the Govern-
ment would forgo the right to impose an export duty for a
period of fifty years*, and another the guarantee of dividends
during the non-productive period. Twelve companies were
formed on the basis of these terms, the first in 1905 and others
in successive years up to the "boomâ€™â€™year of 1910 Enter-
prise was not left entirely to the Chartered Company : the
North Borneo Trading Company, which owns large areas of land
in the State, floated four subsidiary companies, and the large
tobacco companies began to devote part of their land to rubber.
The growth of the rubber industry in North Borneo is shown
by the following figures of the total area planted at the end of
each year from 1907 to 1919, and the export of rubber in the
same years :â€”
Total Area Planted
at end of year.
1907. 3,226 acies. 4,975
1908. 5J47 Â» 9,636
1909. 6,888 16,383
1910. 14,755 54,631
1911. 25,064 148,795
1912. 29,025 411,070
I9I3- 30,258 1,023,283
1914. 30,851 1,372,845
i9I5- 31,046 2,353,411
1916. 32,216 4,340,421
1917. 35,087 5,474,705
1918. 40,986 5,808,870
1919. 47,739 Â» 8,823,422
* This concession applies only to rubber land alienated before June
Manila Hemp (Tawau-Kuhara Estate) Facings
At the end of 1919, 29,970 acres were being tapped. The
bulk of the land planted with rubber belongs to 23 companies
with a total capital of nearly Â£3,500,000. Most of the com-
panies are British, but a few large estates are owned by
â– Chinese and Japanese, and there are numerous small
plantations belonging to local merchants and natives.
The labour employed on rubber estates is principally
Chinese and Javanese, but in recent years an increasing use
has been made of natives of the country. Of 14,674 coolies
employed on large estates in 1918, 47 per cent, were Chinese,
26 per cent. Javanese, and 27 per cent, natives.
North Borneo has now definitely taken its place as one of the
few tropical countries where rubber-growing is a proved
success. Its climate is as suitable for the cultivation as that
of any country in the world. Vast reserves of excellent
land are available, especially on the east coast and in the
â€¢interior ; in both places a beginning is shortly to be made with
the construction of roads, and in the meantime access to land
on the east coast can be had by water. Judgment in selec-
tion is of course necessary as it is everywhere, but if a wise
choice is made the trees come into bearing as soon and yield as
heavily as in the most favoured localities of Malaya and
Sumatra. The existing estates are healthy, both for the
European staff and the labour force. There can be no
doubt that North Borneo, enjoying a settled government
under British protection and having in its favour the
advantages just mentioned, has a very promising future
before it as a rubber-producing country.
Tobaccoâ€”The cultivation of tobacco by Europeans was
commenced in North Borneo about 1883. Some years before
this it had been discovered that parts of Sumatra were parti-
cularly suitable for the growth of tobacco foi the outside
wrappers of cigars, and a large and very profitable industry had
been built up, which attained its greatest development in Deli.
Need for elbow-room and possibly the desire for easier terms
than could be obtained in Sumatra led planters to explore
North Borneo. Climatic and soil conditions being considered
â€¢excellent, a company commenced operations in Sandakan Bay.
Their crop received glowing-commendation from tobacco
experts at home. This success was repeated by private
gentlemen who opened estates in Maruda Bay and Darvel
Bay, and the golden prospect led to the formation of new
companies so rapidly that the development may well be des-
cribed as a boom. Land in blocks of 10,000 to 40,000 acres
was taken up on almost every bay and river in the country,
and for a time North Borneo seemed likely to be a formidable
rival to Deli.
But, unfortunately, features common to all booms were
present. A large number of managers had to be found and
some of them were probably incompetent. The industry v as a
new one and local conditions had not been thoroughly studied,
and totally unsuitable land was selected in several cases..
When operations were commenced they were often character-
ised by a lavish expenditure only commensurate with the huge
profits that were expected. Under such circumstances it is
not surprising that some of the companies had only a brief
It would be ungenerous, even in a short account like this,
to omit mention of the energy and perseverance shown by
many of the pioneer tobacco planters under difficulties which
those in charge of rubber estates have rarely had to face.
Nothing daunted them : they explored the country from end to.
end, searching for land in places previously untrodden by
white men, and when land was found estates were opened in
spite of the distance from civilisation and the absence of any
but tfie most primitive means of transport. One estate was
established in a district peopled by head-hunting natives
then unschooled to government by Europeans, and where the
crop and all supplies had to be carried over twenty miles of
Cigar-wrapper tobacco is of all crops perhaps the most,
exacting. The soil must be rich, but not too rich or the
growth is coarse and the leaves are of a bad texture. A sandy
loam gives the best quality of leaf, but a single crop impover-
ishes it so much that it has to be rested for about seven years
before another can be planted. The best soil is found on
the banks of rivers, but proximity to salt water is fatal to the
quality of the tobacco, and more than one company has come
to grief through planting too close to the sea. Given ideal
land a crop may fail for lack of rain, and even when soil and
water conditions are both perfect the unremitting attention
of an expert manager is required or the crop may be spoilt
before it is ready for the market. A plague of caterpillars
can play havoc with the tobacco ; this often happened in the
past, but the danger has been greatly reduced since scientific
methods of control were adopted. The leaves have to be
picked singly, and they must be ripe to a day. Drying and
fermentation are operations demanding extreme care, and to
get the best price for a crop the leaves must be carefully
sorted according to size, colour, and the part of the plant
from which they came. The difficulties are many, but in a
successful year the profits are good, and with experienced
management the cultivation is not as speculative as might
appear : one company in North Borneo worked for eleven
consecutive years and only incurred a loss in one season.
At the present time three tobacco companies are operating
in the State. In 1919 these companies planted 990 â€œ fields,â€
covering 1,399 acres, and the total crop was 1,857,380 lbs.
A revival of the industry in the future is confidently to be
expected. North Borneo appears to be the only part of the
British Empire, and in fact the only country in the world
besides Sumatra, where cigar-wrapper tobacco of the best
quality can be grown ; and for various reasons the area avail-
able in Sumatra is being steadily reduced. The large rivers
of the territory are all fringed with land which will produce
leaf of the finest colour and texture. Some of the difficulties
encountered by the pioneer companies will disappear as com-
munications are improved, and long experience has led to a
better understanding of local conditions, which will enable
planters to avoid many of the mistakes made by their pre-
Most of the natives of North Borneo are inveterate cigarette
smokers, and they giew their own tobacco long before the special
variety used for cigar wrappers was introduced by Europeans.
All the interior tribes produce sufficient for their own needs.
The requirements of the more populous coastal regions are
supplied by the natives of the Ranau district in the interior,
where tobacco-growing is an industry of some importance.
The preparation ol the crop is simple ; the tobacco is not
fermented but is merely dried in the sun, and is then shredded
with a bamboo knife. The consumer provides his own
â€œ paper,â€ which usually takes the form of a slip of palm leaf.
Of late years the industry has not. expanded in proportion
to the increased consumption of cigarettes, owing to the large
sale of the cheaper kinds made in Europe and elsewhere.
To encourage the local product the experimental manufacture
of native tobacco into cigarettes similar in appearance to those
imported was recently tried, and the experiment gave every
promise of success.
Coco-nuts.â€”The coco-nut palm has long been grown by the
natives of North Borneo, but, as in other parts of the eastern
tropics, Europeans have only taken up its cultivation in
â€¢comparatively recent years. The wide belief in the soundness
of the industry is crystallised in the description of coco-nuts
as the â€œ Consols of the East,â€ but notwithstanding this
belief coco-nuts have been somewhat neglected owing to the
greater attractiveness of rubber. It is unwise, however, to put
all oneâ€™s eggs into a single basket, and enthusiasts have not
been wanting who have declared that in the long run coco-nuts
would be the better investment of the two.
It is certain thatvegetable oil will always be one of the worldâ€™s
prime necessities, and that coco-nuts will continue to be one
of the chief sources of supply. On the termination of the war
a shortage of fats, long predicted by experts, began to be felt.
The demand for coco-nut oil increased enormously. There
was a very substantial rise in prices, and owners of coco-nut
estates, after a period of depression caused by the difficulty of
shipping their produce, began to reap a rich harvest. Butter
substitutes have come into general use during the war and
animal fats have become scarcer, and there is every likelihood
of a still greater demand for coco-nut oil and of confined
prosperity for the industry.
Coco-nut planting in North Borneo has made considerable
progress in the last few years. In 1914 there were 11,700
acres under cultivation, and in 1919 this had risen to 24,946
acres. Exports in 1919 consisted of 1,579 tÂ°ns C0Pra and
about half a million nuts. These figures are bound to increase
considerably in the near future as the recently planted trees
come into bearing.
A staff of inspectors working under the Director of Agri-
culture is maintained by Government to visit native plantations,
and enforce methods of controlling coco-nut beetles and other
pests, and to give advice on matters connected with upkeep.
Since their appointment there has been a marked improvement
in the appearance of the native plantations.
Government is anxious to encourage the cultivation of
coco-nuts, and, in order to put as little strain as possible on the
capital available for planting, special terms are offered for
the acquisition of land. No premium is charged; the quit rent
for the first five years is fifty cents (is. 2d.) an acre, and after-
wards $2'50 or $3 (5s. iod. or 7s. od.) an acre, according to
the quality and situation of the land. Coco-nuts require land
of rather more than average fertility. Suitable land is to be
found in most parts of North Borneo, but the attention of
intending planters should be directed first to Marudu Bay
and the east coast. On the island of Banggi there is an
excellent site for a large plantation.
African Oil-Palm.â€”A competitor of the coco-nut which
shows signs of becoming very popular in the Middle East
is the African oil-palm. The fact that it comes into bearing
earlier than the coco-nut palm is a very solid advantage.
The demand for the oil is large and is increasing. Its pro-
duction from wild palms in West Africa is in the hands of
unprogressive natives and there is no reason to doubt that,
just as was the case, with rubber, it could be produced more
economically on properly managed plantations equipped with
modern machinery and provided with up-to-date transport
The oil-palm was introduced into North Borneo about 1883.
The idea was, no doubt, that it possessed commercial pos-
sibilities, but it did not at the time attract European investors
and it was not suitable for cultivation on a small scale by
Chinese and natives. Its value as an ornamental plant,,
however, has led to its wide distribution, so that there is now
ample proof that it will flourish in all parts of the State.
Fibres.â€”Manila hemp and Sisal hemp, the chief fibres used
in the manufacture of cordage, have both been grown in North
Borneo, but so far only on an experimental scale.
Manila hemp, because of its superior strength and lightness,
is the most suitable of all fibres for rope-making, and its im-
munity from serious deterioration in sea water renders it
â€¢especially adapted for marine work. Of late years the finest
grades have come much into use for making ladiesâ€™ hats, and
the consumption has so increased as to cause a scarcity and,
â€¢consequently, a considerable enhancement in price. The
introduction of machinery for reaping cereals gave a great
stimulus to hemp cultivation, since twine has to be used for
binding the sheaves. The bulk of the Sisal crop is now taken
up for this purpose, and medium grades of Manila hemp are
also being largely used. The rapid extencion of grain-growing
in the New World and the introduction of modern methods in
the Old make it certain that the demand for hemp will con-
tinue to increase.
At present Mexico is by far the largest producer of Sisal and
the Philippine Islands have a monopoly of the supply of
Manila hemp. Both however are countries where political
â€¢conditions are somewhat unstable, and capitalists desirous
of investing in hemp cultivation are likely to seek a field for
their enterprise elsewhere.
There is no doubt that the climate and soil of certain parts
of North Borneo are admirably suited to the growth of Sisal
hemp. The plant is said to dislike excessive rains, and some
of the comparatively dry areas in the interior near the terminus
of the railway would suit it to perfection. The soils there
are excellent, and though in its native habitat land that is
almost worthless for other cultivations yields profitable crops
of Sisal, richer soils have been proved to give much better
results. A writer in the British North Borneo Herald, of
April 16th, 1920, estimates that the cost of production would
be a trifle under -Â£16 a ton. In a good soil harvesting can be
begun after three yearsâ€™ growth.
The Manila-hemp plant, a wild banana, is much more
â€¢exacting in its requirements than Sisal, and attempts made to
establish it in several tropical countries outside its native
home in the Philippines have failed. Besides a good soil it
demands an equable climate, with a high temperature, moist
air and evenly distributed rainfall. The conditions essential
to success are all present in most parts of North Borneo,
as might be expected from its close proximity to the southern
islands of the Philippines, where hemp plantations are seen
at their best. Manila hemp planted experimentally at Tawau
is doing very well, and the State seems marked out by nature
as the place to which the cultivation will spread if it extends
beyond the Philippines. There are large areas of suitable
land which would be granted by the Government on cheap
Kapokâ€”the floss obtained from the pods of the silk-cotton
treeâ€”is another fibre which promises to be of increasing im-
portance in the future. It is widely used in upholstery and
for filling cushions, pillows and mattresses ; for these purposes
it appears to bÂ£ superior to all other substances, as the fibres
are extremely clastic and do not get matted with use. When
placed in water it will support thirty times its own weight,
and it is unexcelled for the manufacture of life-belts and
jackets. There is moreover a prospect that the difficulties
of spinning the fibre will be surmounted, in which case it
would be utilised for textile purposes.
The kapok tree is cultivated by natives in all parts of North
Borneo, but the industry has made very little progress as the
floss has always been shipped in the uncleaned state. A
sample consignment of cleaned floss recently sent home was
sold at the top price in the market, and a sample of the seeds
was well reported on. A London company is now interesting
itself in developing the kapok industry in the Territory.
Minor Products.â€”Coffee was one of the first crops grown
by Europeans in North Borneo, but the industry fell on evil
days as it did in Malaya, and the cultivation is now practically
confined to Chinese who supply the local market. The
varieties grown are Liberia and Robusta, which both do well.
Indigo is being grown as a catch crop with rubber on a
large Japanese estate at Tawau. A plant for extracting the
dye has been set up, and a high-grade product is being obtained.
Pepper cultivation was at one time a very large industry
in the island, and the gardens of Bundu in the Klias Peninsula
were famous. The crop is still grown on a small scale near
Cocoa is grown in a few small groves belonging to natives
on the Segaliud river near Sandakan ; the vigour and size of
the trees and the heavy crops borne are proofs that the culti-
vation would do well under proper management. Tea has
been cultivated successfully in the interior, and where cheap
native labour is available the crop should be a commercial
Tapioca, ground nuts, maize and sweet potatoes are grown
by Chinese and natives to supply local requirements. In
well-kept Chinese gardens near the towns all kinds of tropical
vegetables are raised. Tomatoes grow to perfection even near
sea level, and fruits weighing nearly a pound are not uncommon.
The country is well supplied with fruit. Excellent oranges
of two or three varieties are grown, besides pineapples, mangoes,
limes and bananas.
Rice.â€”In many respects rice is the most important crop in
North Borneo. The area devoted to it is considerably greater
than that under any other crop ; its culture is the chief in-
dustry of the native population, and it provides the staple food
of the great majority of the inhabitants, both native and alien.
There are two kinds of rice, and they are grown in entirely
different ways. On the plains, especially those near the coast,
wet or swamp rice is grown. The land requires to be ploughed
and harrowed, and seedlings raised in nurseries are trans-
planted in the prepared soil, which must afterwards be flooded.
In hilly districts dry rice is cultivated. A patch of jungle
is cut down and burnt, and holes are made in the ground and
a few seeds dropped into each. After two or three crops have
been raised the land is abandoned and a fresh piece is cleared.
A consequence of the ladang system, as this method of growing
dry rice is called, is that large areas of land are stripped of
valuable forest, and in course of time are rendered useless
for agriculture by erosion ; the system thus tends to exhaust
the natural capital of the country. The fact that it demands
a minimum of expenditure of labour, however, makes it
popular with the more backward natives.
About 26,500 acres are planted with wet rice every year,
and about 32,00 acres with dry rice. The average production
of cleaned rice per annum is about 12,000 tons. This is rather
less than half the total quantity consumed in the State.
The desirability of making the country more self-supporting
is fully appreciated. During the war rice cultivation was
encouraged by the guarantee of a minimum price to cul-
tivators, and plans for stimulating the industry by constructing
irrigation works are now under consideration.
Sago.â€”The sago of commerce is chiefly derived from the
pith of two palms. These palms are indigenous to North
Borneo, and in certain districts of the west coast their culti-
vation is an important industry. In these districts sago
replaces rice as the staple food of the natives, and houses are
built almost entirely of the stems, leaf-stalks and leaves-
of the palms.
Sago palms grow on swampy land, and take from eight
to twenty years to reach maturity. A mature tree, if left to
itself, puts out a much-branched inflorescence from the apex
of the stem ; the starch which the plant has been storing up
throughout its life time passes into the fruits, and when the
fruits are ripe the tree dies. Just before flower formation
takes place the natives fell the tree, cut the stem in lengths-
and rasp the pith into a sort of coarse sawdust, which is after-
wards well washed with water to extract the starch. Extrac-
tion is done in or close to the sago swamp, and the product
is then carried to Chinese-owned factories where it is cleaned
and becomes sago flour. Pearl sago is made by damping the
flour and rocking it in a calico cradle until it aggregates into-
granules, which are then fried for a short time in shallow iron
It is estimated that about 4,000 acres of land are under sagO'
in North Borneo. The average export of sago flour is about
3,500 tons, and in addition a considerable amount is consumed
locally. During the world shortage of rice in 1919-1920,
sago proved a most valuable reserve of food not only for the
native population but for alien coolies employed on estates.
The sago industry in North Borneo is capable of great
expansion. The native method of extracting starch is.
extremely wasteful, and the introduction of machinery would
multiply the output many times. At present the planta-
tions are being slowly but steadily reduced in size by various
pests, whose depredations could be prevented if a certain
amount of care was exercised by native owners.
This question is receiving the careful attention of the
Government of the State.