Ross Island: Ruins of the Colonial Past

Marine Surveyor Sir Daniel Ross was the first British officer to discover the Ross Island. He discovered the island when on duty for guarding the Port Blair harbour. During the British rule, the island served as the headquarters of the Indian Penal Settlement for a period of 80 years. The place was commonly recognised as the seat of the British power.

The region served as the administrative headquarters of Andaman and Nicobar Islands before it was shifted to Port Blair post an earthquake in 1941. The island after more than 70 years of Indian independence now stands still and deserted.  The Island, once, had all modern amenities such as bazaar, bakery, stores, water treatment plant, church, tennis court, printing press, secretariat, hospital and cemetery, as evident from the ruins scattered everywhere.

The island also witnessed major incidents from the chapters of colonial history. It is said that during the revolt of 1857, the British fled to Ross Island and took shelter for many years. In March, 1942, the Japanese invaded the island and held Sir Charles Francis Waterfall as the prisoner of war. After the end of World War II, the island was taken aback by the British, but, the Japanese left their imprints in the form of bunkers. The bunkers were built by the Japanese troops to use it as watch points to safeguard the Island from any foreign invasion.

The first Indian National flag was hoisted in the island by Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose during his visit at the of Japanese invasion.

Few surviving structures in the Island:

  1. The Commissioner’s Bunglow

Donald Martin Stewart was the first chief Commissioner from July 1872 to June 1875. The bungalow, meant for the chief of the Penal Settlement, was constructed at the northern summit of the Island. It was large gabled house with Italian tiled floors on the ground level and housed offices and court rooms at higher levels. There was a large ball room with drawing, dining room and 8 bed rooms. The house was surrounded by garden of yellow laburnum, mango trees, shrubbery and lawns. The surrounding verandahs which were covered, acted as additional rooms. It had a private tennis court at the back, an aviary on one side and palm house on the other and drive-way curving up in front of shallow stone steps guarded by cannon.

  1. The Presbyterian Church:

The Presbyterian Church was a Protestant church built of stone and the windows had frames made of Burma teak. The glass panes behind the altar were made of beautifully etched stained glass from Italy.

  1. The subordinate’s club:

The subordinate club was for the junior commissioned officers, non-commissioned officers and other ranks of the British troops. It had a teak dance floor which was mounted on springs and the entire window frame-work and its panes were made of stained glass from Italy. The band had its positions in an elevated platform at the western end of the wall.

The Ross Island is a few km from Aberdeen jetty at Port Blair