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CHATHAM ISLAND & FOREST MUSEUM

The Government Sawmill - Chatham

chatham saw mill main gateA legacy of the Islands.....

The tiny Island of Chatham Located near the Port Blair town, about 5 km from the Air Port at 11° 41' N Latitude and 92°43' E Longitude with an area of 7.3 ha has enough to share in the backdrop of the colonial legacy and the history that shaped the Andaman & Nicobar Islands.

 

The Historic Chatham

aerial view chatham islandThe legacy of Chatham began in the year 1789, when Lt. Archibald Blair landed here with the aim to establish a Naval Base. He started the survey from Chatham Island for establishing the British footholds in the Islands. Thus, Port Blair became the starting point of various activities to develop the Islands as a safe place to deport hard-core convicts and to develop the Harbour base. The 100 mtrs long Chatham Bridge connects Port Blair with Chatham Island. This historic bridge was initially constructed out of timber. Later, it was renovated to a modern bridge with concrete structures, which exists today.

 

The Industrial Giant

Chatham - Timber treatment plantThe Chatham Island houses the age old Govt. Saw Mill, affectionately referred to as "Chatham Saw Mill". It was established in the year 1883 with the second hand imported machines with the primary objective to meet the local 3 requirement of sawn timber for constructional works and is owned and administered by the Department of Environment & Forests, Andaman & Nicobar Administration. The saw mill stood as a spectator to the rise and fall of various Regimes in the Islands since the year 1883. Ever since its establishment, the Mill was catering to the needs of sawn timber of the Islanders for various construction purposes and has been the backbone of the wood based industrial units in the islands. Itfinds a place among the big and famous saw mills in the Asian Region. The mill has converted huge quantity of timber for catering to the requirements of New York, London, & various other cities in the West during the colonial period. The glorious crimsom wall paneling of the Buckingham Palace! might surely be reminding her Majesty the Queen of England of the Andaman Padauk. The pioneer giant has an installed capacity for sawing about 20,000 cum logs annually in three shifts. All the major timber trees of the Islands are used as raw material in the Mill. The entire production of sawn timber in the Mill is sold under the coverage of an Administered Price Mechanism and is consumed locally for furniture making, construction purposes. The export of timber from the Islands to the mainland is strictly prohibited. The Mill at present gives direct employment to about 750 persons.

 

Sailing through difficult Waters

Japanese BombingThe onset of the Second World War spelt doom for the Giant Mill. Being located in the strategically important area, the might of the Japanese did not spare this Industrial Giant too in their spree to word off the British. On 10th March 1942, the Mill succumbed to the spate of the heavy Japanese bombs. The hour long bombing took the toll of the lives of the workers and it is said that even the underlying seawater gushed out and the rocks flew like Frisbee discs. The attack crippled the very functioning of the Mill and the machines got damaged. The Japanese occupied the Islands from 22.03.1942 to 07.10.1945. However, after the Second World War the working of the mill was revived in the year 1946 to meet the continued need of sawn timber of the Islanders. This requirement of sawn timber of the Islanders further increased manifold after the settlement of people from the erstwhile East Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Burma and different states of the country during the years 1950s & 1960s.

 

The Arms of the Giant

Main Log Depot of the Saw MillThe functioning of the Mill is organized with the help of various sections. The log depot segregates the logs received from the forests and feeds them into the Mill, while the mill section performs the conversion of round logs into various sizes. The Timber Processing Unit carries out the seasoning and preservative treatment of sawn timber to increase its longevity. Yard section handles the converted sawn timber as well as their sales. The other units such as Construction unit, Mechanical Unit, Saw Doctoring Unit, Electrical Unit Dispensary, Canteen & Security etc are working in unison to ensure the smooth functioning of the Mill.

 

The forest Museum

The Department of Environment & Forests has established a modern Museum in September 2006 in the Mill Complex, Chatham which has historic, scientific, cultural and educational values. The museum exhibits beautiful photographs of historical importance as well as about the general working of the Department of Environment & Forests. It also exhibits souvenirs and various handicrafts on timber. The products are distinct with its intricate carving, polishing, designing and skilled craftsmanship.

Forest Museum Handicraft Forest Museum Handicraft