The MV Pulau Kidjang shipwreck is the biggest maritime disaster of Sarawak. I blogged about it 4.5 years ago and have updated that post regularly. In June 2009, the Chinese language based United Daily News did a series of articles by interviewing the families of the victims. It's time to reproduce my previous post here with updated insights for future generations because there are very few online articles on this.
In the mid 60-70's, the easiest way from Sarikei to Kuching was overnight by ship through the Rejang River mouth out to the South China Sea and then into Sarawak River towards Kuching. Two famous ships ruled the seas then (Pulau Kidjang and Rajah Mas). Both sank off the Rejang River mouth but it was Pulau Kidjang that terrorised the memories of Sarawakians. Rajah Mas sank on 18 Feb 1997 with 1 dead and 3 missing.
Pulau Kidjang was bought in Indonesia for MYR320,000. It was believed to have a capacity of 150 passengers. It had served the Sarikei-Kuching route since 1965, 8 years before the fateful day.
No one had thought of shipwrecks because going to and from Kuching was a big deal in the 1970s. Then the worst marine tragedy in Sarawak's history struck. The 227-ton Pulau Kidjang (Kijang) left Kuching at 6.30pm on 26 December. It sank off the mouth of Rejang River near Tanjung Jerijeh (3.5 nautical miles west of Sarikei) during the monsoon season on 27 Dec 1973 (sources: 1 and 3) while travelling from Kuching to Sarikei. It was the talk of the town. Helicopters landed at the padang (now the Sarikei Civic Centre) in town with corpses in nets and Dr. Yap and his colleagues went to examine them.
For location of the shipwreck (near the right of this picture),
see the picture below (after Sources).
At 2.30am on 27 December, a thunderstorm and huge waves rocked the ship at Tanjung Jerijeh. In the chaos, the light house at Jerijeh village could no longer be seen. The rope tying the 3 cars and cargo at the cargo area snapped and simultaneously titled the ship to the right. The ship sank at 3am. (source: 3)
According to the newspapers, a buoy marking the shifting of dangerous sandbars towards the sea had become adrift and in the darkness of dawn, the captain could not see the direction. So when the ship went aground, chaos broke out. Huge waves pounded them as the winds suddenly changed and Pulau Kidjang met its watery grave. (Source: 2)
The timber carrying ship, M.V. Hornbill, was on its way from Selalang town when she chanced upon the victims. The shocking news reached Sarikei at 7am.
Note: This is not the wreck of Pulau Kidjang.
This is an abandoned boat.
A radiologist, Daisy Harry, from Sibu's Lau King Howe Hospital was sent to Sarikei to x-ray the teeth of the decomposed corpses for dental identification. (Source: 2). 20 unidentified bodies were buried in an empty plot at 2.5 mile Repok Road (now overgrown with tall grass). May they rest in peace.
1. Reminiscences. Recollections of Sarawak Administration Service Officers. By James Chin and Jayl Langub
3. Book by Sarawak Tribune Journalist
(Forum pages from Source 3 is reproduced below because the link seems to be broken)
4. New Straits Times. 5 January 1974