Sunday, May 15, 2011

History: Sarikei shipwreck - Pulau Kidjang - A black maritime chapter

Sarikei Pulau Kidjang,
Plied Kuching-Sarikei-Sibu route from 1965-1973

Sarikei Pulau Kidjang
Side view diagram

Sarikei Pulau Kidjang
Plan view: Top and bottom floor

The blackest chapter in the maritime history of Sarawak happened on 27 December 1973 when M.V. Pulau Kidjang 婆羅其昌號 (婆罗其昌号)met its nautical fate off the Rejang River mouth. 159 passengers were on this overnight journey from Kuching's KTS wharf (near the former Holiday Inn location). Many of them were civil servants who just had their pay day for the year end and were heading home to Sarikei and Sibu.

(Pulau Kijang means Barking Deer Island in Malay.)

Sarikei Pulau Kidjang, 1973
The hull was sighted in South China Sea
Source: Sarawak Museum archives

Sarikei Pulau Kidjang, 
Front page of The Vanguard, 28 Dec 1973

On this fateful day, it was a routine day for the crew. Little did anyone know what's ahead of them.

26 December 1973
3 cars were loaded into the ship. Other cargo included as many as 2500 tins of biscuits and more than 1000 bottles of soft drinks. In the 1970s, soft drinks were packaged in glass bottles, not plastic bottles.

The engine was inspected.

Sarikei Pulau Kidjang, 
Boys and Girls Brigade led the funeral procession,
Repok Road, Dec 1973

Many of the passengers started arriving at the KTS wharf in Kuching.

The key engine of the ship was started to warm up.

Sarikei Pulau Kidjang, 
Christian last rites at the graveyard,
2.5 mile Repok Road, Dec 1973
Tun Jugah anak Barieng (4L, front row)
(Muslims were buried in the graveyard behind Ngiu Kee, near the old mosque at Jalan Masjid Lama)

The passengers boarded the ship and took their seats

The rope that tied the ship to the wharf was released.

Sarikei Pulau Kidjang tragedy
Chronology of its last voyage
Source: Tragedi Pulau Kidjang, Utusan Sarawak book, Oct 2000

Pulau Kidjang began its last voyage through the Sarawak River

The ship exited the Tebas Estuary into the South China Sea

Sarikei Pulau Kidjang tragedy
10 March 1999 article
Source: Sejarah Sarawak facebook fan, Rasimah Ayum

Sarikei Pulau Kidjang tragedy - factors
5 March 1999 article (Mingguan Sarawak?)
Source: Sejarah Sarawak facebook fan, Rasimah Ayum

27 December 1973
After 4 hours in the South China Sea, MV Pulau Kidjang reached Jerijeh cape. (Can anyone explain why there's a dispute (berselisih) with MV Rajah Mas as stated in the chronology above)

The huge waves in bad weather pounded on Pulau Kidjang. 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 tilted the ship to the right. The ship sank at 3am

159 were on board with 38 saved (including 18 sailors). Only 41 bodies were found.

For more details, click this post The Pulau Kidjang Tragedy - A Watery Grave


Daniel Yiek said...

Pulau Kidjang reached Jerijeh cape. (Can anyone explain why there's a dispute (berselisih) with MV Rajah Mas as stated in the chronology above)

Sarawakiana@2 said...

This is excellent...will study this again and again...My husband's relative was lost at this time and the family still has no idea...may be I will print the post and let the grandson know....thanks. The family only knew he might also be buried amongst the others...No DNA in those days.

Daniel Yiek said...

The unidentified Pulau Kidjang victims were buries at Cantonese-Hokkien Association Cemetery
2.5 Mile Repok Road, before Sekolah Tinggi.

That burial plot has tall grass growing on it now.

Enjoy Viewing said...

I think some of the vitims' plots has been moved or built over by new ones on top of them. I was 7 years old when this tragedy happened. I saw most of the victims carried by helicoptors landing on the football field (now, civic centre). I have a really good view as I stayed just across the road on the first floor. I remembered the foul smell and eyes as big as tennis balls. pink plastic sheets were used to carry them.

Mulyadir Fitri said...

Berselisih there is not dispute. It literally means passed by. So Rajah Mas was the last vessel that saw Pulau Kidjang before the accident.

Daniel Yiek said...

Thank You!

biscop said...

My dad was one of the victims. I was 4 then.

MahaGuru said... there any government gazet state the name list of people confirmed drown in the tragedy...

Ting said...

My father told me that he saw Pulau Kidjang in South China Sea just after midnight as they pass each other as MV Rajah Mas was heading to Kuching.The weather was so rough he had to stay up whole night as he is in charge of the ship.The ship only arrived in Kuching at noon that day (normally in the morning)as they are unable to enter the mouth of the Sarawak river due to very heavy swell.He told the captain to wait at the open sea by circle around until they are able to spot the river mouth.

Ting said...

In reply to MahaGuru question they would be able to know some of the people confirmed drown such as employees working for the ship,the first and second class passengers that need to prebook at the Southern Navigation Office. It is the third class passengers that they are not able to know all as they just board the ship and the
employees of the ship collect 10Ringgit from them after the ship set sail for about an hour by blocking of section by section to colect the money and gave the passenger's receipt. The article said 159 passengers but I think it would be impossible for them to know the exact number on the ship that fateful day.

Daniel Yiek said...

Thank you Ting for your feedback

Ting said...

Welcome Daniel.

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