Chatham Island

Chatham Island, at the north tip of Port Blair, houses Asias largest saw mill. The year 1789 saw the establishment of the first British settlement on Chatham Island, near Port Blair during the Governor Generalship of Lord Cornwallis. The British founded the first penal settlement in 1858, with 200 prisoners, mostly rebels from the Indian Army who militated against the British suzerainty during the first war of Independence. The island is 5 km northwest of Aberdeen Bazaar and is connected to Port Blair through a tiny land strip, with the sea lapping on both sides. The British built the Chatham Sawmill here and it is one of the oldest and largest timber processing plants in India. Dating back to 1836, the enormous workshops are built in the durable (and expensive) padauk wood. Since the 1970s, logging on the islands has been banned and most of the wood now comes by ship from Malaysia, Myanmar and Thailand. A guide will take you through the entire process of the logs being unloaded, sorted, cut, planed and finally stored in vast godowns to be shipped off to the mainland. Huge saws, with 200 to 300 teeth, grind their way for two to three hours before their teeth need to be sharpened again. The centre of activity of the Forest Department is Chatham Island. It has perhaps the biggest Saw Mill of its kind in Asia. Burma Nallah is about 17kms from Port Blair. Here logs are extracted with the help of elephants. The forest here is a feast to the eyes with most colourful and rare varieties of orchards and beauty of other flora and fauna. Sadly, photography is prohibited here.