Everyone knows the popular islands of Andaman archipelago. Havelock, Neil and Baratang feature in almost every visitor’s itinerary. But Ross Island, the smallest island of Andaman measuring barely 0.3 sq km, has a plenty of history to leave you stunned.
Nestled in the Bay of Bengal, it is about 3 km east from Port Blair. If you are visiting Andaman, you must explore the melancholic beauty of Ross island. Go through the post to find out what you should know before taking a trip to this Island.
1. Ghost Island of Andaman
Once touted as the ‘Paris of The East’, the colonial edifices on this island are now in dilapidated conditions. In its heyday, Ross island was used by British as a penal settlement center for the political prisoners.
The colonial rulers coerced inmates into cleaning the tropical jungle and built a mini town for themselves. From the commissioner’s fancy bungalow to a secretariat, from the Italian tiled clubs to a church, the inmates built all from scratch.
As I wandered through the ruins, it felt as if I had time traveled to peek into the oppressive colonial past of this island. The empty structures overgrown with roots give it a haunting look much like its terrifying past.
2. Small Island With a Big History
The Indian Mutiny of 1857, also known as Sepoy Mutiny, saw a large number of Indian soldiers uprising against the Colonial rule of British.
To suppress the outbreak of this first movement of independence, many freedom fighters were jailed and some were brutally killed.
Indian jails were getting overcrowded and this led to setting up a penal colony by British in a remote place, far away from mainland India.
Ross island was established as a penal colony in 1858 by them. Owing to the inhuman and brutal treatment meted out to the freedom fighters, the penal colony became infamous as ‘kalapani’.
Inmates were forced to clear dense tropical forests of the island to pave way for making swanky bungalows, clubhouses, tennis courts and other community amenities.
The inmates were overworked, starving and suffering from diseases. Within a few years of imprisonment on this island, many convicts died because of miserable living conditions.
Unmoved by the apathy of the prisoners, the British rulers continued to inflict atrocities on them. Soon, it became the administrative headquarter of the entire group of Andaman islands due to its strategic location.
Eventually in 1937, the jails on this island were closed and the inmates were moved to other jails. Ross Island left a deep imprint of colonial horror in the annals of India’s history.
3. Renamed in 2018
A British marine surveyor, Captain Daniel Ross made the first attempt to inhabit this island in 1788. Owing to adverse weather conditions, he left the island after a year of surveying. This tiny island was named Ross Island after him.
Eventually, British colonizers established a penal settlement during the Indian rebellion of 1857 and ensconced themselves on this island.
In the course of Japanese rule, an eminent freedom fighter, Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose visited and stayed on this island for a day. He was fighting the war of freedom against British with the support of Japanese forces.
As a mark of respect to this great soul, Ross Island was renamed as Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose dweep (island) in 2018 by the government of India.
4. Accessible From Port Blair
The island is accessible by ferry from Aberdeen jetty at the Rajiv Gandhi water sports complex in Port Blair.
It is located about 3 km from the capital city of Andaman and takes a little over 10 minutes to reach from the jetty. You will not get ferries from any other island in Andaman to reach here. There is a very nominal entry fee for visitors.
You may also like: 12 Best Places in Port Blair To Visit – Exciting Day Trips.
5. Where Deer Roam Freely
British built a bustling small town with all means of entertainment including clubs, tennis courts and swimming pool. But, they were missing game hunting rampant in mainland India. So, the British officers introduced three species of deer in Andaman forests, namely hog deer, barking deer and spotted deer.
Hog deer couldn’t survive and soon disappeared. In the absence of any natural predator, the spotted deer population grew at a much faster pace than the officers could hunt. Deer along with peafowls are the only inhabitants of this spooky island.
6. Taken Over By Nature
Majority of the structures on the island are covered in roots including once plush commissioner’s bungalow, bakery, ballrooms and church.
Nature seems to be claiming its land which became synonymous with barbaric colonialism during British regime. Enormous ficus and banyan trees have taken over the dilapidated buildings.
7. Japanese Invasion During World War II
Even though the jails were closed in 1937, the British troops continued to live here until a devastating earthquake struck the island in 1941.
One year later in 1942 during the second world war, the island was conquered by Japanese forces. Unable to fight them, Britishers fled the island and some British officials were captured as war prisoners.
The new masters of the island occupied the mansions and other edifices used earlier by British. They also set up a few bunkers to secure this territory.
The island was again occupied by the British forces in 1945. Since then, it remained in abandoned condition until Indian Navy took control of the island in 1979.
There is not much left on the island to describe the 3 years of Japanese reign other than a few bunkers they built.
8. Hidden Ferar Beach
Tucked away in a secluded corner of Ross Island is the stunning Ferar beach. A long walk from the island’s entrance gate and a short descent through stairs lead to this serene beach.
Not all visitors to the island discover Ferar beach due to its hidden location. It lies smack next to the remnants of the old church of the island. In 2004, a devastating Tsunami struck here and washed away most of the beach.
Only a small strip of the beach is left but one can still visualize how spectacular this would have been before the Tsunami hit.
It felt like a perfect place to relax and breath fresh air under the swaying palms after wandering through the ruins. Enjoy the vast expanse of the sea and the picturesque view from the beach.
As you take a stroll on the beach, you can witness the might of strong waves that have rendered round shape to the rocks and stones scattered around.
9. Night Stay – Not An Option
For a long time after India’s independence, this island was left to its fate. Indian Navy took over this island in 1979 and established a naval base. It is now maintained by them.
While tourism is allowed by navy, overnight stay is not permitted. In fact, all the ferries carrying tourists depart the island by 3:30 pm. A small guest house on the island caters exclusively to the visiting navy officers.
10. Ross Island Inspired A Movie
The penal settlement of Ross Island acted as inspiration for the penal colony depicted in the movie ‘Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea’. Released in 1954, it is a critically acclaimed Walt Disney movie. The fictional penal colony in the movie is named Rura Penthe.
Over To You Now…
Have you visited this hauntingly beautiful island in Andaman? Share your travel experiences with us in the comment section below.
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