Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Fountain of Death

In 1619, the Dutch moved into Indonesia and took control of the islands - first through the Dutch East India Company and eventually as conquerers. During the 300 plus years of their rule, Fatahilla Square was at the heart of the capital city, Batavia.

Wishing to make their new land more like home, the Dutch built canals throughout Batavia. The problem was that unlike Holland where the water moved freely, in Batavia the water stagnated and became a breeding ground for all manner of noxious stuff. Fed from the canals, the central fountain teemed with cholera, thypoid, and dysentery. The resultant death rate was so high that in the 18th century, Batavia was known as one of the world's deadliest cities - particularly for white men. One researcher from the time concluded that every soldier sent to Batavia had "perished there". Every soldier!!!

The Chinese, who boiled their water when making tea, fared much better. But the unlucky Dutch did not put 2-and-2 together, thinking instead that disease was airborne. So to combat it, they closed their doors and windows. Without air conditioning in this sweltering humid climate, those poor souls must have suffered mightily before they perished from their drinking water.

Batavia was renamed Jakarta by the Japanese in 1942 when they took possession of the island country. But that was not the end of the Dutch. After WWII, they reclaimed Indonesia and maintained it as a colony until 1949 when Indonesia finally obtained its independence.

1 comment:

krypto said...

I had no idea you were such a good writer. Keep'em coming.

A slightly biased reader