Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Perim Island

Malc visited the island on his Far East voyage in 1927 aboard Pyrrhus where the ship stopped to refuel. The island features in several of his works including Ultramarine.

I recently came across a fascinating site about the island's colonial history:

Perim Island (also known as Barim, Mayyun, Meyun) is a volcanic island located 90 miles west of Aden in the Straits of Bab-el-Mandeb, 1 ½ miles from the Arabian coast and 11 miles from the African coast. The island has a surface area of 13 square kilometers and rises to 65 meters. It was formerly part of the Aden Colony.

Albuquerque landed on Perim in 1513 and named it Vera Cruz. Later, for a short while, it became a base for pirates till they concluded there was no available fresh water, even after digging 15 fathoms, and moved elsewhere.

The East India Company took possession of Perim Island in 1799 and it was garrisoned by a force from Bombay led by Lieutenant-Colonel Murray. Their stay was short-lived as it was found unsuitable as a military position for preventing French troops from Egypt from proceeding to India.

The demands of increased shipping in the Red Sea prompted the Indian Government to build a lighthouse and Perim Island was re-occupied in 1857.

By 1861 a dark blue stone lighthouse had been built and lit on Perim Island. Located 0.95 km to the south west of Obstruction Point. It was 38 feet in height from base to vane. When the tower was rebuilt in 1912 it reached 81 feet. There was a one minute interval of revolution of the flash which could be seen from 22 miles in clear weather. Quarters were built for a detachment of 50 native infantry, under the command of a European officer, who were relieved every 2 months

Perim Island was used as a coaling station but the Perim Coal Company, which had been in fierce competition with rival, Luke Thomas of Aden, closed down in 1936, and Perim's small harbour was then closed to shipping.

Water was never found on Perim Island, which has always made its occupation difficult. After bringing water supplies from Aden and then considering a reservoir to collect rainwater it was decided, as in Aden, that a condenser to produce distilled water was more suitable.

By 1959 there were just 300 people living on Perim Island, mainly in the Arab fishing village of Meyun. The people took no practical part in the life of the Colony of Aden. In 1959 the Aden Colony Executive and Legislative Councils were relieved of responsibility for the administration of Perim Island but it remained part of Aden Colony with the executive and administrative power vested in the Governor.
Read more on Perim Island The Last Colonial Outpost.

See Perim Island 1927 on Postcards from Malc

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