Chatham Saw Mill is the oldest and largest sawmill in Asia, established in 1883. It has played a pivotal role in meeting the local timber needs and has a rich history marked by resilience, destruction during World War II, and subsequent revival.
Read on to know more about how you can visit this historic place and what you can expect.
The history of Chatham Saw Mill traces back to its establishment in 1883 on Chatham Island, Andaman and Nicobar Islands. The mill was set up with the primary objective of meeting the local requirements for sawn timber used in construction works. Initially equipped with second-hand imported machinery, the mill operated with unskilled labor.
During World War II, in 1942, the mill suffered severe damage when the Japanese army bombed the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. The destruction paralyzed the mill, but after India gained independence in 1947, efforts were made to revive and restore the operations of Chatham Saw Mill. Salvaging old machinery became a crucial part of the restoration process, ensuring that the mill could continue meeting the growing demand for sawn timber on the islands.
Over the years, the mill played a significant role in providing timber for local construction needs, furniture making, and various government projects. It weathered changes in regimes and witnessed an increase in demand, especially during the settlement of people from Sri Lanka, East Pakistan, Burma, and different states of India in the 1950s and 1960s.
Currently, it is under the administration of the Forest Department of Andaman and Nicobar Islands. The Forest Department oversees the management and operation of the mill, ensuring its contribution to the local economy and meeting the timber needs of the region. The mill remains a historical landmark, symbolizing resilience, and plays a vital role in the wood-based industry of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
Fun Fact: Chatham Saw Mill, supplied the Andaman Padauk for Buckingham Palace‘s wall paneling.
Where is the Chatham Saw Mill located?
Chatham Saw Mill is located on Chatham Island in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, India. The island is connected to Port Blair, the capital city of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, by a 100-meter-long bridge.
How to Reach Chatham Saw Mill?
- From Port Blair: Chatham Saw Mill is located on Chatham Island, and the journey begins from Port Blair. Head towards Chatham Island by road.
- Transportation: You can hire a cab, rent a two wheeler, take a local bus or auto rickshaw, or use any other mode of transportation available in Port Blair to reach Chatham Island.
- Local buses operate from Golghar junction to Chatham
- You can get an auto rickshaw from basically anywhere in Port Blair.
- Bridge Connection: Chatham Island is connected to Port Blair by a 100-meter-long bridge. Cross this bridge to reach the island.
- Distance: The mill is situated on the island, and once you’ve crossed the bridge, you’ll find yourself at Chatham Saw Mill.
Read More: How to reach Port Blair?
Cost of entry tickets to visit Chatham Saw Mill?
The cost of entry tickets to visit Chatham Saw Mill is Rs. 20 per person.
Chatham Saw Mill Timings:
Plan your visit between 8:00 AM and 2:30 PM.
The Chatham Saw Mill is closed on Mondays and public holidays.
Visitors usually spend around 1 to 2 hours to fully experience the mill, including guided tours and exploring various points of interest.
Points of Interest:
Explore different sections within the mill, like log depots and timber processing units. Gain insights into the intricate process of transforming raw logs into various sizes for construction and furniture.
Opt for a tour guide to enhance your understanding. Guides provide valuable information about the bomb pit, Pillar of the Planet, and the Forest Museum, making your visit more insightful.
Visit the bomb pit, a somber reminder of World War II’s impact. This pit, created by Japanese bombings, serves as a tangible link to the mill’s resilience and the darker days of the war.
Pillar of the Planet:
Commemorate 125 years of forestry on the island by exploring the Pillar of the Planet. This memorial stands as a testament to the mill’s enduring presence and its role in the environmental and forestry heritage of the region.
Immerse yourself in the Forest Museum within the mill complex. Browse through historic photographs, handicrafts, and souvenirs that showcase the islands’ history, geography, flora, and fauna.
Don’t miss the souvenir shop inside the mill complex. Here, you can purchase intricately crafted local handicrafts and souvenirs. It allows you to take a piece of this historical expedition home with you.
Memorial – Pillar of the Planet:
Admire the memorial called Pillar of the Planet, established in March 2009. It serves as a poignant reminder of the mill’s long-standing contribution to forestry and environmental conservation.
The Mill’s Operational Process:
Observe the various stages in the mill’s operational process. These range from bringing in logs on boats to cutting, sorting, and storing them in warehouses. Each step is labeled and explained, offering an interesting and educational experience.
Is the Chatham Saw Mill worth visiting?
Yes, Chatham Saw Mill is definitely worth visiting. It offers a fascinating journey through history, showcasing the resilience of the mill and its significant role in the local timber industry. With its unique points of interest, guided tours, and rich cultural heritage, a visit to Chatham Saw Mill promises a memorable and educational experience.
Read Next: All about Port Blair.