Pedra Branca


Pedra Branca, island, situated 54 km off the mainland of Singapore, 46km east of Changi Point, located at the eastern entrance to the Singapore Strait. The island is a reef of white stone-rocks of granite, though corals have encrusted those below sea-level. On one solid solitary rock sits the Horsburgh Lighthouse.

Many shipping vessels have run aground in the rock-reef waters around Pedra Branca, since the earliest reported accidents of Portuguese mariners in the early 1500s. To the ancient and experienced sea-farers, Pedra Branca island itself, was a navigational marker which warned ships of the proximity of dangerous waters. With the increase of commerce and shipping in the region, accidents and losses became more numerous. Reported losses in Singapore journals, from 1824-1839, indicated that there were five ship-wrecks, four accidents; and from 1841-51, 11 ship-wrecks and six ship accidents. There would probably have been much more unreported disasters and accidents, with property losses impossible to estimate.

In late 1836, British merchants recommended the building of a lighthouse as a tribute to the late navigator and hydrographer, Captain James Horsburgh. Construction began in 1847, and was completed in 1851, when it was named Horsburgh Lighthouse.

Pedra Branca at Latitude 1,20' 15" N and Longitude 104,25' 00" with a total size of 0.8ha, consists of a reef of rocks of granite. It rises up to 26 ft 11", and is about 450 ft long at low tide and has an average breadth of 200ft. Its almost white stone-rocks, covered with the dung of numerous sea-birds, was a distinctive navigational marker to ancient seafarers, before the completion of Horsburgh Lighthouse. Captain James Horsburgh in his India Directory, reported seeing numerous oysters on the island. The island is off limits to the public.

Variant Names
Portuguese Name: Pedra Branca or Bianque means "white rock", a colour effect resulting from large quantities of seabird droppings.
Malay Name: The Malay translation of "white rock" is Pulau Batu Puteh.

Vernon Cornelius-Takahama

Buckley, C. B. (1984). An anecdotal history of old times in Singapore: 1819-1867 (pp. 510-519). Singapore: Oxford University Press.
(Call no.: RSING 959.57 BUC)

Thomson. J. T. (1852). Account of the Horsburgh Lighthouse [Microfilm: NL 1890]. The Journal of Indian Archipelago and Eastern Asia, VI, 376-499.
(Call no.: RCLOS 950.05 JOU)

Further Readings
Edwards, N. & Keys, P. (1988). Singapore: A guide to buildings, streets, places (p. 480). Singapore: Times Books International.
(Call no.: RSING 959.57 EDW)

The information in this article is valid as at 2001 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

Architecture and Landscape>>Architectural Styles
Singapore offshore islands
Geography>>Geographical Areas and Countries>>Singapore Offshore Islands
Arts>>Architecture>>Architectural structure

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