Ross Island was once an administrative capital of Andaman Islands during the British rule. The currently uninhabited island has had a glorious history in the past. Today, when we visit the island, we can see the glimpses of the history, and the reason for its abandonment! The British wanted to build a jail so that they could house all those who opposed their rule in India. When looking for a places to build the same, they discovered several islands around Port Blair. While Viper Island was chosen to house the jail, Ross Island was chosen to build the British Headquarters of the region. About 200 Indian freedom fighters were deported to Ross Island and were made to develop a township. Once the township was developed, the British used to stay and rule from that island!
The development work at Ross Island began in 1858 and prisoners were forced to build the township. The whole island was transformed to closely resemble a British town. The island had houses, offices, club houses, bakeries, stores, church, cemetery and everything else that the British would not want to miss when they were away from their homeland. The British ruled from Ross Island for more than 80 years. However, the nature was against the development. A huge earthquake that occurred in 1941 completely ruined the island and the settlement. British then moved their capital to Port Blair after abandoning Ross Island. Ross Island was then captured by the Japanese during World War II, and after about 3 years, the island was handed back to the British!
Today, Ross Island is controlled by the Indian Navy. It was opened for tourism in 1993. Ever since, lot of curious visitors come to this island to know more about the bygone era. As you enter the Ross Island after getting down the ferry, you can see well paved routes that takes you to important places within the island.
As you proceed along the pavement, you can see the ruins of various buildings (houses, offices etc). For adventurists and explorers, it gives you awesome opportunities to wander around the ruins. You will be surprised by the way the roots of several trees have grown over the erstwhile houses and offices. It looks as if the trees have captured the building from all the sides and have demolished them (reminding humans that they cannot spoil the nature in the name of development)!
Erstwhile Printing Press
Erstwhile Power House
One of the issues the British faced when staying at Ross Island is that their skin was allergic to the sea water of this area. While the prisoners and workers of Indian origin did not face any issue with the water, many from the British origin were allergic to it. The allergy was so severe that there were many instances of death (from children to adults) due to this water. It is then that the British decided to have a water distilling plant in Ross Island, again, which is now ruined.
Water Distilling Plant
You can also get a glimpse of the sea from various ruined buildings. You can get close to water, but avoid getting into it as it is very deep!
As you walk along further, much to your surprise, you will see the amazing fauna of Ross Island. Spotted deers and peacocks are found in abundance here. Unlike the deers that are found elsewhere in the country, at Ross Island they are very friendly. They allow visitors to come close and play with them. Of course, they would be seeing visitors everyday and maybe they are used to it. The peacocks and peahens too seemed very friendly and do not hesitate to give pose to the cameras of the visitors.
How to reach?
Ross Island can be easily reached through a ferry from Port Blair. Several ferry operators have “3-island tour” or “2-island tour” which includes Ross Island. Since these are group tours you will be given some time (typically 60-90 minutes) to visit the island and come back. For the curious visitors like me, that is a short time to explore the whole of the island.
There are also options for hiring a private boat to Ross Island, but that may turn out to be very expensive!
Where to stay?