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Wednesday, July 15, 2009

THE SECRET TUNNELS OF MALACCA - FACT OR FICTION?

15th. July 2009

It will be very beneficial to Malacca if the secret tunnels linking St.Paul's Hill to St.John's Hill or from St.Paul's Hill to Stadthuys are found. During my school days in Melaka, we were often told that these tunnels exist. Even some stories that a dog on a long leash was sent down into a tunnel. After awhile, the leash was retrieved but the dog was not tied to the leash. Fact or fiction?

Moreover, if one goes to the top of St.Paul's hill, you can see a large arch on the floor of a room. This shows that the arch must be the top of a large room. Unfortunately, no excavation has been done to discover the existence of such tunnels.

If you have watched Discovery Channel - Cities Underground, we are quite sure when the Portuguese and Dutch ruled Malacca in the 15th.until 20th. Centuries, tunnel construction was an art form. Their cities are littered with underground tunnels and we are not surprised that they have the expertise in constructing such tunnels within the A Famosa.

The tunnels are invaluable in sending supplies and troops to engage the enemies. During any sieges of the fortification, they can still get supplies and men through. Logically, it make sense that these tunnels exist.

It will a great archeological find for Malacca if such tunnels are discovered. Wasn't it great to find the foundations of Middlesburg when it was accidentally found by piling works done for the Melaka Taming Sari Tower two years' ago?

If we start a systematic approach in digging for the tunnels or the foundations of Melaka Fort, it is a matter of time that they will be found.

14th. July 2009

Author Dennis De Witt: The Secret Tunnels Of Malacca – Fact or Fiction?

St Paul’s Hill in Malacca is a mountain of mysteries. Whether it is an unexplained little indented circular ground at the entrance of a fort, an unusual arch supporting the base of a pillar or a recycled tombstone bearing names of Portuguese as well as the Dutch, they hold secrets more intriguing than the Da Vinci Code. The story that there are secret tunnels below the streets of Malacca is fact and not myth.

The three beliefs that have been circulating in Malacca since the old days are that of a big hole at a certain gate (and that there was a large snake that ate people who entered the hole), a tunnel running from the Stadthuys to Malacca River and a tunnel running from St Paul’s Hill to St John’s Hill.

The tunnels are most probably catacombs used first by the Portuguese and then the Dutch. The fact that so many historians, including Munshi Abdullah, wrote about tunnels at St Paul’s Hill showed that there must be a grain of truth in the story.

Munshi Abdullah wrote in Hikayat Abdullah (1849) that one had to walk through a tunnel built into a hill to reach the elaborate residence of the Governor on St Paul’s Hill.

Four other historians — Gasper Correa, Reverend Father Georg Schurhammer, John Cameron and Reverend Father Rene Cardon — also wrote concretely of tunnels of sorts below St Paul’s Hill.

To really carry out proper studies into the tunnels, one must be able to read the old writings and records of Portuguese and Dutch now mainly in Europe.

I hope I can get the backing from bodies such as the Malacca Museum Corporation as well as Badan Warisan Malaysia to carry out more research on these tunnels.

Tour guides in Malacca can also fire up the imagination of tourists about these tunnels. The next time we visit Malacca, perhaps we should all carry a cangkul and start digging!

2 comments:

Dennis said...

In Holland, there are many old cities there with underground tunnels that were used for storage, interments and for strategic purposes. So, it may be said that tunnels are Dutch, like cheese and windmills. Because the Dutch were in Malacca for 160 years, even longer than the Portuguese or the British, it certainly gives credibility that during their time, they built tunnels in Malacca too.

Actually, digging up the core historic area in Malacca may not be a very good idea. I said that “we should all carry a cangkul and start digging” only as joke to fire up the imagination of the audience. Instead, it is now also possible to conduct research by using the latest technologies, such as the use of Ground Penetrating Sonar or Infrared Arial Imaging to try to get an idea of what is hidden below the ground.

In the meantime, I hope that the story of the Secret Tunnels of Malacca will help generate greater interest on the matter among Malaccans, the authorities and all who visit this amazingly legendary and historic place.

Regards,
Dennis De Witt

Unknown said...

True, the tunnel have underground offices for administration and making coins. When I was between 7-8 yes old in 1971-72, my famuly & I, went tthru the passageway asit was opened to public. But it was made out of wood. Can hear wooden creaking as we walk along....