Day 59

This is day two of three sea days after leaving Bali late because of the sand-bar incident. We bypassed Semarang and are heading straight for Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia. On the Captain’s noontime update, he hinted that the arrival time could be later than currently planned because of slight current running against us as we sail through the Java Straits, reducing our forward progress. Planned tours for the 6 and 8 hours excursions have been cancelled and only 2 or 3-hour tours are being offered, assuming that we arrive by 3 pm. Tomorrow’s noontime Captain’s message will provide another arrival time estimate and the likely impact upon shore excursions.

This morning’s enrichment lecture by Terry was “James Brooke – The White Rajah of Sarawak.” Britain had always been looking for ways to gain a trading advantage in the East Indies. They had sent ships into the Indian Ocean visiting Arabia and Malaysia as early as 1588, in spite of the Treaty of Tordesillas in 1493 (one year after Columbus) where Spain and Portugal asked Pope Borgia to arbitrate their claims to newly discovered lands. The Pope drew a line down the Atlantic Ocean on a paper map that was blank regarding the extent of the new lands. Everything west of that line was Spain’s and Portugal had everything east of that line.

Britain recognized the charter of the East India Company (EIC) and they set out in 1600 to set up trading posts. They used their naval power to discourage complaints from business rivals. In 1612, the defeat of Portugal at the Battle of Swally finally allowed access to India. In 1670, Charles II developed a new business model for the EIC granting them autonomous administrative and military powers to operate anywhere they can as long as they shared half of their profits. By 1720, the EIC represented 15% of all Britain’s imports. In 1803, after defeating the French at the Battle of Assage, Britain secured unhindered access to southern, western, and eastern India.

Now back to the main character, James Brooke, born 1803, in Calcutta. At age 12, his parents sent him to school in England, where he promptly ran away and was later found and home tutored. After his education, in 1819 he joined the military squadron of the East India Company as an Ensign. In 1825, he was severely wounded and sent to England to recover, but when he returned to India, he could not locate his EIC regiment, so he resigned. As good fortune would have it, he inherited L30,000 from an uncle and bought a ship he named Royalist and sailed to a place he named Brunei, because when he arrived, he was rumored to have said “Bar U Nah,” translated “That’s it.”

Some local history will set the table. Spain withdrew in 1578 and from 1660-1673 there was a civil war. Britain tried to settle matters but the tribal warfare was out of control. Brooke sailed into Kuching and the Sultan was impressed with the huge ship and heavy armament. Brooke refused this first request for help, but in 1843, he returned and agreed to help upon becoming the Governor of Sarawak. The Sultan also granted him complete sovereignty over his lands. He established his administration and sorted out the laws. He fought pirates viciously, killing them on-sight, and even secured British naval help. He believed that ridding the waters of pirates would greatly help commerce and bring some kind of peace to the common people. He tried to implement the British Anti-Slavery Act, which irritated the local Muslims as slavery was their way of life. The crime bosses who ran the extortion and piracy rackets were constant irritants. His supporter, the Sultan, was killed. He returned to England in 1847, where he received awards, medals, knighthood, and wide acclaim for his accomplishments in civilizing that small piece of the world. By 1851, some charges were brought against him for use of excessive force in his role in Brunei, but these were later dismissed in 1854.

Back in Brunei, he maintained personal control through 1862 until he named his nephew as his successor. In some form or another, the Brooke family line ruled Brunei through 1947. The country gained independence from being a British Protectorate in 1984.

The second lecture had a confusing title, “The English Patient, German Intelligence, and Pres. Anwar Sadat.” The English Patient was a movie where Hollywood butchered the facts to fit their script. The lecturer wanted to correct this, despite the fact that no one seems to have heard of this old movie. The true-life character was a Hungarian, Laszlo Almasy, an aerial cartographer and amateur archeologist who travelled extensively through SW Egypt and the deserts of Libya, discovering pre-historic cave drawings, in the 1930s. At the start of WW2, he joined the Nazi Airforce. He was given a mission to smuggle spies through Libya into southern Egypt, avoiding British troops, and get them to Cairo. He achieved this. The spies established their identities. They were successful in stealing British defensive plans, but their radio transmitter didn’t seem to work. The Egyptian military sent a young 22 year-old technician to fix it. His name was Anwar Sadat.

Eventually, Israeli spies discovered the Nazi spy ring and got MI6 to arrest the entire spy ring. After some persuasion, they became double agents for the British. Anwar Sadat was released from prison a couple of years later and reinstated in the Egyptian Army, with British approval.

The noontime card game was rewarding for Pat. After that, the Cruise Director heard that I have played ping-pong over the last few days and offered to play. We had two games. The scores were close, but in my favor. At 2pm, we agreed to meet three others to play our own game, Phase 10, which we played until the start of Trivia. Our team tied for first, a rare outcome, and we won more Regent points. Back in our suite, Pat relaxed in the partial sun for an hour on the balcony. After dinner, she went to the show while I worked on this entry.

(Pat here) Tonight’s show was one of the best, “World Beat,” featuring music and dance from around the world and ending with a terrific Irish dance routine. We have already seen this show twice, but I don’t think I will ever tire of it.

Tonight, at about 3AM, the ship will cross the Equator (south to north this time). In the morning on the pool deck, there will be the usual Pollywog initiation into the Shellbacks, followed by some type of department run games, raffles, and BBQ.

Yours in travel,

Pat & Mac