Sabah, Or British North Borneo
east coast feet miles island territory
SABAH, or BRITISH NORTH BORNEO, is all that portion of the island of BORNEO (q.v.) which was formally recognized by the charter of incorporation granted in November 1881 as the territory of the British North Borneo Company. It has a coast-line of over 600 miles, and its area, still to a great extent unexplored,' is estimated at 30,000 square miles. Leaving out of account the deep indentations of the coast-line, it may be said to form a pentagon, of which three sides, the north-west, north-east, and south-east, are washed by the sea, while the remaining two sides are purely conventional lines drawn from Gura Peak (3° 50' N. lat., 116° 10' E. long.), the one almost due east to the Sibuco river, the other north-north-west to the mouth of the Sipitong on Brunei Bay. The latter separates the Company's territory from the independent sultanate of Brunei ; the former is the frontier towards the Dutch possessions.
The great central feature of Sabah is the magnificent mountain of Kinabalu (compare BORNEO) or Nabalu, built up of porphyritic granite and igneous rocks to a height of 13,698 feet, and dominating the whole northern part of the island, with all its profusion of lesser mountains and hills. Kinabalu, which has the appearance of two mountains, unites towards the east by a low ridge with "Nonohan t' agaioh (the great Nonohan) and the terminal cone Tumboyonkon (Tamboyukon)." These two summits are respectively 8000 and 7000 feet high, and there are others of considerable elevation in the same neighbourhood. At some 15 or 20 miles to the north rises Mount Madalon (5000 feet), separated from Kinabalu and the other igneous and metamorphic hills by a wide valley, and consisting of those aqueous rocks, limestones, sandstones, and clays which appear to occupy the whole country to the north. Westward from Kinabalu are hills between 1000 and 2000 feet in height, and about 40 or 50 miles south-east is an important group on the north side of the Labuk valley known as the Mentapok Mountains (30008000 feet). The whole surface of the country is channelled by countless streams whose precipitous ravines, boulder-strewn rapids, and enormous beds of rolled pebbles bespeak the denuding energy of tropical rains. The coasts are generally low and flat, and to a great extent lined with casuarina trees, with here and there a stretch of mangrove, a low sandstone or limestone cliff, or a patch of that great forest which in the interior still covers so large a portion of the territory. In the low grounds along the coast and also inland among the hills are vast swamps and watery plains, which in the rainy season, when the rivers rise 20 or 30 feet above their usual level, are transformed into lakes. On the west side of Sabah the principal rivers are the Padas and the Klias, debouching opposite Labuan, but quite unexplored in their upper courses ; the Papar (Pappar or Pappal), which passes the village of that name and enters the sea at Papar Point ; the Tampassuk, one of the first to be explored (see St John's Life in the Forests of the Far East) and remarkable for the waterfall of Pandassan or Tampassuk (1500 feet high, and thus one of the highest in the world), formed by its headwater the Kalupis. The Sekwati, a comparatively small river farther north, is well known for its oil-springs. At the northern extremity of the island the deep inlet of Marudu Bay receives the waters of the Marudu or Maludu river, which rises on the west side of Mount Madalon. On the east coast are the Sugut, which has its headwaters in the hills to the east of Kinabalu, and forms its delta in the neighbourhood of Torongohok or Purpura Island ; the Labuk, debouching in Labuk Bay, and having its sources in the highlands about 70 miles inland ; the Kinabatangan, with a longer course than any yet mentioned, rising probably between 116° and 117° E. long., and forming at its mouth a very extensive delta to the south of Sandakan Harbour ; and finally the Segama, the scene of Frank Hatton's death (1883). Farther south, and inland from Darvel Bay and Sibuco (or St Lucia) Bay, there are no doubt other rivers of equal, it may be superior, importance ; . such, to judge by its delta, is the Kalabakong, debouching opposite Sebattik Island. Most of the rivers mentioned are navigable for steam launches of light draught, but their value is frequently impaired by a bar near the mouth. Several of the natural harbours of North Borneo, on the other hand, are at once accessible, safe, and commodious. Sandakan Harbour, on the north-east coast (5° 40' N. lat. and 118° 10' E. long.), runs inland some 17 miles, with a very irregular outline broken by the mouths of numerous creeks and streams. The mouth, only 2 miles across, is split into two channels by the little island of Balhalla. The depth in the main entrance varies from 10 to 17 fathoms, and vessels drawing 20 feet can advance half-way up the bay. Just within the mouth, on the north side, lies Elopura (see below). At Silam, on Darvel Bay, farther-south, there is good anchorage. Kudat (discovered by Commander Johnstone, of H.M.S. " Egeria," in 1881) is a small but valuable harbour in Marudu Bay running inland for 2 or 3 miles, but rapidly shoaling after the first mile to 1 and 2 fathoms. It affords anchorage for vessels of any draught, but the frontage available for wharves is limited to some 1500 feet. In Gaya Bay, on the west coast, any number of vessels may lie in safety during either monsoon, the depths varying from 6 to 16 and 17 fathoms.
The climate of North Borneo is of course tropical, with a very equable temperature. The lowest minimum of the thermometer recorded in 1883 at Sandakan was 68-5 in December. The greatest interval without rain was eight days in March. The rainfall was 34l inches (157 in 1880) at Sandakan, 129 at Papar, and 120 at Kudat. In the interior it must often be much above these figures.
That North Borneo should prove rich in minerals was supposed probable from the character of some other parts of the island ; but hitherto investigations have not in this matter proved very successful. Coal or lignite exists, but most frequently in thin seams and insignificant pockets ; the petroleum springs cannot come into any true competition with those worked elsewhere ; gold has been discovered (1885) in the Segama river and may prove a stimulus to immigration ; iron-ores appear both abundant and at times productive ; and there are indications of the existence of copper, antimony, tin, and zinc ores. As yet the wealth of the country lies in its timber and jungle products (carriphor and gutta-percha in great quantities), and in its edible nuts, guano, sago, sugar, tobacco, coffee, pepper, and gambler. Tobacco is most successfully grown by the natives in the inland districts of Mansalut, Kandassang, Koporingan, Gana-Gana, Tomborongo, Karnahan, Penusak, Tiong-Tuhan, &c. ; and its cultivation has been taken up by several foreign companies. The birds'-nest caves of Gomanton (Gormanton) near the village of Malape on the Kinabatangan yield the Government a revenue of from $6000 to $7000 ; and other caves of the same kind are still unworked. As the natives (Dusuns, Tagaas-Bajaus, Idaan, &c.) are scattered, mostly in small villages, throughout the unexplored as well as the explored districts, their number can only be guessed, but it is usually stated -at 150,000. Since the formation of the company there has been a steady immigration, especially of Chinese from Singapore. At Elopura, the capital of the territory and of its East Coast residency, the inhabitants in 1883 numbered 3770 (1500 being Chinese and 1085 Sulus). Hong-Kong and Singapore steamers now call regularly at Sandakan, Gaya, and Kudat. In 1885 the territory was divided into Alcock province (in the north), Keppel province (along the west coast as far north as Kimanis Bay), the East Coast residency (to the south-east of Alcock and Keppel provinces), and Dent province (to the south-west of the East Coast residency with the coast from Kimanis Bay to Brunei Bay).
In 1865 an American company started by Mr Torrey obtained from the sultan of Brunei certain concessions of territory in North Borneo ; but this enterprise proved a financial failure and the settlement formed on the Kimanis river broke up. The rights of the American company were bought up by the Austrian Baron von Overbeck and the English merchant Mr Alfred Dent, who further obtained from the sultan of Brunei and the sultan of Sulu a series of charters conferring on them the sovereign authority in North Borneo under the titles of maharajah of Sabah, rajah of Gaya and Sandakan and Data Bandahara. In spite of the opposition of Spain, which claimed that the sultan of Sulu being a Spanish vassal could not dispose of his territory without her consent, the English company organized by Mr Dent succeeded in obtaining a charter of incorporation under Act of Parliament, 1st November 1881, as the "British North Borneo Company," with right to acquire other interests in, over, or affecting the territories or property comprised in the several grants.
The text of the charter will be found in the London Gazelle, 8th November 1881 and in the appendix to Mr Joseph Hatton'a New Ceylon (1881); see also Frank Hatton, North Borneo,1885; the Century Magazine, 1885; the Edinburgh Review, 1882; and the English Illustrated Magazine, 1825.