Staat River Suspension Bridge, Bau, Sarawak, 

Malaysia

 

Location, near  Kampung Serpak

                N 1° 21’ 32’’

                W 110° 11’12’’

Spans the Staat River

Span  200 feet (60m)     

Width 6 feet (1.8m)

Built 1900-1910

 

Evidence that this was a Harper bridge: definite

 

I am indebted to Ib Larsen and David Denenberg (Bridgemeister) for bringing this bridge to my notice and to Ib Larsen, Louise Teo and others for their research into its origin since 2005 when they came across the bridge. Since then they had researched extensively and came across references to an earlier ‘high bridge’ in the 1870-80s. However, the bridge identified is clearly later. 

An account of 1878 refers to a ‘high bridge’ at the site of the present bridge, but its appearance suggests a date of around 1898-1900. This bridge might have replaced an earlier bridge – indeed it might have been one of John Harper’s. 

 

Tegora03-300x225.jpg

Many of Harper’s bridges found their way to coffee and rubber plantations in Africa and Ceylon (Sri Lanka). The and it was no surprise to learn that the Dahan Rubber Estate developed in Sarawak from 1901. The bridge lay on the track to the Tegora Mine. The Tegora Mine in Sarawak in the 19th and earlier part of the 20th century mined cinnabar (mercury) and antimony. By that date the activity in the mine was on the wane and a new bridge might have been hard to justify.

 

On balance, the odds are that this particular bridge was commissioned by the Dahan Rubber Estate (Sarawak Rubber Company), who had an extensive concession alongside the Tegora trail from the 1890s.  The bridge was completed in the summer of 1904. The previous November work on the foundations was started but was found to be unsatisfactory and weak, given the state of the banks. Rains then stopped work and it was not until April 1904 that concrete foundations were built.  At that stage the ‘ironwork’ was not on site. This from the Sarawak Gazette of May 1904:

‘I visited Puak on the 31st Instant, and found the Staat Suspension Bridge had been finished, except for the approaches on either side. These I understand are being constructed in Kuching of billian (wood), the bridge looks extremely well and is of great strength, but so fine a structure comes on one as a surprise in such an out of the way place as Puak.’

 

In the Sarawak Gazette of 1907, there is reference to decking being renewed on the bridge – only three years after it was built.  In 2005 the deck was of bamboo although the approaches were solid.

Staat River Suspension Bridge2.JPG
Staat River Suspension Bridge 1.JPG

The Tegora Mine in Sarawak in the 19th and earlier part of the 20th century mined cinnabar (mercury) and antimony. During the war the Japanese reopened the mine and repaired the bridge.  The bridge is still open according to recent accounts.

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