Fort Concordia: forgotten outpost of empire

A carbon copy of Fort Hollandia, Fort Concordia on Banda Besar’s south-east coast in the village of Wajer/ Wayer was the last outpost of the VOC Empire, sitting as far as you could possibly get from Holland, thirteen and a half thousand nautical miles, or five months sailing, winds permitting. To be posted to this fort was probably not a positive on one’s CV.

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A sketch of Fort Concordia at Wayer from 1651, courtesy of de Wall’s book De Nederlandische Oudheden in de Moluccas

Banda Besar, the largest island of the Banda’s is shaped like a quarter moon facing north-west. The jungle-covered spine of the island, reaching up over 250m/820ft extends along the northern shore. There was much nutmeg beyond this range, and Fort Concordia was built in 1630 to control the spice-growing areas south of the hills. The southern coast is uninterrupted reefs so a landing by any attacker was unlikely, but the locals still needed to be kept in check.

A neat quadrilateral with 12m/40ft angled bastion faces, 3m/9ft flanks and 12m/40ft intervals between, the fort looked out to tiny Rozengain Island to the east from 7m/21ft above high tide. The walls reached up as high as 6m/18ft externally and were 2m/6ft thick – stone faced inside and out and earth filled.  There was an arched entry gate north and south and powder rooms under both eastern bastions. It too was shattered by an earthquake in 1732 and probably abandoned soon after. Its unlikely that anyone ever bothered to seriously attack Concordia.

Sailing water beyond the reefs lay about 2km offshore from the fort; beyond the effective range of this 12 pounder

Sailing water beyond the reefs lay about 2km/1.2mi offshore from the fort; beyond the effective range of this 9 pounder

 

Today, Fort Concordia stands  proud but neglected, its form still complete, but its fabric crumbling, naturally, considering it is nearly 400 years old and assailed by the monsoons. Its remoteness has protected it, and at least the villagers have had sufficient respect not to build up to its walls, or indeed, inside its grounds. Vegetation is encroaching, including a massive buttress-rooted tree that is taking over the sea wall. To get to Waer village you need to take the boat from Banda to Banda Besar, then get a motorcycle right along the island, climb up over the passes, and meander on down the south coast. You pass through some of the most picturesque scenery in all the Banda’s; nutmeg and kenari groves, quaint villages, tidy cottages. The south coast is particularly stunning with lush forests and plantations reaching up to the hills and coral reefs fringing the coast. If you have time, Concordia is a day well spent.