November 27, 2010

Nodding Donkeys of Seria

Whenever I travel along the road to Bandar Seri Begawan I must always have a look at the pretty nodding donkeys in Seria. Somehow they seem to be speaking to me....and asking me to bow my head in agreement and also in submission to the great God Above. I just don't understand why they give me that message.

No one before the First World World could imagine that the swamps of Seria (which was then nipah swamp and peat soil wilderness with some kampongs sprinkled here and there) would become one of the richest oil producing areas in the world. Oil was discovered in Miri in 1910 and soon some exploration was undertaken in Brunei and it was only in 1929 that oil was first drawn from Brunei soil at Seria and commercial production began  in 1932.Today there are still some of these (working) nodding donkeys left to remind passersby that there is oil under the soil

A pumpjack (also known as nodding donkey, pumping unit, horsehead pump, beam pump, sucker rod pump (SRP), grasshopper pump, thirsty bird and jack pump) is the overground drive for a reciprocating piston pump installed in an oil well.

It is used to mechanically lift liquid out of the well if there is not enough bottom hole pressure for the liquid to flow all the way to the surface. The arrangement is commonly used for onshore wells producing relatively little oil. Pumpjacks are common in many oil-rich areas, dotting the countryside and occasionally serving as local landmarks.

Depending on the size of the pump, it generally produces 5 to 40 litres of liquid at each stroke. Often this is an emulsion of crude oil and water. The size of the pump is also determined by the depth and weight of the oil to be removed, with deeper extraction requiring more power to move the heavier lengths of sucker rods (see diagram at right).

A pumpjack converts the rotary mechanism of the motor to a vertical reciprocating motion to drive the pump shaft, and is exhibited in the characteristic nodding motion. The engineering term for this type of mechanism is a walking beam. It was often employed in stationary and marine steam engine designs in the 18th and 19th centuries.

10 Things you must know about Seira:
1. Seria is a town in the Belait District of Brunei Darussalam. Its full name is Pekan Seria in full (Pekan is the Malay word for "Town"). Seria was originally known as Padang Berawa which is Wild Pigeon's Field in Malay. The name "Seria" comes from the river located very near where oil was first discovered in the area in 1929. Official correspondence by the people that made the oil discovery stated that it was found in "Seria", and thus the name of the area became known as "Seria".

2. The famous Penaga School and the Shell Headoffice are found in the Penaga area to the west of Seria town
3. A very interesting episode in the history of Seria is related to the first landing of the Japanese invasion force during WW2 in Borneo. It was not Jesselton which attracted the Japanese but Seira.The Left Flank of the "Kawaguchi Brigade" came ashore about 04.40 on the 16th December 1941, nine days after Pearl Harbor. They were faced with a scene of devastation of the oilfields due to "Operation Denial" carried out by employees of the British Malayan Petroleum Company (now Brunei Shell Petroleum) and the 2nd Battalion, 15th Punjab Regiment, and British Army Royal Engineers. The invasion force continued oil drilling units and restoration of the oilfields began immediately under Sato, Chief Engineer. Over the next three years the Japanese restored production to nearly pre-war levels, the activity being hectic as other sources of supply to the Japanese war machine were closed off, so much so that most of the oil fuelling the Japanese in the last 6 months of the war came from Seria. Operation "Ha-Go 2", the Japanese denial exercise commenced on 10th June 1945, the day of the Australian liberation forces landing at Muara. The fires could be seen 100 km out to sea. When the Australian 9th Division eventually entered Seria on the 29th June, the situation was chaotic, with 38 oil well fires, demolished buildings and wrecked installations. By the 17th August, when American Fire fighting teams (Patton and son) arrived, 26 of the fires had been put out by oilfield staff assisted by a Detachment of the Australian Royal Engineers. By November, production was restored, albeit stored in temporary tanks, and oil export to Lutong recommenced on the 11th December 1945.

5. Another event also placed Seria in the historical and political chronology. Seria was also one of the centres of a small rebellion against the monarchy on December 8, 1962, which was suppressed by the British Army. This event became known as the Brunei Revolt.

6. A special mention should be made about the Canadian Houses area along Jalan Tengah. This area consists of Shell housing facilities built in the style of Canadian log houses. The timber used to construct these houses were imported from Canada.

7. There is also a Gurkha Garrison in Seria.

8. Kampong Baru is located to the east of Seria on the left banks of Sungai Bera. This is a mainly Chinese and Iban area. The old wooden railway, built by the Japanese to Badas, runs through Kampong Baru.

9. Birds and Hornbills in Sungai Bera. Sungei Bera  is an industrial area to the north of Kampong Baru and the north-east of Seria municipal area. It contains the only oil refinery in Brunei.

The Sungei Seria estuary is one of the finest areas in Brunei for observing migrating birds.

and it is delightful to know something rather amazing. If you are interested in sighting hornbills in Borneo...Seria is the place to go to. The Panaga area has a resident population of Hornbills, the only area in the world where Hornbills live in proximity to humans.

10. The route and remnants of a wooden railway from Seria to Badas that was built by the British Malayan Oil Company (now Brunei Shell Petroleum) before the war to service the water supply to Seria from the Badas pumping station on the Sungai Belait are still visible. BMP staff hid essential components of the railway from the Japanese during WW2 who therefore were unable to restore it so it fell into disrepair. When the liberation forces of the Australian 9th Division arrived, these components miraculously re-appeared and the railway was quickly restored to action to carry two 25 pounder guns and ammunition to Badas, to harry a Japanese contingent that was still in the area.

Hope you like this write up about Seria...and come and see the only working Nodding Donkeys in Borneo!!


sintaicharles said...

Thanks for the valuable information about Seria. On my regular trips to visit my mother in Seria, I always see the nodding donkeys.My Mum worked in the Gurkha Garrison for fourteen years.Now she is a caretaker in the old folks' home beside the church of our lady.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Hi Charles
It is nice to hear about your Mum. Hope she is happy and enjoying her selfless life....also God bless you and your loved ones...

Seria is a lovely place...and once in a while I pop in at Naafi.

Anonymous said...

Yi, these were very impressive when I first visited Seria. Are they all still productive? Is that your own concoction: nodding donkeys? Great description and photos

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Hi Vivien...
No they are really called Nodding Donkeys...thanks...will write to you when i am back in Miri. When are you leaving for NZ?
May be you should visit Brunei one day.

Ah Ngao said...

at dusk,they looks like robots

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Hi Ah Ngao...
These two photos were taken against the they look a little dark...yes they do look like robots...and don't all machinery?

thanks for your visit.

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