Borneo - Climate and Health
In spite of the equatorial position of the island its climate is nowhere oppressive, and in many places might almost be called temperate. At Pontianak, for example, which is almost under the equator, the mean reading of the thermometer is 83°, while it varies from 76° to 79° at sunrise, and hardly ever, even at noon, exceeds 92°.
The difference between the rainy season and the dry is not rigidly marked; the atmosphere is moist all the year round, and while, on the one hand, there is hardly a day of continuous downpour, there is hardly, on the other hand, a day without a shower. During the rainy season, which extends from November to May inclusive, the torrents, while they last, are tremendous, and the wind is frequently violent.
Over such an extensive area there is, of course, great variety in the climatic character of different districts, especially when viewed in relation to health. Some places, as Bidi, for example, are notoriously unhealthy; but from the statistics of the Dutch Government it appears that the European has in general no more to fear in Borneo than in the island of Java.
Among the native races the prevailing diseases are principally those that arise from bad food or want of cleanliness. Scrofula is common throughout the country, and elephantiasis is frequently met with on the coast. Smallpox, dysentery, and fevers are the usual epidemics; and ophthalmia sometimes attacks whole tribes. About a sixth of the native population in some quarters suffer from a kind of ringworm, called kurab, which is identified with herpes farinosus. Consumption is not uncommon.
Borneo - Minerals
The mineral wealth of Borneo is great and varied, including diamonds, gold, platina, quicksilver, cinnabar, copper, iron, tin, antimony, petroleum, sulphur, rock-salt, marble, and coal.
Landak and Pontianak are the best diamond districts, and Sambas, Landak, Montrado, and Borneo Proper furnish the greatest quantity of gold. The annual amount of gold collected in the island cannot be ascertained; but the amount exported from Bruni [Brunei] in 1870 was 5789 dollars.
Coal of excellent quality is found in the valleys of the Banjermassin, the Kuti, the Gunong-Tebur, and the Melawi, as well as in Sarawak, and in the island of Labuan. The Kuti deposit was discovered in 1845 or 1846 above Samarinda, and has since been struck in a number of places along the main river and several of the tributaries. A mine was opened at Pelarang, but does not seem to be at present worked. Another, however, at Pengaron, on the Riam Kiva, yields annually about 9000 or 10,000 tons. The coal-fields in Borneo Proper were conceded to Sir James Brooke in 1846, and since 1868 have been in the hands of the Oriental Coal Company, which has as yet taken no advantage of its rights.
Antimony was discovered to be a Bornean product by Mr J. Craufurd, the well-known geographer, who, in 1825, learned that a quantity had been brought to Singapore by a native trader as ballast. The supply is practically unlimited, and the chief mine is at Bidi in Sarawak.
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Borneo - Table of Contents