The earliest people in Pulau Banyak lived on the biggest island
Pulau Tuangku. They probably arrived from Simeulue in the northwest.
In the 18th century Tuangku was a minor kingdom controlled by the
Sultan in Banda Aceh. It functioned as a transit point for slave
traffic from Nias to Aceh. As a result, the population is a mix of
several ethnic groups. The population of Desa Ujung Sialit came
however directly from Nias in the first half of the last century.
Tourism started to develop in 1994 and reached its height in 1997
with almost 1.000 visitors per year. After that tourism all over
Indonesia, especially in Sumatra, started to decline due to the Gulf
War, smoke from burning forests, new visa rules, and increasing
political unrest in Aceh. The martial law in Aceh between 2002 and
2005 killed all tourism. What was left of bungalows fell apart and
were finally washed away by the tsunami in the end of 2004.
SOME TALES FROM THE ISLANDS
There are many sea ghosts (Hantu Laut) in Pulau Banyak and they
get the blame for many bad things. There are both female and male
sea ghosts. These ghosts are not human, but instead are some kind of
fish ghosts. The female ghost is called Bundung. Her evil specialty
is to climb the masts of ships. Up in that position she is visible,
but otherwise not. Up in the mast she can attract lightning to the
ship or she can empty her bowels over the ship. The excrement looks
like palm oil and the end result is that the ship sinks.
The male ghost is called Ka'aswin. He can be seen at the start of
storms. He has one eye, which appears as a green light. if you come
too close it turns red instead and then it can be very dangerous.
Ka’aswin influences your brain and can cause boats to sail aground.
He can also give you a fever. If a fisherman sees the eye he says
the name "Ka'aswin" repeatedly.
The crocodile ghost (Hantu Buaya) can enter a crocodile and make
it vicious. The last crocodile on Palambak Besar disappeared in the
beginning of the 70ies, but according to some people there is one
still left, living together with a crocodile ghost, somewhere on
Palambak Besar. The last time it was seen was in 1990, but its bad
breath can sometimes be felt at the beach. Unfortunately, for the
crocodile, he cannot get out of the jungle because too much
vegetation has grown up. His genitals get stuck in the branches.
The last crocodile on Rangit Besar was killed in the seventies.
it was caught by Pak Silong, a crocodile "Pawang". (Pawang is a
person who can communicate with animals). He used a chicken as bait
on a hook. The crocodile was nine "hesta" long. One “hesta” is the
distance between a grown up’s elbow and fingertips, hand held flat
out. According to another version the crocodile was killed by an old
woman with a piece of wood from a magic tree. She just hit the
crocodile in the head three times and it died.
In the old time, when a fisherman met a crocodile at sea, he used
to say: "Jauh nenek, jauh, saya pergi cari makan" (Go away grand
mother, go away, I am just looking for food.)
In Bangkaru there were many ghosts. Until 20-30 years ago people
used sailing boats to go there. There were always three persons an
board. One of them was a "Dukun" (A traditional healer with
supernatural powers). His role was to protect them all from all the
devils and ghosts on Bangkaru and to make the waves smaller. The
devils used to call the visitors with human voices and tried to make
the visitors follow the sound. The Dukuns did a good job, as no one
ever got lost and only one person ever drowned at Pelanggaran.
>> SEE ALSO