Originally set up as the residential headquarters for the British administration of the Indian Penal Settlement in the Andaman Islands, Ross Island is now abandoned entirely. The residential structures remain, old houses, a church, a bazaar, stores, a large swimming pool and a small hospital, though their brick is slowly being overtaken by the roots of wild Ficus plants.
The island is named after surveyor, Sir Daniel Ross, and was inhabited initially in 1788-89 after Archibald Blair’s survey of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Owing to inclement weather conditions, however, the mortality rate was very high and the settlement was soon abandoned.
In 1887 it was repopulated, following a resolution to set up a jail and penal colony there under British administration, following a number of uprisings by Indians. The island was continuously inhabited and controlled by the British until March 1942, when Japanese troops invaded and took control of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands including Ross. Remnants of bunkers constructed by the Japanese remain.
When WWII came to a close, the island was once again under the control of the British and following the independence of India, was transferred to the Indian government. Ross Island was uninhabited by either Japanese or British at that time and remained so until 1979 when the island was handed over to the Indian Navy. A small base named INS Jarawa was subsequently established. In 1993, a museum was also set up on the island.
Today the island is open to visitors, and contains several brick walkways crisscrossing the settlement. There a number of small shops with water and food supplies, and ferries run every hour or so from Port Blair, the main outpost of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. As it is also a naval base, visitors are required to sign-in upon entry and exit, and the island is closed to tourists at night.
Know Before You Go
About 2km south from Port Blair, the chief settlement of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.