Tidal Bore Research Society

Every river has its legends, and the local legend which personifies the creation of the Batang Lupar benak is as imaginative as any, highlighting the conflict between the boatman and the great natural phenomenon.

It has only been as a result of the Komori report of 1979, for the Malaysia Drainage and Irrigation department, that the four Sarawak benaks have been documented. However, much earlier, in 1949, the British writer, Somerset Maugham actually experienced the benak on the Batang Lupar, and narrowly avoided drowning.

Copyright http://www1.sarawaknet.gov.my
The Legend of the Benak

A local legend states that once upon a time, Benak, his wife and their son were strolling along the Batang Lupar, in the Sri Aman division of Sarawak, when they accidentally hit and capsized a native, spilling him into the Batang Lupar.

Angered by this, the native, a local Iban man, vowed to avenge his misfortue and kill Benak and his family.

The next morning, the Iban man hid himself on the Batang Lupar to await the arrival of Benak and his family. Unaware that he was waiting for them, Benak and his family were unexpectedly attacked by the local, and Benak was slain.

But, his wife and child managed to escape, and every day since they stroll the Batang Lupar with great ferocity, and no compassion for the local boatmen that frequent the waters.

The Yellow Streak

Published in 1949, the English novelist Somerset Maugham's Borneo Stories series contains a short story entitled The Yellow Streak. In it Maugham relates his near-death experience when he encountered the Benak on the Batang Lupar.

The writer was paying a visit to the Third White Rajah, Rajah Brooke, in 1924. At the Rajah's invitation, Maugham was travelling by boat along the Batang Lupar, rowed by prisoners of the Rajah, to the town of Simanggang (now known as Sri Aman).

During his voyage, Maugham unexpectedly encountered the mighty tidal bore, was thrown from the boat, and narrowly avoided drowning. The account in The Yellow Streak illustrates Maugham's oppinion of the benak, and that it clearly upset him nearly bringing his eminent writing career to an abrubt and untimely end.

Gushing Roar of Sarawak's Tidal Bore, By Martin Yee, New Strait Times Press, 21st February 2000
Brunei: Tidal Bore Fest, Borneo Bulletin, 6th June 2001, Copyright 2001 FT Asia Intelligence Wire

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