Sarawak’s most important historical monuments. MIRI WELL No. 1 - The Grand Old Lady -
struck oil on 22 December 1910.
In 1800s, Miri was an unknown fishing
village of a few families trading occasionally with passing ships. Miri
as the first oil town in Malaysia, this discovery has put Miri on the
road to progress.
The discovery of oil in
1910 on Canada Hill has a significant place in the history of modern
Miri. Canada Hill is where the oil industry in the Sarawak started, with
the successful drilling of well Miri-1 in December 1910. The growth of
the oil industry has helped to transform Miri from a small fishing
village at the turn of the 20th century into a modern and prosperous
town in the 21st Century. The first derrick constructed was
affectionately called 'The Grand Old Lady' and produced oil for 62
Since 1910, this Grand Old Lady located
150 meters above sea level, had witnessed various historic and physical
development which had taken
place in this oil-rich town of Miri, which now is not only known for the
"black gold" but also its attractive tourism industry.
It is believed that this well, now a monument, produced the first oil
found in the country on Dec 22, 1910 and continued pumping out the
precious commodity for the next 62 years producing 658,650 barrels of oil
before it was closed on Oct 31, 1972. At the time it ceased operations,
the "Grand Old Lady" was producing a mere seven barrels of oil a day.
Due to its sentimental value to the residents of Miri, the Sarawak state
government on July 10, 1985, restored the Grand Old Lady and accorded her
status as one of the state's important historical monuments.
The history of the Grand Old Lady dates back to the late 1800s when the
then Baram Resident, Claude Champion de Crespigny found that there was oil
in the Baram region.
Centuries before he noted this, the indigenous people living in and around
Baram region had been using the oil as fuel, calling it "minyak tanah".
In 1888, Charles Hose who took over as the subsequent Baram Resident
continued Crespigny's work and before retiring, Hose did another intensive
study about the presence of oil there.
Soon after retiring, Hose requested permission from the then Sarawak White
Rajah, Sir James Brooke to present his studies to the Anglo-Saxon
Petroleum Company, an oil exploration company based in London.
In 1909, Hose returned to Miri, this time bringing along geologist, Dr
Josef Erb, and after several series of studies the expert was convinced
that the Baram region including areas surrounding Miri was rich in oil.
Erb then decided to build an oil well on top of the hill and a Canadian,
by the name of McAlpine, was assigned to erect the well. The hill was
named Canada Hill, honoring his contribution.
On Aug 10, 1910, McAlpine successfully completed a 87-metre high wooden
tower -- now known as the Grand Old Lady -- and soon after drilling work
started using the cable tool method, the only available drilling technique
known at that time.
After several months of drawing blanks, they struck oil from the grounds
of the hill on Dec 22, 1910 at a depth of 150 meters.