Pulau Satumu, or “one-tree island”, was formerly known as Coney Island. The origin of its name could have been derived from the Malay language with “sa” referring to satu (one) and “tumu” referring to the large mangrove tree, Bruguiera confugata.1 It is out of bounds except for Raffles Lighthouse staff and visitors with special permission. The island is located 23 km southwest of Singapore at its southernmost islet. It is on the South Channel Sea passage and marks the western entrance to the Singapore Strait.2
The foundation stone of Raffles Lighthouse was laid on 24 May 1854 by Colonel W. J. Butterworth, governor of the Straits Settlements. The island was originally thought to be too small for the lighthouse, having only a superficial area of 70 by 22 feet and being only 30 feet above sea level. However, the position of the island was considered optimal for the lighthouse. The light, a fixed bright dioptric light of the third order, was lit on 1 December 1855.3
By 1977, about 1 hectare of land around Pulau Satumu had been reclaimed to provide recreational facilities for port personnel. This island is one of several areas where material dredge from the sea was used to reclaim land and beaches. A lagoon was also created with nearby shower and toilet facilities.4
Malay: Setamu or Setumu or Situmbu5
English: Coney Island (historical)6
1. Victor R. Savage and Brenda S. A. Yeoh, Singapore Street Names: A Study of Toponymics (Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, 2013), 320 (Call no. RSING 915.9570014 SAV-[TRA]); Richard Ho, “'New' Island for Raffles Lighthouse,” New Nation, 27 April 1977, 2. (From NewspaperSG)
2. Tung Shi Yun, “Explore Three Singapore Lighthouses on the National Heritage Boards’ Lighthouses Trail,” Straits Times, 26 June 2014; Cheow Sue Ann and Fabian Koh, “Singapore Islands You May Not Have Heard Of,” 26 June 2014. (From Factiva via NLB’s eResources website)
3. Charles Burton Buckley, An Anecdotal History of Old Times in Singapore (Singapore: Oxford University Press, 1984), 520–6. (Call no. RSING 959.57 BUC-[HIS])
4. Ho, “'New' Island for Raffles Lighthouse”; Judith Holmberg, “Islands in the Sun,” New Nation, 3 December 1976, 10. (From NewspaperSG)
5. Savage and Yeoh, Singapore Street Names, 320.
6. Tung, “Explore Three Singapore Lighthouses.”
The information in this article is valid as of 2014 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.
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