Re-exploring relics of pre-war Singapore

Re-exploring relics of pre-war Singapore

FEB 14, 2015. We are trekking through light jungle on Mount Serapong in Sentosa, where a 19th century British gun battery once stood with its enormous cannon and impressive fortifications.

Waylaid by vines and harassed by ants, our group finally arrives at the concrete foundations of what formed the eastward defence of Singapore's Keppel Harbour.

Standing inside the emplacements, I imagine the atmosphere of that day 73 years ago when the artillerymen, irresolute and demoralised as the Japanese invaded from Malaya in the north, scribbled their final messages on the walls, destroyed equipment, and spiked their own guns.

A day later, the British surrendered to the Imperial Japanese Army and 80,000 Allied soldiers became prisoners of war.

The feeling of being so close to history fascinates urban explorers like Mr Harsadi Majid, 36, a designer who prefers to be known by his pen name Azyure D. Hikari.

"I want to create awareness about urban exploration and how it plays a part in learning about Singapore's history and heritage," he says.

Urban exploration - the survey of man-made structures which are often abandoned and derelict - is a hobby enjoyed by history and photography enthusiasts.

The Urban Explorers of Singapore (UESG), a group that took on its current name in 2009, has now 11 core members, including a logistician, an event manager, a student and a lecturer amongst others, says Azyure, one of the group's co-founders.

Many urban explorers prefer to venture solo, he says, and the headcount on his trips seldom number more than three or four at a time.

One challenge, says Azyure, is to keep track of developments to each of the eight sites his group has visited, and to continue to discover new ones despite their full-time work schedules.

Discoveries are documented on the group's website and Facebook page.

Only basic equipment is needed on most trips - cameras, GPS, and lights if they are exploring enclosed spaces. Ropes are carried only when absolutely necessary.

"Members go on these trips because they are interested in the place," he explains. "In addition to photography, we search for ruins and map the sites.

"One thing we have in common is that we all love the outdoors," he says.

This article was first published on March 7, 2015.
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