- Austrian colonisation of Nicobar Islands
Austrian colonisation of Nicobar Islands was a shortlived and unsuccessful attempt of
Austrian Empireto make Nicobar Islands(an island chain in the eastern Indian Ocean) their colony. The colony was established in 1778. This had previously been a Danish colony and Austria established it with the mistaken assumption that Denmarkhad abandoned its claims to the islands. However by 1783due to lack of support the last colonists left.
The start was made by
Maria Theresiaand Joseph II who, in the 1760s, wanted to set up trading posts in Asiafor the distribution of Austrian products. It was more a whim than a serious project since the largely land-based Austrian empire did not have adequate sea power to acquire, defend and supply remote possessions. More serious actors on the world wide colonial stage at that time were Spain, Portugal, Great Britain, Holland and France.
The Austrian Habsburg rulers chose the Dutchman
William Boltsas advisor. He had been active in the British East India Companybut had been convicted for trading with opium and dismissed. In 1774he travelled to Vienna to convince the inexperienced Austria of the feasibility of trade between Triesteand the Far East.
What had started as a secret project with a falsely British-flagged ship very soon collapsed. However, in 1778, after surmounting enormous difficulties, the Austrian vessel "Joseph and Maria" finally reached the Nicobar islands which had only recently been abandoned by the Danes. The Danes had given up there after losing most of their people to malaria.
12 July 1778the natives signed (with three crosses and in in front of witnesses) a document that ceded the four islands of Nancowry, Kamorta, Trinketand Katchalto Austria. The Austrian flag was run up on a nearby hill and 6 men besides cattle, arms and slaves were left behind to start the new Austrian colony.
1781the colonists complained about a lack of drinking water and food but Vienna took no notice and left its outpost to its fate. When the leader of the colonisation died in 1783, the attempt at starting an Austrian colony died with him.
Motivated by an urge to explore, Arch-Duke Ferdinand Maximilian of Austria in
1857sent the frigate "Novara" on a trip of scientific discovery around the world. On board was a team of the Austrian Academy of Sciences that had also received the additional task of looking out for possible locations for penal colonies.
1858the "Novara" reached Car Nicobar where the native had already learnt to hide their womenfolk at the approach of foreign visitors. The Austrian team sailed around the islands of Nancowry and Kamorta but did not try to occupy them. The ethnologist Karl von Scherzerbrought back 400 objects but despite his proposals, his plans of setting up a new Austrian colony there came to nothing.
1886, the Austrian corvette "Aurora" anchored in the harbour of Nancowry before continuing her voyage to the Far East. By that time the islands had already become British in 1869and there were no more Austrian plans for annexation.
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