All over the world, lakes have been the subject of folklore and legend. There is Loch Ness in Scotland and Danau Toba in Indonesia as well as Malaysia’s very own Tasik Dayang Bunting in Langkawi and Tasik Chini in Kuantan.
Sarawak has her own fair share of mythical lakes and one of them can be found about one hour from its capital city of Kuching.
Located in Bau, Tasik Biru (which means “blue lake” in Malay because of its colour) is not a natural lake but an open pit gold mine.
Its original name was Tai Parit or “big drain” in the Hakka dialect.
The gold mine was operated by the Borneo Company from 1898 until it was flooded in 1921.
Since it was flooded in 1921, many rumours and legends have been floating around about the lake.
The legends from underneath the lake
Chang Pat Foh wrote in The Land of Freedom Fighters that an old miner told a story about a human-shaped stone removed from the bottom of the lake.
Some believed that the stone was a deity named the King of Stone. The deity was angry that he was removed from the lake so he decided to flood the lake until it overflowed.
There were also rumours of three monsters appearing in Tasik Biru back in 1988. The large figures were reportedly about 3m long!
The tragedy long forgotten
Besides myths and legends, the lake was also witness to an awful tragedy.
On June 7, 1979, a bus carrying students and teachers from SMK Lake, Bau plunged into the lake in an accident.
The tragedy took the lives of one trainee teacher and 29 students.
A monument is planned to be erected near the lake in remembrance of the 30 victims.
Conspiracy theory about Tasik Biru
There is a signboard warning the public against swimming, fishing and bathing in Tasik Biru.
This is due to the fact that Tasik Biru has high levels of arsenic.
A local Chinese daily once reported a conspiracy theory about the arsenic warning. Apparently, there were people who believed that the lake was not actually polluted with arsenic and that the warning was made up to stop miners from excavating the large quantities of gold underneath.
Another piece of hearsay was that the state government was planning to dry up the lake to mine the gold.
Additionally, it was rumoured that people had discovered Japanese samurai swords and cannonballs from World War II, said to be thrown into the lake by the Japanese forces themselves during their occupation.
A home to Jong Regatta
Putting aside the legends and conspiracy theories surrounding the lake, one thing for sure is that visitors still make their way to Tasik Biru for the Bau Jong Regatta.
Jong is a miniature sailing boat some believe was inspired by the Royalist, a schooner owned by the first White Rajah of Sarawak, James Brooke.
The regatta, however, was first started by a colonial officer named A.J.N. Richards in the 1950s.
It was held several times over the past few decades until it was revived as an annual event in 2009.
The event is usually organised in the last quarter of the year so watch out for the this year’s date to visit this scenic (yet) arsenic lake.