Kampung Minyak is the main reason I visited Kudat last month. I had seen hot water (hot spring) and mud (mud volcano) coming out from the ground, but I haven’t seen petroleum does that. The oil seepages are inside a tidal mangrove swamp nearby the Kampung Minyak (Oil Village). It is quite accessible, though you have to drive through a few KM of gravel and muddy road and take a 5 minute walk in a jungle trail to reach there.
From the photo above, you can see that there are 3 oil seepages. They are basically the same thing but look a bit difference to one another. The water at the left is darker. The one in middle is filled with murky water, probably due to the soil washed in by the rain. The one at the right is the biggest one and supposed to be the most active one. Because of vast amount of oil, the tar on top becomes harden, forming a layer of hard bitumen that seals the opening.
The smell of gasoline is quite strong here. At first impression, these wells look like the smelly ponds formed after a heavy rain around an greasy car junkyard. You can see oil films and lot of oil droplets on the water. And there are bubbles constantly float to the surface, suggest the presence of earth activity. I presume each bubble carries thin amount of oil and gas.
The surrounding soil of the seepages is greasy because of the oil deposit. They told me that in early 1900, strange black liquid seeping out from the earth astounded local community and they turned the site into a sacred ground.
According to the research by Joanes Muda: “village elders used to offer animal sacrifices for various reasons such as for healing from illness and for protection from diseases and other calamities. One-month old newborns were also brought to the area for anointing on the forehead with the black liquid. During those days, anyone visiting the site had to sacrifice a chicken and consumed it there.” (Source: Oil seepages at Kampung Minyak, Bulletin of the Geological Society of Malaysia 56 (2010) 49 – 52)
During World War II, the Japanese also tried to mine the oil here. Then they stopped suddenly because many of them died from a mysterious sickness. Another story says that the Japanese cooked with the oil, then the rice turned into sand in the following day.
Hopefully someone can do a detail documentation about its history, as I think the stories can be far more interesting than the little oil seepages.
There was oil company had surveyed this place. May be the reserve of the fossil fuel was not big enough for them to mine it.
According to them, this biggest oil seepage (see below) is very deep. Nobody knows how deep it is. They used measuring stick up to 100 feet but still didn’t touch the bottom. The tar is solid to stand on, even though you can feel that it is soft underneath.
They also build a shelter and 50-feet boardwalk at the site. If you go there, do take a look at the beautiful mangrove trees there. In fact, there was a team of Italy TV crew went there to document the place.
Photos taken in Kudat, Sabah, Malaysia Borneo