The Strait of Makassar, also known as Indonesian Selat Makassar or Macassar Strait, is a narrow passage found on the west-central Pacific Ocean in Indonesia. It is specifically located between the Borneo and Sulawesi islands in Indonesia. The strait extends about 500 miles northeast to southwest to the Java Sea from the Celebes Sea. The strait of Makassar is about 80 to 230 miles wide. Borneo’s Mahakam River empties its waters into the strait. There are several ports found along the Strait of Makassar, including Palu and Makassar in Sulawesi and Balikpapan in Borneo. Samarinda City, which is situated along the Mahakam River, is located about 30 miles from the strait.
The Extent of the Strait of Makassar
The Strait of Makassar is defined by the International Hydrographic Organization (IHO) as among the East Indian Archipelago waters. The strait’s limits are defined by the IHO as the channel between the West Coast of Sulawesi, formerly known as Celebes, and the East Coast of Borneo. It is limited to the north by a line connecting Tanjong Mangkalihat in Borneo and the Cape Rivers, also known as Stroomen Kaap, in Celebes. Similarly, the strait is bounded on the south by a line from the southwestern extreme of the Celebes passing through the southern point of Tana Keke to the southern extreme of Laoet, before going up the island’s west coast to Tanjong Kiwi, then finally across to Tanjong Petang in Borneo at Laoet Strait's southern end.
Significance in History
The Strait of Makassar is a deep waterway lying between a large number of islands, including Sebuku and Laut Islands. Balikpapan Island is Borneo’s primary settlement along the strait, while Makassar Island, also known as Ujungpandang, is the largest found along the strait in Celebes. The Strait of Makassar was the battleground in 1942 when the Japanese naval expedition fought the combined forces of the US and the Dutch military forces. The war went on for five days and the Allies were not able to stop the Japanese from landing in Balikpapan.
The War in Makassar Strait
The Battle of Makassar Strait was a naval warfare of the Second World War of the Pacific realm, and it is known by other different names such as the Battle of the Flores Sea, or the Action of Madura Strait, among other names. Towards the end of January 1942, Japanese forces had seized control over Borneo’s west and north coast and large areas of Muluku. On the east coast of Borneo, the forces had occupied the ports and oil facilities of Tarakan and Balikpapan, while on the side of Celebes they had occupied the Kendari and Menado cities. However, in order for the Japanese to seize full control of the Strait of Makassar, they required to capture the Benjarmasin and Makassar cities. On February 1, 1942, the Allied forces got word of Japanese invasion forces at Balikpapan from a reconnaissance plane. The Japanese had three cruisers, 10 destroyers, and 20 troop transport ships, and were preparing to sail. The aftermath of this battle between the US and Dutch Allied commanders against the Japanese resulted in the strike force’s retreat and the Japanese seizing control of the Strait of Makassar thus stiffening their hold on the western region of the Dutch East Indies.
About the Author
Benjamin Elisha Sawe holds a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and Statistics and an MBA in Strategic Management. He is a frequent World Atlas contributor.
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