Sentinelling the Century-old Waglan Island: Stories about Lighthouse Keepers, Weather Observers, Telecommunication Technicians and Navy Forces

RESEARCH TEAM
PI: DR. KATHERINE Y. DENG
ADVISORS: IR DR. S.W. POON, IR K.F. MAN, IR K.Y. MA, MR. T.W. TSIN, Mr. W.M. LEUNG, MRS. ADA K.Y. YAU
PHOTOGRAPHERS: MR. WILSON WO

PREFACE

Small yet strategic, the Waglan Island is home to the largest lighthouse Compound, and the meteorological observation and recording base of Hong Kong Observatory since 1893 and 1907 respectively. This project aims to appreciate Waglan’s variegated values in architectural, historical, humanistic, geographical, meteorological and navigational dimensions to all walks of life; and to pay long-overdue homage to its variegated staff sentinelling the frontiers over one and a quarter centuries. Findings of cross-continental archives, oral histories from concerned personnel, and visits to the Island will be exchanged with schools, professionals, heritage organisations via online talks/lectures, mini-videos and the media (newspaper and TV).

Project Background

A small island five kilometers south-east of Cape D’ Aguilar and 12 kilometers from Lei Yue Mun, the Waglan Island was among the first choice of Hong Kong Government to build a lighthouse in the 1860s. After decades of territorial negotiations, the lighthouse was built by Imperial Maritime Customs Service (IMCS) and the light was lit on 9 May 1893.

Given Waglan’s frontier location, weather observations had been made since 1907 on the Island by lighthouse staff and telegraphed to Hong Kong Observatory (HKO). After the Second World War, a new weather station was in operation by HKO until 1963. It is popular even today to be reminded by the wind speed recorded on the Island as a signal to the severity of an approaching typhoon.

During the heydays, people stationing on the Island included lighthouse keepers and attendants, staff from the Observatory, technicians from Cable and Wireless Limited in maintaining the telecommunication equipment, and a small navy force for a short duration.

From 1989 the operation of the lighthouse and the weather station have become automated. Since then the Island has become deserted with only regular visits of technical staff for equipment maintenance.

The lighthouse has been well known to the seafarers in this region and has provided an important signal to them over 125 years. The weather information collected on Waglan provides an early warning and preparation to Hong Kong particularly on the safe operation of the old Kai Tak Airport. Even the residents in Shek O can tell the difference between the sound of the present fog horn compared with the previous one in the foggy nights.

Nevertheless, from the date the light was lit until full automation, the activities and the life of the man-only workforce on the Island remains a mystery, partially due to its isolation and resultant difficulty in communication and landing on the Island.

This research is based on the study of the archives and interviewing the people concerned in order to report the stories about the history of the Lighthouse and the people working on the Island.

  1. The e-pamphlet“The Waglan Island: The Lights, the Elements and the Men”  26mins (English Version)
  2. Video Talk“The Waglan Island: The Lights, the Elements and the Men橫瀾島之日與夜”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_o8JfG28kFU

網上專題講座:横瀾島的日與夜 (Chinese)

Part 1  1 hr 37mins   

https://www.facebook.com/watch/live/?extid=SEO—-&v=2636172190031091&ref=watch_permalink

Part 2  10 mins          

https://www.facebook.com/cache.org.hk/videos/372320927192794

Beyond Building Failures: From Destructive to Instructive

Knowledge Exchange Impact Project 2019/20
Title: Beyond Building Failures: From Destructive to Instructive
Project Coordinator: Dr. Katherine Deng

Abstract:
Sensational building failures never fail to attract attention throughout the construction industry and beyond, because of fueled concern over the safety of everyone’s own built environment. This project intends to make destructive failures instructive to the public and especially to the younger-generation engineers. Based on decades of extensive research, practice and community services on construction failures and building collapses, historic and topical failure cases in Hong Kong and nearby places will be presented from a layperson’s perspective through talks, seminars and guided tours for the public, members of professional bodies, practitioners, designated secondary school teachers and students, and public policy makers.

Topic 1: A story triggered by faulty couplers – Safety considerations at design (by Prof. Francis T. K. Au, Department of Civil Engineering, HKU)

Topic 2: Construction safety – A recent court case (by Mr. H.K. Lee, Department of Real Estate and Construction, HKU):

Topic 3: Building failure (Part 1); Building failure (Part 2); Falsework collapse; Waterdam (by Dr. S. W. Poon, Department of Real Estate and Construction, HKU):

Topic 4: The Collapse of the 5th Elevation: A Green Roof Case Revisited (by Dr. Katherine Deng, Department of Real Estate and Construction, HKU):

Saving Our Maritime Icons – A Panoramic View of Heritage Lighthouses in Hong Kong

Lighthouse

A lighthouse is a tower, building, or a structure designed to emit light from a system of lamps and lenses, and to serve as navigational aid for maritime pilots at sea or on inland waterways.

  • Lighthouses mark dangerous coastlines, hazardous shoals, reefs and safe entries to harbours, and can assist in aerial navigation.
  • Once widely used, the number of operational lighthouses has declined due to the expense of maintenance and use of electronic navigational systems (e.g. Global positioning system, radar).

(Wikipedia)

Use and Feeling of Lighthouses

  • Guide ships in the right direction
  • Reliable indicator of the course and position
  • Avoid danger
  • Historical significance
  • Warm feeling
  • Represent light and hope

Lighthouse construction

  • Materials of tower structure: brick, granite, concrete, cast iron, metal frame.
  • Tower foundation: strip or raft foundation
  • Spiral staircase: granite, concrete, metal
  • Lens: refractive condensing lens made by crystal glass to magnify the light
  • Vent: inside the lamp room to emit high heat generated by the lamp
  • Rotation mechanism: rotator or hammer
  • Glass curtain: protects the lamp from wind, rain and erosion from the sea
  • Cover: shape-umbrella, dome, conical. Primarily made from copper-based material, with ventilation hood, exhaust pipe, lightning rod, direction indicator, wind vane.
  • Colour: White, red, black, and their combination

 

The History and Heritage of Quarrying in Hong Kong

The History and Heritage of Quarrying in Hong Kong
石頭記 – 礦故 · 識今

Quarrying in Hong Kong

Quarries have been in existence long before the British’s arrival, mainly because of the quality and abundance of the local granite. In 1844, the quarrying industry was taxed not just as a source of revenue, though minimal, but more importantly as an assertion of sovereignty.

Quarries were then leased through tendering or public auction on an annual basis first on the Hong Kong Island, followed by all quarries in Kowloon Peninsula after 1860. In 1902 the quarry leases were split further into small groups rather than geographic area, and were extended to two years or more.

Initially granite blocks were used as a principal material in building and infrastructure construction. In the 20th Century the use of granite changed due to a great demand of aggregates in concrete production.

Disclaimer

The copy of documents contained in this presentation were
photocopied from the original documents (books, journals, reports, pamphlets, publications, photographs, etc.) or
downloaded from public websites for research purpose only.
Reproduction, storage, distribution or transmission in any form or by any means, including photocopying, or other
electronic or mechanical means, of any of the documents in this presentation for commercial uses should obtain prior written permission from appropriate copyright owners.

Acknowledgements

The pamphlet is financed by
The Knowledge Exchange (KE) Funding for Impact Project of HKU (KE-IP-201819-5):
The History and Heritage of Quarrying in Hong Kong

The related research work was financed by the following grants from The Lord Wilson Heritage Trust
for the following projects:
The History of Quarrying in Hong Kong 1840 – 1940 (2010) Quarrying in Hong Kong Since Second World War (2013)
The Culture and Heritage of Quarrying in Hong Kong (2015)

Historic Lighthouses in Hong Kong

Historic Lighthouses in Hong Kong

Interdisciplinary Knowledge Exchange Project Fund
(KE-ID-2015/16-1)

Faculties: Architecture and Arts

Coordinators:
Dr F F Ng and Dr P A Cunich

Research Team:
Dr S W Poon and Dr Y Deng
Ir K F Man, Ir K Y Ma, Mr T W Tsin
Prof W M Leung, Mr J Farrell

Photographer:
Mr Wilson Wo

URL: Historic Lighthouses in Hong Kong

Commemorating the Centenary of Tai Tam Tuk Reservoir – The Dam and the People

RESEARCH Commemorating the Centenary of Tai Tam Tuk Reservoir – The Dam and the People

TEAM
PI: DR. KATHERINE Y. DENG
ADVISORS: IR DR. S.W. POON, IR K.F. MAN, IR K.Y. MA, MR. T.W. TSIN, MRS. ADA K.Y. YAU  DIVERS: MR. JACK WU AND DIVING TEAM
PHOTOGRAPHERS: MR. WILSON WO, MR. DUNCAN C.K. LEE
GRAPHIC DESIGNER: MS. YEUNG SZE LUNG

PREFACE

Tai Tam Tuk Reservoir is the last but the largest of the four impounding reservoirs of Tai Tam Waterworks Scheme built between 1883 and 1918. Tai Tam Harbour is situated at the estuary of Tai Tam Tuk on the south-east of the Hong Kong Island.

There are newly identified pieces of evidence which provide the missing link of the Dam construction. The To Tei Wan quarry which was used to supply the granite for the construction and the remains of the pier at Tai Tam Harbour are just a significant few.

In connection with the Tai Tam Tuk reservoir construction, people involved are categorized into the following five groups:

  • The descendants of original villagers of the submerged Tai Tam Tuk Village.
  • The fishermen with their boats anchored at Tai Tam Harbour, whose connections with Tai Tam Tuk villagers have been briefly mentioned by James Hayes.
  • The Engineer and Overseers during the design and construction of the Dam. Mr. Daniel Joseph Jaffe was the Engineer-in-charge and was instrumental in finalization of the Dam location.
  • Hundreds of workers and quarry workers during construction of the Dam.
  • Current residents in Tai Tam Harbour.

The Dam was completed in October 1917 and was officially celebrated in February 1918. Year 2018, which marks the centenary of the Dam, is hence deemed as high time to unveil and analyse an interdisciplinary array of evidence of the history of the Reservoir construction.

This research project was funded by The Lord Wilson Heritage Trust

Tytam Tuk Reservoir_Dam_LWHT_Part One_2020 (PDF)

Tytam Tuk Reservoir_People_LWHT_Part Two_2020 (PDF)

The Gap Rock Lighthouse

Deng, Katherine Members of Research Team and Knowledge Exchange Team
Dr. S.W. Poon; Dr. F.F. Ng; Dr. Y. Deng
Ir K.Y. Ma; Ir K.F. Man; Mr. T. W. Tsin
Prof. W.M. Leung; Mr. J. Farrell

Acknowledgement

Support from:

  • Lord Wilson Heritage Trust
  • Knowledge Exchange Impact Project Fund, The University of Hong Kong

History of lighthouses in Hong Kong

  • In 1857 the Office of Committee of Privy Council for Trade asked the colony to build a lighthouse on Pratas Shoal in South China Sea.
  • In 1867, Commander Reed recommended Waglan, Green Island and Gap Rock as favourable sites for lighthouses.
  • In 1873, the Harbour Master suggested to build lighthouses at Waglan, North-east end of Lema Island and Gap Rock. But all these places were in China’s territory.
  • Lighthouses were built at Cape D’ Aguilar (1875), Green Island (1875) and Cape Collinson (1876).
  • In 1886, Captain J.P. MaClear suggested to Rumsey a lighthouse be built for ships coming from the South.
  • Negotiations between Britain and China for building a lighthouse on Gap Rock.

June 1888

  • The Qing Government authorized a lighthouse be built on Gap Rock Island.
  • China contributed $7,500 (construction) and $750 annually (maintenance).
  • Estimated construction cost: £10,000 (1872), $45,000 (1873), $90,000 (1886).
  • China would maintain the sovereignty of the Island.

Design and construction

  • The Light Tower
  • European quarters
  • Chinese quarters
  • A house for condensing apparatus
  • A kitchen/cook house
  • Lantern – first order, 42m above mean sea level, visible from 32 km in clear weather

Disclaimer

The copy of documents contained in this page were
photocopied from the original documents (books,
journals, reports, pamphlets, publications, photographs,
etc.) or downloaded from public websites for research
purpose only.

Reproduction, storage, distribution or transmission in any
form or by any means, including photocopying, or
other electronic or mechanical means, of any of the
documents in this pamphlet for commercial uses should
obtain prior written permission from appropriate
copyright owners.