Japanese tunnel above Wong Nai Chung valley

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Our visits to the old Japanese wartime tunnels around Hong Kong don't usually make it to the front page of Gwulo, but this is a special one.

First there's its size. It took a while to find the entrance [1], as it's on a steep, slippery, overgrown hillside. But when we did, we could see it was unusual:

A smooth, near vertical face has been cut into the slope. It's much bigger and more obvious than the usual entrance to these tunnels - you can see Craig at the bottom of the photo to get an idea of its scale.

A lot of earth has been washed in over the years, so that the entrance was almost completely blocked up. While working on making an opening big enough to crawl through, we met the second unusual: the smell. Sometimes these tunnels have a damp, musty smell. Not here though, as there was a good breeze blowing through the opening. This was the smell of animal cages at the zoo.

So there's good news:

  • A lot of work went into building the tunnel, and it looks like it could be a big one.
  • There's a breeze blowing through the entrance. That means there is at least one other opening to the tunnel, and also suggests it's a big tunnel network.

The bad news?

  • We are not alone...

Time to unleash the secret weapon: send Craig's dogs in first. In theory they'll warn us if there are any animals inside. 

Then, feeling a little less confident than usual, into the tunnel we went. Here's what we found:

(Subscribers, if you can't see the video above, you can watch it at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RiANdnI4ylk)

It's a longer video than usual, so here are some of the highlights:

  • 1:12: The start of the staircase that climbs up through the inside of the hill, and is several storeys high.
  • 4:20: lower of the two exits
  • 5:15: second vertical shaft (if we count the stairs as the first). Bats
  • 5:50: upper exit, almost at the top of the ridge. We head out of the exit and crash around the bamboo. From the ridge you can see out to south side of the gap
  • 8:15: back into the upper exit
  • 9:20: one of those nasty bugs meets its maker
  • 9:55: third vertical shaft, which we take a closer look at
  • 12:10: outside the lower exit. View out across the valley & gap to Parkview
  • 13:05: at the top of the long staircase, the dogs start growling at something. Gulp. We head outside from the lower exit and ponder crashing down the hillside instead, but we need to find our bags which are back at the entrance!
  • 14:20: The dogs quiet down, so we head back down the staircase
  • 16:00: Back to the entrance passage
  • 16:15: We head up the side passage. We find another staircase, and meet the source of the smell. As it rushes past us, much girly squealing ensues. The dogs don't make a noise!
  • 17:50: There's a creepy noise near Craig, then near me. We find there's a leg from one of the squished bugs on our clothes, still flexing, and making a strange noise.
  • 18:30: At the top of this staircase we're at the bottom of one of the vertical shafts we saw. (We didn't see the bottom of the other vertical shaft, so I'm not sure where that lead to)
  • 19:50: Back to the entrance passage, and out.

To the right of the main entrance was the entrance to another, smaller tunnel. That was also blocked up, but as far as we could tell it curved a short distance down the hillside to emerge by this pit cut into the hill:

It has a man-made wall at the back, shown in the photo, but it's not clear what it would have been used for.

A lot of work went into building these tunnels, especially digging three different vertical routes from top to bottom. Wong Nai Chung Gap was the scene of fierce fighting when the Japanese invaded in 1941. As it controls the centre of the island it is an important location to defend. It's no surprise that the Japanese prepared additional defences in the area during their occupation.

A surprising number of these Japanese wartime tunnels have been found around Hong Kong. You can see a map of the tunnels we know of at this page:

http://gwulo.com/japanese-wartime-tunnels-hong-kong

If you know of any more, please let us know in the comments on that page.

Regards, David

References:

  1. Thanks to Philip Cracknell for directing us to this tunnel. We'd never have found it without his help.

Comments

Getting there

This one took quite a while of crashing around to find it. Some clues:

Start off on Wong Nai Chung Gap Road at the old military bunkers opposite the tennis courts:


View Larger Map

If you zoom in you should see a set of concrete steps running up the hillside. Head up those.

At the top of the steps, a path runs off to the right, following the contour. (We think it ran around to the army's camp further around Mt Nicholson.) Ignore that. You should see a smaller trail heading up the slope, with some of the red strings-around-branches to help follow its path.

Climb up until you're near the top of the ridge. The GPS coordinates for the marker on the map are Latitude: 22.259501, Longitude: 114.190166. They're only approximate though, as my phone's GPS was having a hard time getting an accurate position.

We also noted that when you look out from the hillside near the portal, you're roughly lined up with the northern edge of the tennis courts down in the valley.

Good luck,

Regards, David

re: tunnel

Great find, crashed around there a fair bit but never come across that. The tunnel 'guest' you came across would have freaked me out

Re: tunnel resident

Hi there,

What on earth was that anyway?  In the clip I only saw something dark like a shadow crawling towards the camera.

Best Regards,

T

Squeaky clean tunnels

My dad was involved as a mining engineer in building air raid shelters in Hong Kong, but probably not these labyrinthian tunnels. Has there ever been much written about them before? What a job getting all the dirt and rocks out! No writings on the wall or left over canteens, cartridge shells, personal belongings, etc? Did HK Govt clean them out after the War? Was there a danger of flooding from rain water? Difficult understanding the commentary but too much to expect subtitles. Will there be an attempt to produce a map of these tunnels, not that it would be of much use.

Nice work David and

Nice work David and Craig

I've ventured through the area above the bunker but never thought there would be a tunnel above. 

It seems for every British position PB/bunker there are always a few japanese tunnels nearby. 

And a big thumbs up to Craig's secret weapon, too. 

Many thanks for the video. 

Many thanks for the video.  Very interesting and exciting.

A minor correction: 17:15 (not 16:15) is when one sees the small porcupine charging.  I kept rewiding to 16:15 trying to figure out what it was!

Seems a bit dangerous though to allow the doggies wandering through the tunnels and chasing after a porcupine.  But well done to them!

 

 

excellent video

very interesting fellas, well done for getting out alive and without any porcupine spines sticking from your backsides.

When are you going back to explore the rest?

Re: Procupine.....

Hi there,

Wouldn't that be a bit small for a procupine?  Giving the size in the clip it looked like a baby.  I have seen an adult in the Zoological & Botanical Garden decades ago and yes, they have an odor which you could detect from afar.  An adult procupine could be as big Craig's dogs.

I have to admit there are lots of wild animals out there.  I think I have encountered a Crab-eating Mongoose ("Herpestes urva") in Wanchai Gap one evening a few years ago.  It just suddenly appeared beside me on Middle Gap road.  There was also Taxi spluttering along but it paid no attention to the vehicle and me.  It was too dark and by the time my camera was out, it was already gone down the slopes by #15.

Thanks & Best Regards,

T

Porcupine

Hi folks,

It certainly was a porcupine, it left a number of quills on the floor as it ran past us. It wasn't particularly big, I would guess about 40cm long. But I would imagine it could get nasty if it was cornered and lashed out at you.

The dogs are good at giving some warning if something is around, but they are not very aggressive towards them, although they like to chase and torment cats and monkeys. A few of us were crashing through the thick bush last year in Tai Tam when suddenly they both went absolutely berserk at something. When we stopped and looked around there was a massive wild boar about 15m in front of us, which we would have walked straight into. The same thing happened last week in Clearwater Bay when we nearly walked into another big boar, right next to the horse riding school. Out of coincidence we saw a much smaller boar today near the bottom of Mt Parker rd, just above the path, but it must have been a juvenile (about 80cm). 

Tunnels

Yes, we were lucky that the porcupine was a) small, and b) more interested in running away than sticking its spines into us!

Air raid shelters

Megabyte, was your father working for Marsman? I think that was the company that built the air raid shelters around 1940-41. We've got some notes about them at: http://gwulo.com/air-raid-precaution-tunnels-in-hong-kong. If you can add any information it will be very welcome.

I haven't found any personal items in any tunnel, but as you'll see below, they've already been thoroughly explored long before we've been to see them.

I don't plan to make a map of the route of the tunnel, but you can see a map showing where we've found tunnels at: http://gwulo.com/japanese-wartime-tunnels-hong-kong

This tunnel in the 1960s and 70s

The video brought back memories for a couple of subscribers. Richard writes:

Thanks what great memories. I lived at 2 Purves Rd, in JLO... we neighborhood kids went thru them many times in the early 60s. Our parents forbade it as there was a lot of blasting to clear for developement... and we did it any way. LOL...If we got up early enough and were quiet enough we would startle the barking deer that slept in the valley below... 

And Murray adds:

I went through this tunnel as a kid in the late 1970's with my best friend.

At that time the entrance was not so small and at the front a rusty old steel door guarding the entrance.

We spent hours going up and down the tunnels and it is great to see they still are open and navigable.

Well done and thanks for the information and excellent video. 

Regards, David