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Submitted by David on Mon, 2013-12-02 16:00
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 , 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:
If you know of any more, please let us know in the comments on that page.
- Thanks to Philip Cracknell for directing us to this tunnel. We'd never have found it without his help.