Lights on the Hong Kong coast-circa 1914 | Gwulo: Old Hong Kong

Lights on the Hong Kong coast-circa 1914

Lights on the Hong Kong coast-circa 1914

Pages from "The China Coast Tide Book and Nautical Pocket Manual-1914"


Essential data for mariners of old

Date picture taken (may be approximate): 
Monday, June 15, 1914


The authors of this book used an unusual romanisation. I didn't recognise "Chinsalchui Pt." from reading it but it sounds about right once you see the mention of Blackhead hill. Chinsalchui = Tsim Sha Tsui

Ian - Thanks. I knew of that essential tool (I managed to buy about five years of it for the HKMM covering the period 1906-1940). 1910 is possibly a bit early for the putative Lantau Island Light. From the coordinates and the identifying bearings, the beacon on the rocks that is listed is I think on today's Pun Shan Shek. Interesting and another to add to the list of the 22 aids to navigation blinking away in HK in 1939.


With the help of Ian Killick at the UKHO Archive, I think I have now solved the Fan Lau lighthouse puzzle. The light would seem to have been installed in 1936. Ian Killick did a quick search of a spread of the Admiralty List of Lights, Fog Signals and Visual Time Signals and the 1953 edition gave Fan Lau light as having been installed in 1936. Fossicking through the goverment records (one has to ask exactly the right question sometimes!) I stumbled n Notices to Mariners No.109/36 of 24th November that year that read, "A white flashing light is now being exhibited at the South West point of Lantau Island giving one flash every six seconds."

Now to find out what sort of structure it was. So far no tender for constructing the light has emerged. I'm obviously not asking exactly ghe right question.


As a result of something else I have just plotted the light east of Lantau that IDJ drew to my attention in the list of the China Coast Tide Book and Pocket Manual of 1914. It is truly eccentric because it is a quite minor rock in the approaches to what is now Discovery Bay, just north of the strait between Peng Chau and Lantau. It is definitely neither Pun Shan Shek nor Datum Rock. It seems to get no sort of mention in any official source, no Notice to Mariners and no entry in the List of Lights. Other than this reference it is not mentioned. All I can conclude is that this must be what is now Comber Rock, though I can't for the life of me think why anyone would have lit it in 1914.

Stephen D

The 1961 edition of the US List of Lights describes the light at the SW extremity of Lantau Island (Fan Lau Kok) to be a 22-foot column at 70 feet above sea level. The 1973 edition describes the light to be a white square tower at 65 feet above sea level. The range in 1961 was 8NM, which was increased to 14NM by 1973. The characteristic was also changed from Fl 6s to Fl 5s. The current light at Fan Lau exhibits a white flash every 5 seconds with a range of 14NM. Dr. Davies has suggested that the current structure dates to 1977, which was when it received the Blackhead Pt. lantern.


Ebooks of the List of Lights (Free to read)

1961 edition: P.203

1973 edition: P.204e


The lantern on the current structure is an AGA product, and is highly similar, if not identical to the one on the Tang Lung Chau light and the post-war Cape Collinson light before it was rebuilt in 1966. Interestingly, ever since the transition to LED technology, the optics are since placed outside the lantern housing. Before that, an acrylic revolving Fresnel optic by Tideland (sixth order?) was housed within the lantern. I am unsure about the optics used before that.

A photo of the original light column/post at Fan Lau (SW Lantao) has been located.

Before the current structure was built in the 70's, the original was an AGA lantern mounted on a post atop a hut which housed the acetylene cylinders. The light at Ma Kok Tsui (1904) also had a similar design when built, but was renovated into a lattice tower in the 1950's. Interestingly, the minor lights on breakwaters also had a similar apperance untill they were either destroyed after reclamation or rebuilt.

It is humble lights like this that served mariners for decades and decades to come.