Ice at the Peak, January 2016 | Gwulo: Old Hong Kong

Ice at the Peak, January 2016

Yesterday I wrote there was a strong chance of frost during the current cold spell. The Observatory website showed the temperature at the Peak had already dropped below zero this morning, so off we went to take a look.

Walking up Old Peak Road I didn't see any signs of frost or ice - til I nearly slipped over on a sheet of ice! Freezing rain had turned the steps up to the Peak Tower into a mini ice rink. As is often the case, once we knew what we were looking for we could see it everywhere. Here's ice coating the wall up to the Peak Tower:


And turning round we could see icicles hanging from the old electric substation building:

Icicles on the Peak

We walked on up Mount Austin Road to get higher. Fortunately the ice on the pavement there had already melted, but the plants and buildings still had a good coating. There were more icicles to be seen at the Gatekeeper's Lodge:


And ice on this nearby plant:


I wonder how much damage the ice will do to these leaves and plants?

Next to the site of the governor's residence, the patch of grass was covered with ice. As you can guess, there were plenty of other people there, taking photos and enjoying the novelty.


It seemed that everything had a coating of ice, railings, shrubs, leaves ...


And even whole trees:


I should have taken a video of the trees so you could hear the sound they made. As the wind blew and the trees flexed, they made a crackling sound as their ice casing bent and fractured. Here's a closer look showing patches of ice cracking off:


We retraced our steps back to the Peak Tower, then walked home via Harlech and Hatton Roads. I thought we'd already be too low down the hill to see ice, but we saw these along Harlech Road:


And this last set were much lower down near Pinewood Battery:


We were at the Peak around noon, when the temperature was just creeping back above zero:


Since then it has cooled down again and I can hear rain on the window, so I guess there will be even more ice now.

When I wrote yesterday, Ngong Ping was the coldest place on the Observatory's map. How cold did it get today?

temperature map.jpg

We can't tell - there's a blank where the Ngong Ping reading should be! The graph for Ngong Ping says the station is under maintenance.


Great timing! Hopefully someone at Ngong Ping will take a temperature the old fashioned way, and let us know how cold it gets there.



PS To any readers on the US East Coast, I apologise for getting this excited about a few mm of ice when you've just had over two feet of snow! In my defence, this is the first time I've seen ice in Hong Kong in the twenty-something years I've lived here.


Great photos. It is unusual that the Peak was a colder place than Tai Mo Shan or Ta Kwu Ling in the far north. Perhaps it is a good time to recap newspaper reports of 15th to 19th Jan. 1893?

The -0.8C reading seems at odd with the other stations, I assume the instrument was working properly.  Ngong Ping appears to be surrounded by high terrains so did it act like a bowl trapping the cold dense air?  I suggest it could be that, following a sunny day, the ground at Tai Mo Shan radiated more heat later that night than at Ngong Ping due to their difference in vegetation cover.  Regards,  Peter

Peter, the -0.8C reading is from the weather station up at the Peak, while the readings around it come from down near sea-level. The Peak is usually 3-4 degrees cooler than the other stations. You can see the current readings at:

C, there aren't any values for Tai Mo Shan on that map or in the current charts. I'm not sure if that is a temporary omission or a permanent one.

As an example of the news from 1893, page 3 of the The China Mail, 1893-01-16 has an article "Cold Weather in Hong Kong. Ice at The Peak".

Regards, David

Thanks Dave for the clarification.  I got the wrong impression the map has Tai Mo Shan reading and my confusion about Ngong Ping's location on the map cause me try to rationize why the former was not as cold as other sites including the Peak on that day.  Regards, Peter

Hi David,

When I clicked on your link to the HKPL it says "Record has been deleted by another user."  I am not able to read the newspaper report that your mentioned.

I suspect the misery factor due to the low temperature is higher in Hong Kong than in other usually colder places.  (Central) heating is just more prevalent in temperate places than sub-tropical places like Hong Kong.



Hi Breskvar,

I just tried it here in a few different browsers and they all showed the page ok. Please could you try again?

If still having problems, the manual way is to go to, type 1893-01-16 in the box after 'Title has all these words', click the 'Search' button, and choose The China Mail, 1893-01-16 from the results.

And yes, I certainly miss central heating when the weather is like this!

Regards, David

Hi David,

I tried the link with different browsers today and fortunately, they all work now.  Perhaps the site was under maintenance last night when I first clicked in. 




I found the below photo titled Snow on Plantation Road 1893. The Newspaper article above makes no mention of snow in HK, but does say it snowed in Macau and Canton, so perhaps this photo is from there? I also could not match the road contours to modern day plantation road.  

Snow on Plantation Road 1893?
Snow on Plantation Road 1893?, by Herostratus


I agree that the 1893 photo is unlikely to show Hong Kong. It shows a heavy snowfall, so it should have been taken further north / inland than Hong Kong.

Regards, David

From Google search I noted a 0 degree C was recorded by the Observatory on January 18, 1893, so I believe this site was a bit colder given its elevation.  It is possible to have snowfall closely around 0C although the amount may be small and if fallen on the ground they can melt fast.  This photo could be from that small window of opportunity.  Plantation Road is on the north side of the hill so it could have been the spot where the moist air from the south climbed over then met with the cold air from the north.  Regards.

British Library ... anyone in or going to England and can take a look?

India Office Select Materials
Crofton Collection: 'Hongkong, Suez Canal, Pompei, Ceylon, West River.'


Half-leather and red buckram album (uniform binding to Photo 1116/1), measuring 362x268mm and stamped 'Hongkong Suez Canal Pompei Ceylon West River' in gold on front cover.
The contents of the album can be broken down as follows:
Prints 1-48 Views mainly of Hong Kong, with a few of Canton, 1890s.
Prints 49-53 Views on the Suez Canal by Zangaki, 1870s.
Prints 54-57 Views of Naples and Pompeii.
Prints 58-67 Views of Ceylon
Prints 68-77 Hand-tinted views of the West River, China

These photographs form part of the collection of Denis Hayes Crofton, Indian Civil Service, and his father Richard Hayes Crofton, Colonial Civil Service, Hong Kong and Zanzibar.

Album contents:-
Photo 1116/2(1)     Canton. Examination Hall.
Photo 1116/2(2)     Hong Kong from the harbour, abt. 1890.
Photo 1116/2(3)     Hong Kong, house at the Peak, 7 Des Voeux Villas, 1893.
Photo 1116/2(4)     Hong Kong, houses at the Peak, 7 Des Voeux Villas, abt. 1893.
Photo 1116/2(5)     Hong Kong. Frost at the Peak, January 1893.
Photo 1116/2(6)     Hong Kong. Frost at the Peak, January 1893.
Photo 1116/2(7)     Hong Kong. Frost at the Peak, January 1893.


... more at


I was in the UK when I saw your message, but just on the way to the airport. I'm back to HK again today, so it's something for a future visit or for someone else to have a look at and report back.

I don't know if the British Library have changed their policy, but when I visited to look at photos a couple of years ago there wasn't any way to take a rough copy (photocopy or use digital camera). Still, they'll be interesting to see.

Regards, David

I believe it's possible to order copies of photos from the BL now, subject to signing a declaration that they will only be used for private research. After filling in the forms, I successfully ordered a photo of a map a year or so ago, but it took a few days to be processed. Subject to paying the appropriate fee, the copies can be posted to you - I don't know if that includes abroad. On the spot scans of printed matter bear the British Library watermark across them, just as Gwulo's photos do. 


Further up the China coast. The 1893 photo is of Foochow (Fuzhou) as noted here  Taken in January 1893. Probably the Foochow Club as seen here 

Another photo of the heavy snowfall appears here