Prohibited anchorage area [????- ] | Gwulo: Old Hong Kong

Prohibited anchorage area [????- ]

Current condition: 

The area is shown on map 1923 at Does anyone know why ships weren't allowed to anchor here?

There's a description of its boundaries on p.504 of the 1925 book, Asiatic Pilot: The western shores of the China Sea from Singapore Strait to and including Hong Kong:

Prohibited anchorages—Lights.—The prohibited anchorage between the northern point of Hongkong Island and the southeastern point of Kowloon Peninsula is marked as follows:

Two white beacons on the shores of Kowloon and Hongkong Island, and two white masonry obelisks, situated northwestward and southeastward of them, respectively; when the beacons are in range with the obelisks, bearing 333° and 153°, respectively, they indicate the boundaries of the prohibited anchorage lines 300 yards apart.

By day the four beacons forming the front marks may be distinguished by their each carrying a red diamond shape; by night each displays a red light.

The lights are so screened that the easternmost lights do not show to the eastward nor the westernmost lights to the westward of the prohibited area; when, therefore, the two lights on the same side are visible at the same time, vessels must proceed until one or other of the lights is obscured before anchoring.


The southeast obelisk is shown in the top left corner of this photo, and the diamond for its beacon is above the right-hand 'o' of the watermark.

c.1920 Dragon Boat off North Point
c.1920 Dragon Boat off North Point, by David


Anchorage was prohibited as the area was a telegraphic cable reserve. See here

Thanks Moddsey, that's good to know. Now I know that, I can see the telegraph cable shown in that area on Map 1936 at

A prohibited anchorage (and another off Stonecutters) was gazetted in Govt Notification No. 201, 7th May 1892, initially marked by "white posts" exhibiting red lights at night. The fine for anchoring therein was $50 and the cost of repairing any damage.

As we shall see however (marine charts and Notices to Mariners are more useful for sorting out issues related to the harbour than seems often to be realized), there's a lot more to the story.

The enforcement of protection against anchors wrecking submarine cables followed the 1885 Submarine Telegraph Act passed in UK 6th August 1885, which applied in HK by extension and therefore required local regulations to give it effect. The UK Act followed Britain's adhering to the International Convention for the Protection of Submarine Telegraph Cables of 14th March 1884. The application of the UK act was gazetted in HK on 7th November 1885.

The first notification of marking seems to have come on 24th Feb 1886, when a government announcement warned junks (!) not to anchor in the area between Hung Hom and North Point marked "by posts carrying large diamond shapes" (still an international sign), two on each side marking a zone within which the cable had been laid. The warning was repeated roughly yearly until that May 1892 new Order in Council was passed (Govt Notification 298, Gazette 19.6.1897) under the Merchant Shipping Consolidation Ordinance 1891 announcing the same prohibited zone as in 1886. This was repeated in 1897.

Interestingly the harbour chart of 1888 (BA1459) of that year does not show the cables, though the Stanford Map of Hong Kong with British Kowloon does and, to boot, does so in a way that shows the prohibited zone not to cover all the cables, since although both the HK Government cable and the Canton Telegraph Cable leave Hung Hom at pretty much the same point, the former lands at Whitfield (near where the old Oil St RHKYC premises are today) and the latter on the tip of North Point. A cable and its markers and lights is shown on the 1901 edition of BA1459 and the 1903 update - though only the HK Government cable line.

But it seems that between this first exercise and the one in David's photo, we find that the whole prohibited anchorage zone has moved. The cables being protected in 1923 are new ones a few hundred metres further east and, rather than there being one obelisk above North Point, the prohibited zone was marked by two.

The happy additional murk is cast when we get to the July 1923 edition of BA1466 (the original Belcher chart, by this time in its 13th edition) which shows the TWO obelisks, about 125m apart, covering a swathe of water from North Point eastwards, so not at all on the line of the 1880s government cable and its cable house shown on the 1888 BA1459 and the Stanford map. Evidently between the original markers with the white posts and 1923 and the obelisks new cables had been laid and the old landing place had been got rid of with the development of the Dutch Oil Depot where Oil St now is.

So the hunt switches to when the changes occurred, which will give the terminus a quo for the erection of the obelisks. The War Office 1909 map gives a hint by showing only one cable running along the 'new line' (i.e. the more easterly one) and a major change to the shoreline further west where the old cable had landed, suggesting that shoreline changes between 1903 and 1909 caused the move.

The answer is given in Government Notice 771 of 11th November 1907, which announced the movement 400 yards eastwards of the cable zone and its marking by white posts and white obelisks on both shores marking the extent of the zone, with screened red lights at night shining over discrete arcs. The move had begun with the shifting of the eastern limit of the Cable Reserve in June 1907 (notice 386, 6th June 1907) - I can;t trace Notice 1053 of 1906, but the intention to make the move would appear to have first appeared at that time.

But this whole cable reserve in the Harbour proved temporary. Notice 484 of 20th August 1924 indicated that a new cable reserve was planned for the central area of Victoria Harbour. This was announced as having been laid during September 1924. Maps from roughly this period also seem to imply strongly that because of all the reclamation going on at North Point, the cables running from Hung Hom to there had been either lifted or left to their fates. This is confirmed by BA3279 (Hong Kong Waters East) which shows no cables at all off North Point, no obelisks and no prohibited anchorage.

Best, StephenD