Stonecutters Island

Stonecutters Island

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Stonecutters Island or Ngong Shuen Chau is a former island
Island
An island or isle is any piece of sub-continental land that is surrounded by water. Very small islands such as emergent land features on atolls can be called islets, cays or keys. An island in a river or lake may be called an eyot , or holm...

 in Victoria Harbour
Victoria Harbour
Victoria Harbour is a natural landform harbour situated between Hong Kong Island and the Kowloon Peninsula in Hong Kong. The harbour's deep, sheltered waters and strategic location on the South China Sea were instrumental in Hong Kong's establishment as a British colony and its subsequent...

, Hong Kong
Hong Kong
Hong Kong is one of two Special Administrative Regions of the People's Republic of China , the other being Macau. A city-state situated on China's south coast and enclosed by the Pearl River Delta and South China Sea, it is renowned for its expansive skyline and deep natural harbour...

. Following land reclamation
Land reclamation in Hong Kong
Land is in short supply in Hong Kong, and land reclamation has been conducted there since the mid-19th century.-Projects:One of the earliest and famous project was the Praya Reclamation Scheme, which added 50 to of land in 1890 during the second phase of construction...

, it is now annexed to the Kowloon peninsula
Kowloon Peninsula
The Kowloon Peninsula is a peninsula that forms the southern part of the main landmass in the territory of Hong Kong. The Kowloon Peninsula and the area of New Kowloon are collectively known as Kowloon....

.

Fauna


The island boasted at least three mating pairs of sulphur-crested cockatoos; noisy but welcome additions to the island fauna.

There were also many snake
Snake
Snakes are elongate, legless, carnivorous reptiles of the suborder Serpentes that can be distinguished from legless lizards by their lack of eyelids and external ears. Like all squamates, snakes are ectothermic, amniote vertebrates covered in overlapping scales...

s on the island. Banded kraits, brown cobra and bamboo snakes were common denizens of the island - even into the late 1980s. Black kites often hovered overhead, looking for prey and carrion amongst the many tamarind
Tamarind
Tamarind is a tree in the family Fabaceae. The genus Tamarindus is monotypic .-Origin:...

, ficus benjamina and banyan
Banyan
A banyan is a fig that starts its life as an epiphyte when its seeds germinate in the cracks and crevices on a host tree...

 trees. Mynah birds would constantly recite a morse code ...- (V for victory).

Under British Rule


The island was ceded by the Qing Dynasty
Qing Dynasty
The Qing Dynasty was the last dynasty of China, ruling from 1644 to 1912 with a brief, abortive restoration in 1917. It was preceded by the Ming Dynasty and followed by the Republic of China....

 Emperor of China
Emperor of China
The Emperor of China refers to any sovereign of Imperial China reigning between the founding of Qin Dynasty of China, united by the King of Qin in 221 BCE, and the fall of Yuan Shikai's Empire of China in 1916. When referred to as the Son of Heaven , a title that predates the Qin unification, the...

 to Britain
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 with Kowloon
Kowloon
Kowloon is an urban area in Hong Kong comprising the Kowloon Peninsula and New Kowloon. It is bordered by the Lei Yue Mun strait in the east, Mei Foo Sun Chuen and Stonecutter's Island in the west, Tate's Cairn and Lion Rock in the north, and Victoria Harbour in the south. It had a population of...

 in 1860 through the Convention of Peking
Convention of Peking
The Convention of Peking or the First Convention of Peking is the name used for three different unequal treaties, which were concluded between Qing China and the United Kingdom, France, and Russia.-Background:...

. The island was initially used for quarrying by the British, hence the English name for the island.

A British Royal Navy
Royal Navy
The Royal Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Founded in the 16th century, it is the oldest service branch and is known as the Senior Service...

 signals
Military communications
Historically, the first military communications had the form of sending/receiving simple signals . Respectively, the first distinctive tactics of military communications were called Signals, while units specializing in those tactics received the Signal Corps name...

 Radio Interception and Direction-finding Station was established on the island in 1935. From 1935 to 1939 the base was the main radio interception unit for the Far East Combined Bureau
Far East Combined Bureau
The Far East Combined Bureau, an outstation of the British Government Code and Cypher School, was set up in Hong Kong in March 1935, to monitor Japanese, and also Chinese and Russian intelligence and radio traffic...

, which was four miles away across the harbour in the naval dockyard.

After World War Two the island became host to British Army
British Army
The British Army is the land warfare branch of Her Majesty's Armed Forces in the United Kingdom. It came into being with the unification of the Kingdom of England and Scotland into the Kingdom of Great Britain in 1707. The new British Army incorporated Regiments that had already existed in England...

 units including 415 Maritime Unit RCT and the Ammunition Sub-Depot RAOC. Explosive storage became more important following the Hong Kong 1967 riots
Hong Kong 1967 riots
The Hong Kong 1967 riots began in May 1967. They were caused by pro-communist leftists in Hong Kong, inspired by the Cultural Revolution in the People's Republic of China , who turned a labour dispute into large scale demonstrations against British colonial rule. Demonstrators clashed violently...

 and the Hong Kong Mines Division elected to have all commercial explosives stored on Stonecutter's prior to being issued to the various blasting sites in the colony. British Army (RAOC) soldiers oversaw all commercial explosive issues post 1968 until the colony was transferred to China
China
Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

 in 1997. Before 1997, It was the training anfd HQ Depot HKMSC (Hong Kong Military Service Corps).

The island was policed by Indian Sikhs; the choice was obvious because traditionally, Sikhs neither smoke nor drink alcohol. The Army Department Police (ADP), as they were known, saw continuous service on the island during the British era. Field hockey was the game they loved, and they were often seen playing bare-footed on the padang. During this author's time (1982–1984) the ADP boasted two Indian national hockey players. It was common to see their blue pagris (turbans) drying in the sun outside their barracks.

The Royal Navy continued to provide a ferry service (known as T-Boats) connecting islanders with HMS Tamar
HMS Tamar (shore station)
HMS Tamar was the name for the Royal Navy's base in Hong Kong from 1897 to 1997. It took its name from HMS Tamar a ship that was used as the base until replaced by buildings ashore.-19th Century:...

 on Hong Kong and the Star Ferry
Star Ferry
The Star Ferry, or The "Star" Ferry Company, is a passenger ferry service operator in Hong Kong. Its principal routes carry passengers across Victoria Harbour, between Hong Kong Island and Kowloon...

 terminal in Kowloon. Additional boats were provided by 415 Maritime Unit RCT and crewed by Local Employed Personnel (LEPs). Avid gambling was enjoyed by the crewmen as their little vessels connected the islanders with the mainland.

During the 60s, 70s and 80s, the island became used as a 'Rest and Recuperation' resort, having several chalet style bungalows built around the NAAFI
Navy, Army and Air Force Institutes
The Navy, Army and Air Force Institutes is an organisation created by the British government in 1921 to run recreational establishments needed by the British Armed Forces, and to sell goods to servicemen and their families...

 shop, restaurant and swimming pool complex on South Shore.
There was also a commercial interest on the island; Jardine/Du Pont erected an explosive factory on the island to cater for the ever-growing need for commercial blasting explosives. The island factory manufactured several tonnes of water gel and other commercial explosives per week. Limited stocks of PRC, British and other commercial explosives were stored in the island's Victorian explosive storage tunnels.

During the 70s and 80s, the island was also the FOB (forward operating base) of a Royal Navy Hovercraft unit deployed to assist the Hong Kong government with anti illegal immigration operations. The Royal Navy unit (Naval Party 1009) was under control of Cmdr Chris Stafford and two SRN6 Mk6 Hovercraft were continually operated until 1985 when the unit was finally disbanded.

Some buildings or military facilities within the Ngong Shuen Chau Barracks are now graded historic buildings.

During World War II


Stonecutters Island was captured by the Japanese Imperial Army on 11 December 1941, following heavy shelling. Merchant ships in the island's docks were scuttled, and demolitions were carried out at Kowloon Naval Yard and on the island. During World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

, radio installations on the island were used by the Japan
Japan
Japan is an island nation in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies to the east of the Sea of Japan, China, North Korea, South Korea and Russia, stretching from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and Taiwan in the south...

ese for military purposes and for extending the range of transmission of the NHK
NHK
NHK is Japan's national public broadcasting organization. NHK, which has always identified itself to its audiences by the English pronunciation of its initials, is a publicly owned corporation funded by viewers' payments of a television license fee....

 Overseas Broadcasting Bureau.

The Japanese (during the WW2 occupation) used the unique isolation of the island to house a snake farm. The snakes were milked of their venom to provide antidotes for their soldiers bitten on active duty in the Pacific theatre.

After 1997


Following the transfer of the sovereignty of Hong Kong to the People's Republic of China
People's Republic of China
China , officially the People's Republic of China , is the most populous country in the world, with over 1.3 billion citizens. Located in East Asia, the country covers approximately 9.6 million square kilometres...

 on 1 July 1997, the naval base is now operated by the People's Liberation Army
People's Liberation Army
The People's Liberation Army is the unified military organization of all land, sea, strategic missile and air forces of the People's Republic of China. The PLA was established on August 1, 1927 — celebrated annually as "PLA Day" — as the military arm of the Communist Party of China...

 of the PRC.

Infrastructure on the island


The island was connected to the Kowloon peninsula by the West Kowloon Reclamation in the 1990s to provide land for the construction of the road and railway network to the new Hong Kong International Airport
Hong Kong International Airport
Hong Kong International Airport is the main airport in Hong Kong. It is colloquially known as Chek Lap Kok Airport , being built on the island of Chek Lap Kok by land reclamation, and also to distinguish it from its predecessor, the closed Kai Tak Airport.The airport opened for commercial...

 at Chek Lap Kok
Chek Lap Kok
Chek Lap Kok was an island in the western waters of Hong Kong. Together with the smaller Lam Chau, it was leveled and merged via land reclamation into the platform for the current Hong Kong International Airport, which opened for commercial operations in 1998...

, and for the Container Terminal 8 of Kwai Tsing Container Terminals
Kwai Tsing Container Terminals
Kwai Tsing Container Terminals is the main port facilities in the reclamation along Rambler Channel between Kwai Chung and Tsing Yi Island, Hong Kong. It evolves from 4 berths of Kwai Chung Container Port completed in 1970s. It later expanded with two berths in 1980s...

.

Stonecutter's Island is the site of a large sewage
Sewage
Sewage is water-carried waste, in solution or suspension, that is intended to be removed from a community. Also known as wastewater, it is more than 99% water and is characterized by volume or rate of flow, physical condition, chemical constituents and the bacteriological organisms that it contains...

 treatment facility known as Stonecutters Island Sewage Treatment Works. Since the facility was built in 2001, it has managed to reduce the amount of E. coli in the water by 99 percent, while other pollutants are reduced by 70-80 percent, allowing coral to return to Victoria Harbour
Victoria Harbour
Victoria Harbour is a natural landform harbour situated between Hong Kong Island and the Kowloon Peninsula in Hong Kong. The harbour's deep, sheltered waters and strategic location on the South China Sea were instrumental in Hong Kong's establishment as a British colony and its subsequent...

 and made Hong Kong's beaches safe for swimming again.

Also, the Stonecutters Bridge
Stonecutters Bridge
Stonecutters Bridge is a high level cable-stayed bridge which spans the Rambler Channel in Hong Kong, connecting Nam Wan Kok, Tsing Yi Island and Stonecutters Island...

, a cable-stayed bridge
Cable-stayed bridge
A cable-stayed bridge is a bridge that consists of one or more columns , with cables supporting the bridge deck....

 which linked up the Kowloon peninsula with the Tsing Yi Island to form part of Route 8, was opened in 2009.

See also

  • Hong Kong
    Hong Kong
    Hong Kong is one of two Special Administrative Regions of the People's Republic of China , the other being Macau. A city-state situated on China's south coast and enclosed by the Pearl River Delta and South China Sea, it is renowned for its expansive skyline and deep natural harbour...

  • Islands of Hong Kong
  • List of buildings, sites and areas in Hong Kong
  • Stonecutters Bridge
    Stonecutters Bridge
    Stonecutters Bridge is a high level cable-stayed bridge which spans the Rambler Channel in Hong Kong, connecting Nam Wan Kok, Tsing Yi Island and Stonecutters Island...

  • Ngong Shuen Chau Naval Base
    Ngong Shuen Chau Naval Base
    Ngong Shuen Chau Naval Base is part of the People's Liberation Army Hong Kong Garrison and small naval base in Hong Kong. It is home to the South Sea Fleet Squadron # 38081 and sub-base to the naval squadron of the South Sea Fleet...


Further reading

  • Harland, Kathleen. The Royal Navy in Hong Kong Since 1841. Liskeard, England: Maritime Books, 1985. ISBN 090777119X

External links