1906 Ships & buildings showing typhoon damage | Gwulo: Old Hong Kong

1906 Ships & buildings showing typhoon damage

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1906 Ships & buildings showing typhoon damage

When: 1906, shortly after the devastating typhoon hit Hong Kong on 18th September.

What: In the foreground is the small boat 'Taikoo Fook', no doubt belonging to Butterfield & Swire. Behind the pier, at a crazy angle, is the 'Ching Kong'. I can't find anything about them on the internet, so any background information gratefully received.

Over in the centre a couple of masts stick out of the water, the only sign of a sunken boat lying there. Then further left is a steamship pushed up out of the water. There's a name on the stern, but unfortunately not clear enough to read.

Onshore the roof has been stripped away from the sheds on the right. Over to the left, the roof in the middle of the terrace is missing. But they got off lightly - other photos show buildings completely destroyed, not just the roof.

Who: The typhoon killed over 10,000 people. That's 1 in 40 people in Hong Kong at that time, with Chinese people living or working at sea hardest hit. The photo shows a couple of Chinese men on the pier, surveying the damage, and no doubt counting their good fortune to have survived.

Where: East Point? Quarry Bay? Shau Kei Wan? Somewhere on Kowloon side? I'm just not sure. I you look above the 'G' of the watermark there's a road winding up the hillside towards the pass. Does that ring any bells?

I know several readers are good at identifying skylines in old photos, so hopefully you'll be able to help pinpoint this one.

This photo is the first from a collection taken after the 1906 typhoon. I'll post up more in the following weeks.



Reference: BA064

Date picture taken (may be approximate): 
Saturday, October 20, 1906
  • 1906 Ships & buildings showing typhoon damage shows Event 1906 Typhoon


Although no-one will ever know for sure, Weathering the Storm by Ho Pui-yin (HKUP, 2003) puts the 1906 death toll at 15,000. This would have been about 5% of the population by my reckoning. That kind of percentage toll in 2010 would see about 350,000 dead.

1906 Typhoon at Hong Kong


East Point is definitely a contender. There was the sugar refinery there, which could explain the chimney. Though in the photos I've found there are several chimneys, and the rocky hills behind the ship on the left seem too close for me.

The presence of the 'Taikoo' launch made me wonder if it could be Quarry Bay, with the road up the hillside heading towards the Taikoo Sanitarium in the gap?


Those numbers definitely deserve more research. I found several mentions of "10,000+" on the web, and the reference to 15,000 that you mention, but no details of their sources.

Regards, David

The scene of destruction is somewhere near today's Tai Kok Tsui, Kowloon looking north towards Cosmopolitan Docks. The mountain in the centre of photo is Beacon Hill. The Butterfield and Swire West River steamer that is beached is the 'Tak Hing'.

1906 Typhoon - Canton Steamer 'Tak Hing'


Thanks Moddsey, that's an exact match.

We don't really have much information about the area around Cosmopolitan Dock, though the name appears several times in each year's Jurors List. It must have seemed a very remote area for the European workers at the Docks there.

I have a cutting on file from researching the Spratt family for my book, which mentions the opening of the Cosmopolitan Docks and gives some background. You can find it online in the 23/10/1875 issue of the Daily Press.

Thanks Adam, I've made a Place for it, and attached the clipping you mentioned.

I guess it was Sai Kwok Hill (西角山) look toward to Cheung Sha Wan





Thanks for your further investigation. I'm looking at a 1902-3 map of the area (Plate 4-3 in Mapping Hong Kong), and the area along the shoreline you describe looks a good match for what's shown in the photo.

Regards, David