Wednesday, July 08, 2015

Oluanpi lighthouse: a fortress

Resting on the cape just above Oluanpi Lighthouse.

I had the great good fortune to come into a pile of books on Taiwan this week, one of which was George Taylor and the Peoples of the South Cape, a collection of the papers of George Taylor edited by Glen Dunbridge. Taylor was the lighthouse keeper at the Oluanpi lighthouse for four years in the 1880s, learned Paiwan, and wrote voluminously on his interactions with the aborigines of the southern part of Taiwan. The book presents several of his papers, full of anecdotes and observations. Don't miss it, hopefully I'll have time to write up a few this week.

In the introduction it gives an account of the lighthouse at Oluanpi, which was the outcome of the Rover Incident of 1867. The lighthouse was built by the the British, who were running the customs on Taiwan, under the benign but nervous oversight of the Manchus, who feared other imperialists like themselves might be encroaching on their empire, and headed by foreigners overseeing local staff. The construction of the lighthouse as a fortress is described on pages 12-13...
This lighthourse was of somewhat exceptional construction, and had to be fortified, as the district in which it was built is inhabited by savages. The lantern, which had curved glazing and rectangular framing, had revolving steel shutters to protect the glass in case of an attack. The lantern gallery was loopholed for rifle file and carried a five barreled Gatling gun on metal bracers. The towers was cast iron, 50 feet high to the gallery, 19 feet six inches diameter at the base, and 12 feet eight inches at the top. It was fitted up with living rooms for the foreign staff to use in case of attack. Round its base was a wrought iron fort forty feet in diameter containing living rooms for the native staff, store rooms, a kitchen, and an armory; and water cisterns were arranged in the basement. The staff usually lived in large brick bungalows, each room in the bungalows being connected with the wrought iron fort by a bulletproof passage. The compound was protected by a loopholed brick wall and a twenty foot ditch flanked by caponnieres; and a barbed wire fence crowned the summit of the glacis. In addition to the ordinary staff, a guard of eight men was employed under a European gunner; and the station was armed with two Gatling guns, one Cohon mortar, and two 18 pounder cannon. As the landing on the coast at south cape was difficult, and was frequently exposed to a heavy swell, a small creek in the coral was cleared of rocks with dynamite and a concrete jetty a hundred and seventy feet long was built on the side of the creek. The tower and refuge cost 5,881 pounds; and the light and lantern cost 3223 pounds; the local expenditure for buildings etc amounted to $71,248 Mexican dollars, or about 7125 pounds at the present [1938] rate of exchange or 13,656 pounds at the rate of exchange when the station was built.
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1 comment:

Brian Castle said...

Am I the only one who, upon seeing the name of that light house, thinks of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory?