Hong Kong & Whampoa Dockyard – glass plate photographic collection

HF: The Hong Kong Maritime Museum website currently has an online exhibition representing a small portion of the photographic glass plates from its Hong Kong & Whampoa Dockyard collection. All images below are courtesy of the Museum.

Hong Kong & Whampoa - Maritime Museum Plate Glass photo collection

The Museum website says, with slight adaptation,”The consolidation of the Hongkong Whampoa Dockyard (HWD) with the Taikoo Dockyard in 1973 represented the most significant merger among Hong Kong shipyards. These two companies arguably were the most important ship builders in Hong Kong in the 20th century. They had witnessed the city’s industrial boom in the years between the wars and their destruction during the Second World War. Both companies would also be an important part of the city’s regrowth afterwards.

Hong Kong & Whampoa - Maritime Museum Plate Glass photo collection 2

In 1973, in preparation for the company merger, HWD company records were collected, archived, and in some cases [discarded]. In one of the many boxes scheduled for trashing were a set of glass plate negatives, some dating back to the late 19th century. A company representative immediately recognising their historical value placed them aside and held them in storage. In 2008, the complete set was donated to the Hong Kong Maritime Museum and today makes up one of the museum’s most significant archival collections.

Glass plate negatives were used as a common photographic processing technique in the 19th and 20th centuries. They were treated with a light sensitive emulsion. When these were exposed to the sun a negative image of the scene was imprinted. These glass plates were then used to produce photographic prints on special light sensitive paper.

Hong Kong & Whampoa - Maritime Museum Plate Glass photo collection 3

The HWD collection numbers over 100 individual plates. The photos represent the building process of their yard, ships being launched, new ships being tested for performance, and official company shots. The iconic images show their well known dock crane, constructed in 1937. This formidable structure survived the bombings of World War II and was a Hong Kong landmark into the 1970’s.

Fortunately the Taikoo Dockyard glass plate negative collection also survived.”

Hong Kong & Whampoa - Maritime Museum Plate Glass photo collection 4

You can also see photos of family members of dockworkers who were able to share with the museum “a little more about the domestic side of the Hung Hom neighbourhood”.

See: HK Maritime Museum – HKD glass plate sample  scroll down and click on the images

This article was first published on 2nd October 2014.

Related Indhhk articles:

  1. HK and Whampoa Dockyard – what happened to its famous Hammerhead Crane?
  2. Hong Kong & Whampoa Dock Co. Ltd – ships built, wrecked during WW2
  3. Hong Kong & Whampoa Dock – WW2 bombing – the aftermath
  4. HUD – new tug Whampoa – celebrating two HK shipyards
  5. BAAG records of shipping in HK during 1944-45 – August 1944 ships under repair in Kowloon Docks
  6. BAAG records of shipping in HK during 1944-45 – August 1944 ships under construction in Kowloon Docks
  7. BAAG records of shipping in HK during 1944-45 – Type F No.18 – built at Kowloon Docks
  8. Alexander MacDonald – Kowloon Dock Police Inspector 1960-1965
  9. Facebook: ‘Photos of Taikoo and Kowloon Dock Families’ group – additional images


One comment

  • Peter Cundall

    The large salvage tug in the first photo is the Henry Keswick. This tug was quite well known appearing in a number of trade magazines when built on account of her size and power. At the outbreak of war the ship fled to the Philippines. On 29 December 1941 the ship was supposedly sunk by artillery fire at Corregidor. The date and cause is rather suspect given that Bataan had not yet fallen and in fact the Japanese attacks on it did not begin till 9 January. Whatever the exact cause and date the wreck was found at Corregidor after the siege ended in May 1942. The ship was salvaged and renamed Keishu Maru and was sunk later in the war as below:

    8/1/45 departed Manila en route to Japan via St Jacques (Vung Tau). 12/1/45 while off Longhai 27km E of St Jacques the ship was attacked by Grumman aircraft. The battle began at 1000 and the action continued until 1800 when only one machine gun was left and one hour later the ammunition for this was exhausted. The ship maneuvered to avoid attackers but was hit by bombs and fire broke out and spread through the ship. The Keisho Maru was then run aground. 16 of the crew were killed.

    It is believed the ship visited Hong Kong while under the Japanese flag and towed the Dosei Maru (ex Don Jose) to Hong Kong for repairs that were never completed.

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