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History of the aeronautical meteorological station and signal station at Cheung Chau

        The Cheung Chau aeronautical meteorological station was set up in 1953 at a hilltop site adjacent to the Kwan Kung Pavilion on the southern side of the island.  In 1970, the station was relocated to its present site on Peak Road West (Figure 1).  The Cheung Chau signal station was first established at the police station near the ferry pier in 1962 and was moved to the meteorological station in 1971 (Figure 2).  The signal station was decommissioned on 1 January 2002.

        In the early days, the Cheung Chau aeronautical meteorological station was manned by a Scientific Assistant.  The main duty of this Scientific Assistant was to observe the weather and send weather reports to the Airport Meteorological Office at Kai Tak by radio telephone.  During the approach of tropical cyclones, the Scientific Assistant was also required to hoist and lower tropical cyclone warning signals.  The meteorological station was automated in 1992 and Scientific Assistants were no longer posted at Cheung Chau.  The task of hoisting and lowering of signals was taken over by the Property Attendants.

        Scientific Assistants on shift duty at Cheung Chau had to stay there for nine consecutive days at a time.  Some colleagues really appreciated the serene life-style because they could read amply in a tranquil environment or admire the beauty of the star-studded night sky.  However, when they eventually returned to the urban areas, they had to readjust themselves to the noisy city and to cope with the busy traffic.

        In spite of the long shift hours, colleagues off duty could go swimming at Tung Wan Beach on the island's east coast.  Some preferred to go to the cinema or take strolls around the island.  There used to be some twenty cooked-food stalls near the ferry pier and many colleagues enjoyed the seafood and other delicious snacks at these stalls.  A retired colleague who had worked at Cheung Chau for a long time planted many kinds of fruit trees, such as orange, shaddock, loquat, sapodilla, papaya, banana, etc. in the station garden.  His efforts were highly appreciated, and many colleagues could recount how good the fruits tasted.

        During its 30 years service, the Cheung Chau signal station had weathered many violent typhoons.  Tropical cyclone warning signals had been hoisted on numerous occasions.  Five typhoons necessitated the hoisting of Hurricane Signal No. 10, namely, Rose in 1971, Elsie in 1975, Hope in 1979, Ellen in 1983 and York in 1999.  Just after relocation of the signal station in 1971 the first No. 10 signal was hoisted during the attack of Typhoon Rose.  During the passage of Typhoon Ellen to Hong Kong in 1983, its hurricane winds broke the signal mast at the station and caused a vessel to run aground on Tung Wan Beach.  The last No. 10 signal hoisted at the station was associated with Typhoon York in 1999.

        The number of signal stations in Hong Kong peaked at 42 in the 1960s.  Since the 1970s, comprehensive and up-to-date weather information on tropical cyclones issued by the Hong Kong Observatory was made available to the public through radio and TV stations frequently.  Signal stations in Hong Kong were systematically closed.  The decommissioning of Hong Kong's last signal station at Cheung Chau marked the end of the era of signal stations (Figure 3).

Old site and present site  of the Cheung Chau aeronautical meteorological station.

Figure 1.    Old site and present site of the Cheung Chau aeronautical meteorological station.

Cheung Chau aeronautical meteorological station and signal station on Peak Road West.

Figure 2.    Cheung Chau aeronautical meteorological station and signal station on Peak Road West.

The Director of the Hong Kong Observatory, Dr. H. K. LAM, officiating at the closing ceremony of the Cheung Chau signal station by lowering the No. 10 signal.

Figure 3.    The Director of the Hong Kong Observatory, Dr. H. K. LAM, officiating at the closing ceremony of the Cheung Chau signal station by lowering the No. 10 signal.