After 35 seasonal cycles, Mr. LUI Yau-lok, Chief Scientific Assistant of the Hong Kong Observatory and affectionately known as "Sir Lok" to many of his colleagues, will go on pre-retirement leave on 6 May, thus ending his perennial love-hate tussle with the weather.
Having developed a keen interest in the natural elements as a student, Sir Lok taking on a career in the Observatory is like a proverbial duck to water. Joining the service as a Scientific Assistant on 1 May 1967, Sir Lok excelled with his passionate work ethics and consistently put in outstanding performance. After promotion to Senior Scientific Assistant in 1978, he was soon elevated to the rank of Chief Scientific Assistant within a matter of two years. His legendary rise to the pinnacle of his career in such a short time has become an Observatory folklore; and serving as a Chief Scientific Assistant for over twenty-one and a half years is also a unique Observatory record.
In addition to some stints as a duty officer in the outstations, Sir Lok has been closely involved in various aspects of specialized work, most notably seismological network, meteorological instrumentation as well as meteorological training. The deployment to the Central Forecasting Office in 1992, which also turned out to be his last major assignment in a long and distinguished career, provided him with the ultimate challenge. As Chief Supervisor overseeing the Scientific Assistant grade, he played a pivotal role as a highly effective communication channel bridging the management and staff in the past ten years. And during stormy days when the whole Observatory was engaged in round-the-clock combat mode, his logistic expertise was also crucial in maintaining and supporting a smooth and efficient frontline operation.
There were, of course, many storms spanning over 35 years. Sir Lok could still recall the time when he worked at the weather station in Cape Collinson. Making weather observations outdoors amidst a typhoon when the No. 8 signal was up was no small feat. The only precautionary measure was a rope around his waist, tied to some bulky furniture inside the station building. Even then, cruelly exposed to the wild winds, it was an almighty struggle just to get the work done in quite hazardous circumstances. As for specific events, the "18 June Rainstorm" in Hong Kong in 1972 and the "Tangshan Earthquake" in China in 1976 would forever be etched in Sir Lok's memory. He was working respectively in the Instruments and Seismology sections at the time of the events, making significant contribution in emergency response and monitoring tasks. For the most satisfying accomplishment, Sir Lok pointed to his role in the setting up of the Observatory's Training Division in 1981. While new recruits have no doubt learnt much from such a dedicated mentor and tutor through the years, our counterparts within the Asian region also reaped the benefits as the training programmes were subsequently opened up for overseas enrolment. In recognition of his 12 years of hard work in the Training Division, Sir Lok was decorated with the MBE honour on New Year's Day in 1996.
Over the years, Sir Lok has witnessed a steady and significant shift in work patterns. Job efficiency has continued to improve with the advent of new technology. He still remembered that it took more than 40 officers to man the Central Forecasting Office round the clock back in the 1970s, all for the sake of one-day's worth of forecast. Nowadays, twenty odd officers would be quite enough to meet the operational needs, and yet the forecast range has been extended to as long as 5 days!
Weather is part of everybody's daily lives and, some would say, Sir Lok has become an integrated part of the Observatory's fabric. He was well aware of the public's expectation in terms of forecast accuracy and admitted that his mood swing was often driven by the compliments or criticisms heaped upon the Observatory. In appreciation of his years of hard work, all Observatory officers and staff would certainly aim to make even more accurate forecasts in the future, in the fervent hope that Sir Lok will find inner peace and quiet in a well-earned retirement.
Mr. LUI Yau-lok (standing) in action at the Central Forecasting Office