Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Taiwan's lighthouses

Taiwan has around 1,600km of coast and well over 100 minor islands. In the 19th century, shipwrecks were frequent and they sometimes led to international incidents, so it's no surprise the government operates 34 lighthouses to ensure maritime safety. For the past 140 years, these lighthouses have been managed by the Directorate General of Customs, a body founded back in the Qing Dynasty and headed for 48 years by Sir Robert Hart, an Ulsterman. 

At the end of this year, however, the Ministry of Transportation and Communications will take over responsibilities for lighthouses, and to celebrate the handover, 12 lighthouses will be open to the public on June 30. The 12 were built between 1872 and 1983, and six are opening their doors to the public for the very first time. Several other lighthouses are open to the public year round, among them the one that stands on Qijin Island and overlooks the mouth of Kaohsiung Port. Judging by this photo, Suao Lighthouse has a spectacular location, but it isn't open to casual visitors. 

I visited the lighthouse pictured here (Creative Commons photo by Shih-Pei Chang) while researching the Penghu County section of my guidebook; the grounds are open to visitors, but the building is off-limits. Or so it seems.

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