Floating City, Aberdeen Harbour, HK, 1973.

Copyright Karsten Petersen – (www.global-mariner.com) – Photographer’s comment:

In Hong Kong, both on the island itself as well as on the mainland and the outlying islands, there are several typhoon shelters, where small ships and fishing vessels can seek shelter during the typhoon season.

In the mid 19 hundreds, several of these typhoon shelters were actually not only used as refuges during typhoons, but were in fact floating cities of junks, of which many would never go to sea again, but just stayed there, permanently moored until they rotted away and sank.

The biggest of these floating cities could be found in Aberdeen Harbour between Hong Kong Island and Ap Lei Chau.

Here lived about 20.000 “boat people” on about 3000 junks. They are the Tanka- and Hoklo people, a certain group of fishermen, that traditionally preferred to live permanently on their boats instead of living in apartments ashore.

There are still “boat people” in Hong Kong, but the Hong Kong government has for long time tried to encourage them to leave their boats and resettle ashore by building housing estates for them as well as schools and facilities for their children. And slowly but surely the fishermen have been transformed into factory workers as their typhoon shelters are disappearing when harbour areas are being reclaimed for city development.

Nobody forced the “Boat People” to resettle ashore, it was their own choice, and probably a wise choice, since the floating cities were actually a form of sea based slum, offering only an inconvenient lifestyle.


The yards at Ap Lei Chau island, Aberdeen Harbour, where lots of junks were built – autumn 1973.


The huge floating restaurants in Aberdeen Harbour – 1973


One of the “streets” in the floating city of Aberdeen Harbour.


Sampan in the floating city of Aberdeen Harbour.


Sampan in the floating city of Aberdeen Harbour.


Sampan in the floating city of Aberdeen Harbour.


Children skillfully navigating a sampan between the anchored junks, Aberdeen Harbour – autumn 1973.


Boatman navigating his sampan between the anchored junks, Aberdeen Harbour – autumn 1973.


The “Boat People” – boat man, Aberdeen Harbour, Hong Kong – autumn 1973.


Aberdeen Harbour with its floating city of junks, Hong Kong – autumn 1973. The well known floating restaurants in the harbour are seen in the background.


People, sampans and junks in Aberdeen Harbour.




Sampan traffic everywhere, Aberdeen Harbour, Hong Kong – autumn 1973. All images © K. Petersen.

September 3rd, 2011  in Ports, Harbours & Waterways 1 Comment »

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