Concerned about preservation of the nation’s 37 lighthouses, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Kuan Bi-ling (管碧玲) has arranged for her assistant, Chen Lin-sung (陳林頌), to make a tour of the lighthouses while the Legislative Yuan is out of session.
Kuan hopes the tour will provide information so she can make appropriate recommendations to local governments on the heritage site designation process.
Due to an organizational restructuring of Cabinet ministries, lighthouses — formerly under the jurisdiction of the Customs Administration — were transferred to the Maritime and Port Bureau under the Ministry of Transportation and Communications in January.
Kuan said that while the ministry has many items of cultural value under its jurisdiction, it has neglected to make heritage conservation and protection a priority.
For too long lighthouses have not received the attention they merit, Kuan said, adding that they are either not designated heritage sites at all, or when they are, it is at too low a level.
Additionally, the government lacks people with the professional knowledge to take care of them, she said.
According to regulations, applications for a lighthouse to be designated a heritage site have to pass local government review.
To strengthen an application one has to be familiar with every inch of a lighthouse’s interior, Kuan said, adding that this was why she spent hundreds of thousands of New Tawian dollars on a full-frame camera.
Kuan said that the pictures Chen brought back of the lighthouses he has visited so far moved her very much, and she is certain they will allow her to compile the most detailed and comprehensive lighthouse report in the nation’s history.
Taiwan is a maritime nation, but many of its citizens seem to lack an understanding of this, Kuan said, adding that she hopes that improved preservation efforts and the gradual re-opening of lighthouses for public use would highlight the nation’s maritime reliance.
Chen added that the older lighthouses are particularly interesting.
Many of the nation’s lighthouses were built during the Qing Dynasty, and to this day the maintenance and operation of the lighthouses follow techniques from that period, he said.
Being a lighthouse keeper is hard and lonely work, Chen said, giving the lighthouse on Pengjia Islet (彭佳嶼) as an example.
Supplies are ferried over by the Maritime and Port Bureau every 15 days and day-to-day logistics and resupply for lighthouses around Penghu, Kinemen and Matzu rely on loaned civilian ships, Chen said.
The bureau conducts an island-wide resupply mission twice a year and ferries some of the larger equipment to the lighthouses itself, Chen added.
Chen said that the lighthouse on Dongding Island near Kinmen, which was built in 1871, had left a deep impression on him.
During its construction concrete was not available and the entire structure was laid down brick by brick, he said.
Nautical charts — both ancient and modern — show the locations of all the nation’s lighthouse, Chen said, adding that each one has its own unique frequency and flashing method.
This is so sailors are able to tell where they are, he said.
Of the 37 lighthouses, only nine have so far been accorded heritage site status, and Chen believes 14 other light houses should be designated as such, of which the the lighthouse on Pengjia Islet, the lighthouse on Cape San Diego (三貂角) and those on Beiding Island (北碇島) and Dongding Island should be designated national heritage sites.