Sun, May 14, 2017 - Page 3 News List

Matsu tunnel claims the cellphones of 30 visitors

‘BLUE TEARS’:The Beihai Tunnel is one of three tunnels in Matsu built from 1969 to 1971 to protect military vessels. In 2000, it was opened to the public

By Chien Chao-fu and William Hetherington  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

Visitors pass through the Beihai Tunnel in Matsu’s Nangan Island in an undated photograph.

Photo provided by the Lienchiang County Government

In the past three years about 30 visitors to Beihai Tunnel (北海坑道) in Matsu’s Nangan Island (南竿) have lost cellphones while photographing the famed “blue tears,” a county official said.

The blue tears are a naturally occurring phenomenon caused by a form of algae called Noctiluca scintillans, which glows a bright-blue color from April through August every year. The blue tears are a major tourist attraction, drawing 180,000 visitors to Lienchiang County last year.

The Beihai Tunnel, which provides an ideal place to view the algae, is one of three such tunnels in Matsu built from 1969 to 1971 by the Ministry of National Defense to provide protection for military vessels. The tunnel was remodeled and opened to the public in 2000 under orders from then-Lienchiang County commissioner Liu Li-chun (劉立群), who hoped the tunnel would boost tourism. It remains the only one of the three tunnels accessible to the public.

Lighting inside the tunnel is kept off when visitors enter at night so that the only light comes from the glowing algae, which become visible when the water is disturbed by paddles or oars.

Tourism officials said the effect is like “floating through space surrounded by the light of the stars.”

Lienchiang County Transportation and Tourism Department Deputy Director Liu Hsing-chien (劉性謙) said the water in the tunnel is 6m deep at its most shallow point.

“If someone drops a cellphone in that water it is quite hard to retrieve it,” he said.

One boat operator recalled a father who dropped an iPhone 7 in the water recently while photographing the blue tears.

“The smartphone had several pictures of his son. Those memories are all lost,” the operator said.

The most important first step if a handset is recovered from water is to turn the power off and remove the battery if possible, the Liberty Times (the Taipei Times’ sister newspaper) digital lifestly editor Chuang Ying-chun (莊英群) said, adding that the smartphone should then be placed in front of a fan to dry for at least one day.

Tourists who drop their handsets in the water while aboard a boat cannot seek compensation from operators except in the event that the boat is being operated incorrectly, lawyer Lin Fu-kuei (林富貴) said.

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