Kiushan Tao

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Kiushan Tao is an island east of China. It is also known as Niushan Dao (牛山岛), Niu Shan, and Turnabout Island.[1] The island forms a part of the boundary between the East China Sea and the South China Sea.[2]


1873 lighthouse[edit]

The island and its shoals are a hazard to navigation. In 1873, a lighthouse was built on the island.[3] A 1901 sailing manual describes the island as being about 218 feet high, having two islets, and dangerous rocks to the north and south.[4] The manual describes the light:

LIGHT.—A fixed white light is exhibited from a lighthouse 54 feet in height, on the summit of Turnabout island, visible all round. It is elevated 257 feet above high water, and should be seen in clear weather, a distance of 23 miles.
The tower, which is of stone, is painted black, and the keepers' dwelling and surrounding walls white.

Wreck of the S.S. San Pablo[edit]

The SS San Pablo was owned by the Occidental and Oriental Steamship Company. The ship ran between San Francisco and Hong Kong.[5]

The San Pablo had been intended as a collier between San Francisco and Tacoma, but Occidental & Oriential converted her for passenger service. Her first trip as a refitted passenger vessel started April 26, 1887.[6]

In 1887, Antonio Jacobsen painted a waterscape of the ship.[7]

On April 24, 1888, the San Pablo was in the Formosa Strait. There was a thick fog, and the ship ran aground north of Turnabout Island at about 3:30 in the morning. The ship was hard aground, and two holds and a coal bunker filled with water. The ship might capsize. The ship was going to be abandoned, and the crew and passengers were about to head for Turnabout lighthouse, when the ship was set upon by pirates from the mainland. Captain Reed armed the passengers and crew, and the first attack was repulsed. During a second attack, the pirates gained the main deck, but were beaten back with steam hoses. The pirates waited half a mile from the ship.

The crew and passengers then made for land, and the pirates took the ship. While the pirates had the ship, a fire broke out, and the San Pablo burned to the waterline.[8][9][10]


In 1921, the British watercolorist John Fraser painted Passing Turnabout Island. China Sea - 1875. Vessel under full sail. The painting is held by National Maritime Museum.[11]

World War II[edit]

In May 1938, the Japanese captured Amoy and gained control of the lighthouse.[12] In June 1942, the Chinese managed to blow up the lighthouse and then retreat. Japanese troops then occupied the island and constructed a temporary lighthouse and a radio station. In April 1945, some unarmed Chinese troops dressed as fishermen and some fishermen evaded some Japanese security checks and landed on the island under the guise of supplying or collecting food. They were able to separate and surprise the Japanese on the island. At one point, a single Japanese guard was watching a group of Chinese; they killed him and gained his weapon. Stones were also used as weapons. The Chinese gained control of the island.[12]

Convoy attack[edit]

On 25 October 1944, the USS Tang (SS-306) discovered a large, well-protected, convoy near Turnabout Island. Tang penetrated the destroyer screen and attacked the convoy. Tang sank several ships and evaded the destroyers. Later Tang attacked one of the ships she had damaged, but Tang fell victim to a circular run by one of her own torpedoes.[13]

Awa Maru incident[edit]

On April 1, 1945, the submarine USS Queenfish (SS-393) torpedoed the Awa Maru near Turnabout Island in what became known as the Awa Maru incident. The Japanese government had obtained safe passage for the vessel as a Red Cross relief ship. Only one of the 2004 passengers survived.[14]

New lighthouse[edit]

The lighthouse was destroyed during World War II. A temporary lighthouse was installed in 1947 and refurbished in 1982.[15] In 1987, a new lighthouse was built.[16] The lighthouse may have been rebuilt in December 1998.[17]


  1. ^, GeoNameId: 1799251
  2. ^ Limits of Oceans and Seas (PDF) (3rd ed.), International Hydrographic Organization, 1953, retrieved 7 February 2010 
  3. ^ Rowlett, Russ (2012), Lighthouses of China: Northern Fujian (Ningde and Fuzhou), retrieved 2013-03-07 
  4. ^ China Sea Directory: (1894) & Supplement (1901), Edition 3, Great Britain Hydrographic Department,, page 209.
  5. ^ Wright, E. C., ed. (1895), Lewis & Dryden's Marine History of the Pacific Northwest, The Lewis and Dryden Publishing Company , page 492. c.f. William K. Tullock, purser
  6. ^ Stern 1888, p. 34
  7. ^
  8. ^ "The San Pablo Stranded.; At Turnabout Island Off The Coast Of China". The New York Times. April 22, 1888. 
  9. ^ Stern, Simon Adler (1888), Jottings of Travel in China and Japan, Porter & Coates, pp. 177–179 , quotes Philadelphia Evening Telegraph, May 24, 1888  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  10. ^ A Fight With Pirates: Details of the Loss of the Steamer San Pablo in Chinese Waters, St. John's, NF: Evening Telegram, June 2, 1888 
  11. ^
  12. ^ a b In Chinese. Accessed 2013-03-09
  13. ^ O'Kane, Richard H. (1989) [1977], Clear the Bridge!: The War Patrols of the U.S.S. Tang, Presidio Press, ISBN 978-0-89141-346-2 
  14. ^ National Security Agency (May 1981), The Sinking and the Salvage of the Awa Maru (U): A Strange and Tragic Tale (U) (PDF) , p. 7
  15. ^ Wiki, 牛山岛灯塔 [Ushiyama Island Lighthouse] (in Chinese), retrieved 2013-03-07 , a wiki
  16. ^ Rowlett 2012, photo of lighthouse at top right of page.
  17. ^ Wiki & unknown

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 25°26′07″N 119°56′12″E / 25.435272°N 119.936693°E / 25.435272; 119.936693