Junk building – and their water-tight bulkheads

In 2009, China nominated the watertight-bulkhead technology of Chinese junks for inclusion on the UN’s List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding. The nomination was accepted the following year.

Developed in South China’s Fujian Province, the bulkhead technology is used to create watertight compartments such that if one or two cabins on board an ocean-going junk are accidentally damaged in the course of navigation, sea water will not flood the other cabins, and the vessel will remain afloat. I guess this is pretty well the sameĀ approach used in the Titanic, although in retrospect in the case of the linern it was not perhaps implemented as well as it might have been.

The junks are built using traditional wood-working techniques and tools and are made mainly of camphor, pine and fir timber, principally using rabbet-jointing planks caulked using the the fibrous ramie plant, lime and tung oil. The experience and working methods of watertight-bulkhead technology are transmitted orally from master to apprentices.

Communities participate by holding solemn ceremonies to pray for peace and safety during construction and before the launch of the completed vessel.

The techniques of building junks are being lost as demand for the vessels has decreased, with wooden vessels replaced by steel-hulled ships, and in 2009 it was reported that only three masters were still able to claim full command of junk building techniques.

My thanks to boat and sail designer and maker Michael Storer for posting this one on Facebook!

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More of Matt Atkin’s photos of the boats and ships of Hong Kong’s harbours

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Hong Kong nets

Here’s some more of my brother Matt Atkin’s striking photos from Hong Kong – to see an earlier post click here. Once again, I don’t think either of us can say much about what the boats are, but it’s fascinating to see shots of a working and dwelling boat-using culture so very different from the one we know here in cold, rainy winter-bound Kent.

Thanks once again Matt!

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Spectacular photos of working boats and houseboats in Hong Kong’s harbours

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Boats of Hong Kong – click on the images for a larger photo

Hong Kong resident and photography enthusiast Matthew Atkin has kindly sent me this collection of his stunning shots – I guess the fact that he’s also my brother had something to do with it!

I’ve never been to the Far East (though will have to save up to travel there now my brother ands his family have set up residence), but I’m struck that while Hong Kong’s tower blocks seem very familiar, nothing else seems at all like anything I know, including the hills, the boats and ships and even the colour of the sea. I think Matt shot these images using his Leica camera, so I’m confident that the colour rendition here is accurate.

I’d like to say that these boats are junks and sampans and that some of the images of small boats include yulohs but I can’t, for neither Matt nor I can give these craft and their components their proper names. If anyone would like to help, please use the Comment link below.

Thanks for the photos Matt – I’ll post some more in a few days.

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