1905 June - Japanese Cruiser Surveys Takeshima (Liancourt Rocks)

In June 1905, after the defeat of the Russian navy in the Sea of Japan, the Japanese Warship Hashidate was sent to Takeshima (Liancourt Rocks) to determine the suitability of building a watch tower on the island. On June 13, the Hashidate and her crew arrived at Takeshima, where they found about thirty-five fishermen from Oki Island hunting sea lions with guns and nets. The man in charge of the fishermen was Nakai Yozaburo, the Japanese businessman who petitioned the Japanese government in September 1904 to incorporate the islets into Japanese territory. (Takeshima was incorporated into Japanese territory on February 22, 1905. You can read an English translation of Nakai Yozaburo's petition HERE.)

The Japanese warship Hashidate's logbook, which is pictured on the left, tells some interesting facts about Takeshima, including the fact that the little water on the island was unsuitable for drinking. It also says the soil was too infertile to plant vegetables. The following is a translation of the relevant pages from the logbook:

Page 462

June 1905 Wartime Log of the Warship Hashidate

Page 474

No. 34, 35"..One Petty Officer Second-Class boarded

Saturday, June 10th (Clear Temperatures: HIgh 75 F Low 71 F. Number of sick personnel: 2)--Departed at 8:00 A.M. Watched for any signs of attack. We recieved notification #100. Orders #47 and #48.

Sunday, June 11th (Clear Temperatures: High 74 F Low 70 F / Number of sick personnel: 1)--After serving watch duty, we returned to Ojaki at 1:40 P.M. At 5:25 P.M. we received a telegraphic order as below from Eup Island in Jinhae.

Page 475

Headquarters in Sasaebo dispatched some personnel of the construction department, who are to be sent over to Takeshima (Dokdo) on the Hashidate. Instructions of the dispatch are to be delivered directly to the Hashidate via the Kenkai Maru (ship name) which departs from here tomorrow morning. One navy engineer and five other workers of the constuction personnel mentioned above are to arrive at Takeshiki this afternoon via the Haechiko Maru in Sasaebo (naval base, Nagasaki). Thus, at 7:35 P.M., we went to Takeshiki to load up with provisions. Ships at anchor: the Su-ah, the Matsushima, the Izuma and the Akijushima. Recieved papers: Regimental notification 94 (report of war details)

Monday, June 12th (Cloudy Temperatures: High 78 F Low 71 F. Number of sick personnel: none)--In the morning one engineer and five other workers from Sasaebo's Construction Dept. boarded to go to Takeshima (Liancourt Rocks). At 4:15 P.M., we departed from Takeshiki. At 8:00 P.M., we temporarily moored at the West harbour of Busan..."

Page 476

While anchored, we waited to receive another directive to dispatch to Takeshima (Liancourt Rocks) from the 3rd Fleet Commander at Ya-ae Mountains, and then departed immediately. Following the order from Taketomi, the 3rd Fleet Commander sailed for Takeshima (Liancourt Rocks). Takeshiki Notification #143 (A letter direct from the American President came to be known advising a peace treaty between Japan and Russia. the Japanese government will reply saying it will accept that suggestion and appoint a plenitentiary. The above was a telegraph from the navy.) Confidential information #47 (directive on dispatch to Takeshima (Liancourt Rocks).

Tuesday, June 13th (Cloudy, Rained after fog Temperatures High 73 F Low 67 F...

Page 477

"...Number of sick personnel: none)--At 2:00 P.M., we arrived at Takeshima (Liancourt Rocks) and immediately lowered a small boat with the engneer, the workers, and an officer to navigate the boat. They then went to investigate the suitability (of the island) for building a watch tower. At 3:40 P.M., they returned after finishing their invetigation. (After that, according to the 5 Jeoncha confidential report #47, they set off toward Sasaebo.)

Summary of the 5 Jeoncha confidential report #47:

After completing the special mission above (investigating the island's suitability for building a watchtower), we returned to the locations, completed repairs, and promptly prepared for battle navigation without any obstacles. We reported to the 3rd Fleet Commander in Taketomi. See appendix for the report of the Takeshima investigation.

Page 479

The Report of the Takeshima (Liancourt Rocks) Investigation

As ordered, we departed from Takeshiki on June 12, 1905 and arrived at about 1 ri off the east side of Takeshima's East Islet at 2:00 the next afternoon. While floating on location, we lowered a small landing craft to dispatch the investigating officer, Lieutenant Okuura, and his assistant, Lieutenant Second-Class Okida, to investigate the suitability for building a watch tower. The engineer and other workers from the Sasaebo headquarters were included in the dispatched group.

The Report of the Investigation by the officers above is as follows.1. Takeshima consists of two rocks standing next to each other. The West Islet, very rocky and barren, stands high (410 feet in altitude), but all around are precipitous cliffs, which make climbing very difficult. There are no flat areas on top of this islet and no place for installing a watch tower because of its steep, erect, peak.

Page 480

The East Islet stands is not as the other one (estimated to be 325 feet in altitude) and not so steep as to make climbing impossible, though it could be challenging. On the top of this islet is a relatively flat, dish shaped area, and it will be possible to erect structures by dumping landfill.1. It will be challenging to unload construction materials onto land and carry them to the top. As far as landing locations, after some trials, they are shown in the attached map. All around the East and West Islets are a row of single-formed reefs connected to each other, which is about one ryeon (600 feet) long (recorded as two-and-a-half hyeon in the Seaways Directory) and two or three shim deep (about 16~24 feet) around to the top of the reefs. A small boat can easily make it through, and reefs all around are laid out like dykes. To the West of the East islet are pointed rocks joined together to form something like a miniature harbour. And this offers convenient place for small boats to be moored, although they cannot stay long because of the strong winds blowing from the west. This little harbour, compared to the East Islet, is the only way to make it to land. On some small flat areas on the seashore...

Page 481

...are currently a few little huts built by fishermen, where about 30 people are temporarily staying. To transport materials to the top of the mountain, a machine like a derrick would be useful, and to climb up the steep cliffs another machine (bulldozer?) could be considered as an option. From the top of the West islet, a small steam runs down, but the water contains too much salt to drink. A test result shows the water is unsuitable for drinking.1. It is also not possible to plant vegetables to provide watch tower personnel with food because the top of the island is too infertile to be called soil and there is not enough precipitation. So far, the above is the survey by the dispatched officer, and during this inspection the ship circumnavigated the island keeping a distance of one ri away and didn't observe any particular reefs.

Page 482

To the northwest of the East Islet, however, lies reef line, which is estimated to be two ryeon (1,200 feet) long. Now is the hunting season for sea lions on this island, and about 35~36 fishermen from Oki Island are here catching a large number of sea lions with rifles and nets. What has been learnt through a talk with these fishermen during the survey was thought to be useful and, therefore, recorded below.The island has an abundance of sea lions, and from mid-April until mid-July, by lunar calendar, fishermen stay here to engage in seal hunting. What can be obtained from those sea lions is their skin and oil, which are sent to Osaka and produce 4,000~5,000 yen of income yearly. Currently a man named Nakai Yozaburo, who is from Okino, is in charge of these fishermen. He says that if there are applicants for this winter,...

Page 483

...he is willing to spend his winter on the island. Other than sea lions, a small amount of abalone is also caught. In terms of weather, in the summer gets very hot during the midday and quite cool in the morning and the evening. The worst hot spell comes in June, by the lunar calendar. The island gets thick fog and a very small amount of rainfall compared to Japan. The nearby currents, like the ones in the northeast, are not slow, and the difference between high and low tides is about four feet. According to this report, it is believed to far exceed four feet, but this figure is considered doubtful according to local fishermen. Because there are no trees and water on the island, they go to Okino once or twice a month and bring back food, wood, and other things. This report is recorded as above. June 15th, 1905

Page 484

From Hukui Masayushi, Captain of the Warship Hashidate to Taketomi Kunikanae, Commander of the 3rd Fleet."

Page 485

Results of the water test (on Takeshima) are as follows--Odor: Odorless / Clarity and colour: Light brown, microscopic floating particles / Chlorine: A large quantity / Coal: A small quantity / Ammonina: Large quantity / Lactic Acid: Slightly large quantity / Nitrous Acid: None / Nitric Acid: None / Organic Matter: Great quantity / Conclusion: This water is unsuitable as drinking water.

Pages 486 & 487 (See Maps Below)

Page 488 (See Below)

"Wednesday, June 14th (Weather: Cloudy and Foggy. Temperatures High 74 F Low 70 F. Number of sick personnel: none)--At 7:52 P.M., we arrived at Sasaebo. Moored to No.6 Bouy. Other anchored ships included the Chiyoda, the Iki, the Okinoshima, and the Mishima. We stored the prepared ammunition in the warehouse.

Thursday, June 15th, Weather (Cloudy. Temperatures High 77 F Low 72 F. Number of sick personnel: Two)--Sasaebo, Samaejima, Commander of Sasaebo Naval Base conducted an inspection.

Friday, June 16th (Weather: Clear. Temperatures High 81 F Low 72 F. Number of sick personnel: One) Sasaebo, Mounted 32cm, 12 cm ammunition...."

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