Other names: Dongsha Islands
|Pratas Islands from space, January 1986.|
|Location||South China Sea|
|Major islands||Pratas Island
North Vereker Bank
South Vereker Bank
|Area||1.74 km² (land), 0.64 km² (lagoon) 1|
|Length||2.8 kilometres (1.7 mi)|
|Width||0.865 kilometres (0.537 mi)|
|Republic of China (Taiwan)|
|People's Republic of China|
The Pratas Islands, also called Dongsha Islands (simplified Chinese: 东沙群岛; traditional Chinese: 東沙群島; pinyin: Dōngshā Qúndǎo; literally "Eastern Sandy Islands"), consist of three islands forming from an atoll located in northeastern South China Sea, 340 km (211 mi) southeast of Hong Kong. Excluding EEZ and territorial waters, the islets comprise approximately 2.4 km² (including 0.64 km² of lagoon area).2 The islands are governed by the Republic of China (Taiwan). The People's Republic of China claims sovereignty over these islands along with all other territories currently controlled by the Republic of China. It is the seventh national park of the Republic of China. The main island of the group, Dongsha Island, is the largest of the South China Sea Islands.
- 1 History
- 2 Geography
- 3 Settlements
- 4 Pratas Da Wang temple
- 5 Stone tablet symbolizing national sovereignty over Pratas
- 6 Pratas Island measuring memorial stone tablet
- 7 Pratas library
- 8 Pratas military post office
- 9 Pratas fishermen's service station
- 10 Government
- 11 See also
- 12 References
- 13 External links
The Dongsha Islands were first recorded by the Chinese in the book "Guangzhou Ji" (廣州記) written by Pei Yuan (裴淵) in Jin Dynasty over 1000 years ago. Chinese fishermen fished in the sea around the Dongsha Islands by that time. The name "Pratas" were given to the islands by Portuguese sailors in the 16th century as Ilhas das Pratas (Silver plates islands) because of its peculiar round shape. The British screw sloop HMS Reynard was wrecked on the Pratas Islands in 1851 while going to the aid of another wrecked vessel; the crew were all saved.3
In 1908-1909 a Japanese businessman named Nishizawa Yoshizi (西澤吉次) established a guano collecting station, destroyed the Dawang Joss House (大王庙), and dug up graves and poured the bone ashes of Chinese fishermen into the sea there, and renamed the island "Nishizawa Island",45 but after a diplomatic confrontation, Chinese sovereignty was re-established, and Nishizawa withdrew, after being compensated by the Guangdong provincial government, and after paying compensation for the destruction of a Chinese fishermen's shrine.6 Japanese Naval personnel occupied Pratas Island during World War II. The Japanese Navy utilized Pratas Island as a weather station and listening outpost until May 29, 1945 when a landing party consisting of Australian commandos and US naval personnel from the submarine USS Bluegill raised the US flag and declared the island as a United States territory and named it Bluegill Island. During the allied occupation a radio tower, weather station, fuel, ammo dump and several buildings were destroyed. No lives were lost during this raid as all of the island's occupants fled just days prior to Bluegill's raid.7 The islands were later restored to the Republic of China's Guangdong Province.8
The islands have historically been uninhabited yet nations, including China and Japan, have claimed them to be their overseas territory. After World War II, the islands and the sea around them were mandated by United Nations.
In the Journal of Science (April 1867) there is a nine page article entitled "The Natural History of Pratas Island in the China Sea" by Dr. Cuthbert Collingwood, the naturalist on board HMS Serpent. It describes what was observed, especially bird life, during a visit of two days while the survey ship lay at anchor.
Today, the islands are administered by the Republic of China (Taiwan) with the postal code 817. In 2007 the Taiwan government designated the Pratas Islands the "Dongsha Islands National Park" (海洋國家公園, Hǎiyáng Guójiāgōngyuán) the first national marine park in Taiwan.
The Pratas Islands are located 850 km southwest of Taipei and 340 km southeast of Hong Kong in the northern part of the South China Sea or the Pratas Terrace ( ). The island is 2.8 km (2 mi) long and 0.865 km (1 mi) wide.
The island is made up of coral atolls and reef flats. Only Pratas Island is above sea level, Northern Vereker and Southern Vereker atolls are under water. Brush, vines and bushes cover some of Pratas and rest is white sand.
Other flora and fauna on Pratas:
- Silver silk tree
- Strawberry tung tree
- Coconut tree
- Little Terns
- Gullbilled Terns
- Rock lobsters
The island is shaped like a ring and consists of three major entities in the area:
- Pratas Island (東沙島)
- North Vereker Bank (北衛灘)
- South Vereker Bank (南衛灘)
There are also some seamount formations nearby, but not part of the main island:
- Jianfeng Seamount (尖峰海山)
- Maojia Seamount (芼架海山)
- Beipo Seamount (北波海山)
As a disputed island group with no permanent inhabitants, they are visited only by military personnel or researchers.
The Pratas Island Airport features a runway is located on the north end of Pratas Island with a small airport terminal at the eastern end. The airport is used by the ROC military. A main shack and subordinate shack are located on the southeast end of the island. Two piers on the southeast shore allow for small watercraft to land.
The other structures on the island include:
The Pratas Island landmark is an obelisk erected after 1946
In 1954 the ROC Government stationed on Pratas erected a stone tablet on the southern side of the island, facing the ocean.9
The Pratas Da Wang temple is dedicated to 'Kuang Kang' and 'The South China Sea Goddess' - Mazu. It is said that the statue of Guan Gong came to Pratas Island on a canoe in 1948. The soldiers on Pratas Island built a temple to worship him in 1975. Today, the canoe is still kept in the temple. The joss sticks and candles are donated by the soldiers who had returned home, as was the golden sign hung in front of the statue. The temple is an important symbol for them, providing them with spiritual sustenance. There is an 'Ever Green' pavilion in front of the temple which was also built by the soldiers. It is the most verdant place on the island.9
The Minister for Internal Affairs of the ROC erected the South China Sea Defense stone tablet to declare Republic of China sovereignty in 1989.9
In July 1991 the Kaohsiung City Government erected the Pratas Island measuring memorial stone tablet as a symbol that Pratas Island falls within the jurisdiction of Kaohsiung City.9 Within Kaohsiung, the islands belong to Qijin District.
The ROC Government established this spot as the triangulation point for Pratas Island in December 1991. There are words on each side of the base of the triangulation point stone tablet. It reads 'The Pratas Triangulation Point' on the front, and 'Longitude: 116 degrees 43 minutes 42.5601 seconds east, Latitude: 20 degrees 42 minutes 6.2415 seconds north, Height: 2.4875 meters.' The words 'Defend the South China Sea,' written by the commander, Lo Ben Li, were also engraved on the stone tablet. As the National Tsing Hua University webpage about the island states, "In addition to making it more convenient to survey and draw navigational maps, and to construct and develop facilities on the island, the establishment of the triangulation point is also the basis of our sovereign rights."9
The library is located on one side of the main plaza, and is the center for soldiers to obtain spiritual nourishment. The library now contains more than two thousand books.9
The ROC area code for Pratas is 817, and the military post office is Office No. 67. The Ministry of Transportation and Communications issued the 'South China Sea Islands Map Stamps' in 1996, as a set of two stamps. The inscription 'South China Sea Defense' from the national stone tablet on Pratas Island was printed on the five-dollar stamp, and the 'Defend the South China Sea' inscription from the national stone tablet on Taiping Island was printed on the seventeen-dollar stamp. The background was the south China coastline, Taiwan and Hainan Island with the blue sky and sea. This is the first time that the ROC had issued stamps with the theme of the South China Sea.9
In 1987 the military and civilian residents built the 'Pratas Fishermen's Service Station' together. The station was built in traditional Chinese courtyard house style, and provides convenient services for fishermen and boats in the South China Sea, insuring the fishermen's safety and upholding ROC sovereignty. The services provided include lodging, medical rescue, entertainment and supply. The Pratas fishermen's service station not only serves the fishermen, it also provides lodging for the scientists who come to conduct research on the island.9
Although there are no long term inhabitants on the island, Pratas is administered by the government of Kaohsiung City.
- "HMS Reynard". William Loney website. Retrieved 8 February 2014.
- CCVIC News: "挖我渔民祖坟，并将该岛改名为“西泽岛”。我渔民梁盛等向政府控诉西泽罪行"
- Edward Rhoads, China's Republican Revolution: the case of Kwangtung, 1895-1913 (Harvard University Press, 1975), pp. 140-141.
- Sovereignty over the Spratly Islands - The China Post 22 June 2009
- From Taiwan's National Tsing Hua University's "Discovering the South China Sea" article. http://vm.nthu.edu.tw/southsea/english.travel3_3.htm
- Satellite image of the Pratas Islands on Google Maps
- Pratas Island
- Ecological Resources
- Man-made sights
- Republic of China Dongsha Islands National Park Official Site