Tuesday, 8 November 2016

First Trip To Xishi Reservoir (西勢水庫) & Xinshan Reservoir (新山水庫) In Keelung

On Saturday morning I took the first HSR train up to Taipei again for the usual MRT ride over to Xindian to pick up the motorbike for my planned trip north to Keelung to see two of the four remaining reservoirs I have yet to see. However, I delayed the drive out of Taipei because the motorbike battery was flat. I kick started the bike but decided to get the battery changed immediately rather than put it off until the next trip; the repair shop had to order it for me and I waited almost an hour before the battery finally arrived, got filled up and installed.

I set off north on a road which runs parallel to highway nine and then eventually, after a couple of turns, I joined the 106 east out of Taipei toward the Shifen waterfall (十分瀑布), and then north west on provincial highway 2C into Keelung's Nuannuan district (暖暖區) wherein lies Xishi reservoir, which was built between 1923 and 1926 under the Japanese colonial administration. The 1923 start makes Xishi reservoir the second reservoir to be started by the Japanese in Taiwan, but the 1926 completion makes it the first reservoir to be completed (for comparison, construction of Wushantou reservoir began in 1920 but was not completed until 1930). Although the approach road to the small reservoir was behind a locked gate, there was an obviously well-trodden path around it which led to an open blue gate and into the grounds of the reservoir itself, which have the appearance of a small garden park...

At the downstream face of the dam, which somehow struck me as larger in reality than it appears in online photographs; it's almost 100 feet tall.

An obvious question about this dam is why an irregularly shaped lump of rock is sat right in the middle of the spillway slope. My guess is that the rock predates the dam, and that the Japanese engineers simply designed around it rather than attempting to remove it. That however is only a guess, as its' irregular shape would have complicated the calculations for discharge flow over the spillway. Another notable feature of this dam is the similarity of its' structure and appearance to other British dams built in the late 19th century and early 20th Century: look at that bannister-like trailing arm on one side of the spillway and the angle of the dam upward before its' vertical climb to the crest.

View eastward over the dam crest with intervening foliage. The Chinese language wikipedia entry for this reservoir mentions the British engineer William K. Burton as being hired by the Japanese colonial government to assist with various projects including the water pumping house downstream from this reservoir. However, the fact that Burton died in 1899 would seem to preclude him from having any direct involvement with the design or construction of Xishi reservoir. Perhaps the Japanese engineers worked in consultation with a British firm?

The gate for the little path which runs alongside the reservoir's western shoreline. The scooter indicated that somebody had already surmounted the gate and was inside, so I followed too and found the path to be surprisingly well maintained for its age. Eventually I caught up with the fellow to whom the scooter belonged; he had a kind of machete on him which he was using to cut away plants and keep the path open. We spoke for a while and he said the path would take me up to the south-western feeder stream, but that there was no way across to the other side, which accords with what can be seen on google maps.

Perhaps two or three minutes later I found a small, thin diversion leading down away from the main path and toward the waterside from which it was possible to get views across the reservoir from the upstream face of the dam to the north to the two feeder streams for the reservoir to the south.

The upstream face of the dam has what would appear to be a water control gate station at the top, though I remain unaware of any hydraulic gate for a sluiceway. The base of the structure seems to be of a piece with the original dam, though the little building on top is clearly a recent addition or replacement for whatever was originally there. Because the reservoir is full, the gauge on the side of the building reads 72 and then 73 meters (elevation above sea level). It would be interesting to return in perhaps February or March, assuming we get a decent dry period, and see how far down the reservoir can be drawn and how much sediment would become visible to the public. Unless there is a sluiceway I am unaware of, the reservoir may contain significant quantities of sediment simply due to the length of time it has been standing there.

Another shot of the upstream face of the dam with the spillway lip just on the edge of the shot to the right.

Panorama shot (taken without the aid of my tripod) with the dam to the north (left) and the forked feeder streams to the south (right), though these are not so visible from a waterside elevation.

Looking into the water itself. As Xishi reservoir is surrounded by woods containing a mixture of deciduous and coniferous trees as well as the usual variety of ferns, bamboo and other plants, it is likely that the soil is very stable and consequently the discharge of sediments into the reservoir is relatively small. That fact, together with the absence of farms and cemeteries from the surrounding area should in theory mean that the water quality at Xishi reservoir is good.

Further on down the main path, a view eastward out over the entry point for the western feeder stream. In the distance you can just see the entry point for the eastern feeder stream.
A 300mm lens close up shot of the entry point for the eastern feeder stream. Small streams like this in Taiwan tend to go unnamed.
Although the path continued on downstream for some distance, I decided to turn back the way I had came to photograph the monument behind the entrance gate and then return to the motorbike for the drive north to Xinshan reservoir. So far I had been mindful of where I was treading as there is always the remote possibility of treading on a snake, which is a spot of trouble I really don't want, but on the way to the feeder stream I hadn't seen a thing other than birds. On the way back however, I was lucky enough to spot a snake quickly slithering away off the path into the undergrowth only a few feet in front of me. Of course there was no chance of getting a picture such was its' speed. When I arrived back at the entrance gate, I took photos of the monument and the old plaque beneath it...

Reading from right to left, a value for area is given as (I think) 8.5 square kilometers which must be for the catchment area rather than the surface area of the reservoir; a value of 576,000 cubic meters is given for total capacity; the dam length is given as 126.97 meters, the dam crest width as 3.64 meters and the dam height as varying from 24.85 meters to 31.52 meters. It even gives the cost of the project at 740,000 Yuan, and the dates for the commencement of construction (December 12th, 1923) and completion (July 20th, 1926).

"Keelung Water Conservation Pool Monument".

Parting shot of the downstream face of the dam. There is a woman walking her small dog in the distance, and I think it's an ideal spot for doing exactly that as long as the dogs don't try to go anywhere near the spillway.

Old, eroded pipe sections deposited behind the blue entrance gate to the reservoir's garden-like premises.

Another rusted old pipe section with brand new replacements in the background.

"2015". If these pipes were produced last year, then they've seemingly been lying around here for a whole year waiting to be installed.

I left Xishi reservoir and stopped for milk at a Nuannuan Family Mart before rejoining highway two northward. It wasn't long before I arrived at the Keelung river and was able to get a decent spot from which to photograph the weir and water intake for Xinshan reservoir...

The water intake for Xinshan reservoir.

"Danger, No Swimming - Unless You Want To Get Sucked Into The Xinshan Reservoir Intake".

After a bit of twisting and turning onto different roads through Keelung, I eventually made my way onto a small hill road which led up toward a viewing platform from which a partial view over Xinshan reservoir was available, and which is the pretty much the only amateur view I can find on google images...

Panorama over Xinshan reservoir from a viewing platform to the south east. This was the only view I would be able to get.

A narrower view toward the north east and the upstream face of the dam. The water intake tower is clearly visible jutting out from the northern shoreline... 

The water intake tower where water is pumped out of the reservoir into a pipeline to a treatment facility. The gauge on the side of the tower is too far away to read clearly, as this shot was taken at the limit of my 300mm telephoto lens.

Close up shot of the upstream face of the dam with residential apartment buildings in the background.

With some brief navigational difficulty (this area of downtown Keelung is a series of spaghetti junctions), I eventually found the approach road to the reservoir grounds. I hoped to be able to enter and see the downstream face of the dam and perhaps even stroll across it, but though the first gate was open to the public, the other two gates which lead to the crest of the dam and to the base of the dam respectively, were both closed. The initial gate was opened apparently so that the old people could perform their "walking routine", which is the habitual exercise method of Taiwanese elders everywhere - they just walk around in circles swinging their arms. The closed gate was a major disappointment...

There were however, a large number of birds of prey circling overhead...

Neither a Black Kite, nor a Crested Serpent Eagle, I suspect this is some species of Harrier or another type of Eagle.

This pair were engaged in what was either a form of interaction that looked like sparring.

Trying to knock each other out of the air?

As I was leaving, I caught several shots of a grey heron flying past me at close range.

After leaving the premises of Xinshan reservoir, I drove around the surrounding hills for a while searching for old access roads that may lead to a better view over the reservoir, and though I found one or two, I was by now rapidly running out of time as I still had to face the hour and a half drive back down south to Xindian and then the MRT to Banqiao and the HSR train back to Tainan. I hadn't eaten all day, and the dogs were waiting for me back home - not having been outside since 5am. With all of that in mind, I decided to call it quits and save the task of getting better views over the reservoir for a future return trip. In particular, I want three shots: a better, square-on view of the upstream face of the dam, a view of the downstream face of the dam, and a shot of the water entry point, which is not visible on google earth, but which must be located somewhere to the reservoir's south-east.

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