HOME
China
 

In search of "The Lost Graves" on "Danes Island"
 

- Part 2 -




Finding the remains of the old Parsee cemetery was great fun, - and something completely unexpected -, but it was not what I was looking for.
And time was quickly running out.
Should I just give up, - or continue the next morning?
I decided to give it one more try since I for sure was on the right track.

The stretch of water I was looking at HAD to be the English Reach, - the area between what the old maps referred to as Cambridge Reach and America Reach - - -
And the island on the other side HAD to be Whampoa, - all appearing very different from what could be seen on the old paintings of the area - - - -
 
 


Danes island
- view over English Reach towards Whampoa island in year 2002 -
Imagine this view for 200 years ago, - a forest of tall masts from many, great European trading frigates.
(Photography by Karsten Petersen)



We could not continue along the river, and therefore the only way was back to the village, and from there try another road - - -
 
 


Danes Island
- back through the narrow streets of the village -
(Photography by Karsten Petersen)
 
 


Danes Island
- and into the countryside again -
(Photography by Karsten Petersen)



The search continued, and finally, - just outside the village -, we met a man who seemed to know something.
He had just got out of bed, and asked us to wait a little bit for him to change clothes, then he would lead us to the site.
It had to be on foot, so our motor bikes had to be left behind.
And soon we were on our way through a bamboo groove behind his house - - -
It was getting late, so this was the last chance for success if I wanted to find the tombs on this day.
I was not too optimistic, since my destination was at the coast, - and obviously we were far from the coast, and I had a feeling of going inland instead.
 
 


Danes island
- leaving the village, - and entering the bamboo groove -
(Photography by Karsten Petersen)
 
 
 


Danes island
- through the bamboo groove -
(Photography by Karsten Petersen)



From our guides house it would be too difficult to explain how to find the grave site, so he insisted to follow us all the way.
Nice man.

Coming out from the first bamboo groove, we could see a hill behind a fish pond, - and our guide told us, that behind that hill we would find the site of an old cemetery!
 
 


Danes Island
- fish pond, - our local guide, - and Cemetery Hill behind -
(Photography by Karsten Petersen)


But first we had to pass through another bamboo groove - - - -
 
 


Danes Island
Through the last bamboo groove - - -
(Photography by Karsten Petersen)


Then we were there - - - -
FINALLY!
We were on a small hill overlooking the Pearl River, and Whampoa Island was there on the other side,- exactly where it should be according to my old painting - - -
And row after row of immaculately restored graves showed up on the hillside - - - -
 
 


Danes Island
- rows of neatly restored Western grave sites -
(Photography by Karsten Petersen)
 
 
 


Danes Island
View from the new Cemetery Hill towards America Reach to the very left.
Also to the left is the Whampoa pagoda, which can be seen in the mist as the first vertical structure.
(Photography by Karsten Petersen)



And those inscriptions that could still be read revealed European names,- all sailors or traders -,with dates from the 17 hundreds and well into the 18 hundreds.
At last the search was over.
 
 



Danes Island
Here a simple, fragmented stone overlooking the river - -
(Photography by Karsten Petersen)
 
 
 


Danes Island
A close-up telling the story of a 21 year old American
sailor, who drowned here on the China coast in 1818.
(photography by Karsten Petersen)
 
 
 


Danes Island
Tomb stone of John Dawson, who died in 1867, - only 31 years old -, onboard the S/S "Behar".
(Photography by Karsten Petersen)
 
 
 


Dane's Island
Here an English Captains grave.
Abel Vyvyan, - Master of the "Canton".
He died here in 1797, at an age of 34.
(Photography by Karsten Petersen)


Quote from "Canton's" log:
"Thursday 12 Oct. 1797, in Whampoa Reach: Winds moderate & very hot Wr. (Weather) at ½ past 10 AM departed this life Captain Vyvyan. Friday 13th Ditto Winds & Wr. at 11 AM sent ashore the Body of the deceased on shore for Internment with the Attendance of Comr. Drummond, Mr. Roberts, Supercargoes & Commanders of the Fleet."
 
 



Dane's Island
- a closer look at Captain, - (Commander) -, Vyvyan's headstone -
(Photography by Karsten Petersen)
 
 
 


Danes Island
- here another American, - John Cook -, died at Whampoa Nov. 22. 1854, 36 years old -
(Photography by Karsten Petersen)
 
 
 


Danes Island
The head stone of James Potter, - 3rd. Officer of the "Berwickshire" -, died at the 2nd. Bar on Nov.11th.1822.
(Photography by Karsten Petersen)

NOTE:  The "Second Bar" is NOT a place where sailors gather to party and drink beer, but a location with shallow water about midway between "Bocca Tigris", - the Bogue -, and Canton - - -


Looks like the sailors of those days did NOT get very old.
 
 


Danes Island
A little bit away from the rest, - a more modest stone, difficult to read -
(Photography by Karsten Petersen)
 
 


Danes Island
A final view of the restored section of the old Western Cemetery.
(Photography by Karsten Petersen)


This concludes my adventure covering the search for the "Forgotten Graves" on Dane's Island.
It took all day, - from very early morning to late afternoon -, and I almost gave up , but was kept going by my curiosity and strong desire to be on the very spot where the wheels of history once turned, - and a local artist painted a picture.

Was it worth it????
Yes,- absolutely!
The excitement of tracking an interesting story, and to go out in the wonderful world and actually find what I looked for, - and even more -, gives me a fantastic feeling of satisfaction, and to any adventurer that is not only reward enough, - that is simply what it is all about!
And now I cannot help smiling every time I pass the wall with that small painting, that started it all - - - -
Because now I can say: "I was there!"

However,- without help from some very nice people in China,- and particular on Danes Island -, I would not have been able to make it so easily - - -
Absolutely EVERYBODY I approached wanted to help, and I only saw BIG smiles and friendly people!
A special BIG  "Thank You"  goes to Xiao Ling and our two VERY patient motorbike drivers, who never gave up, - and did NOT eat the whole day, - a VERY serious thing for a Chinese - - -

When the adventure was over, I got curious, and asked Xiao Ling what she actually said to all those people she talked to for so long time on the phone????
Obviously she must have said something that virtually opened doors!

Her answer was quite interesting!
She simply said:  "I just told them, that you looked for your Grandfather!"

Well,- it was not exactly my Grandfather I looked for,- although he was a sailor indeed -,  because he is safely buried in Danish soil far, far away from the China coast, but Xiao Lings explanation to what I was doing on the island worked very well - - -
All doors opened for us, - like magic - - - -

Here I must explain, that to a Chinese it is NOT a very nice thing to bury a grandfather in a foreign country,- far, far away from his home and family - - - -
To a Chinese it is extremely important, that the dead family members "come home", and it is not uncommon, that they "know" their ancestors 1000 years back in time - - - -
Therefore,- if somebody is "Looking for his Grandfather", it is a very important thing to a Chinese!
Important enough to "open doors"!

We ended the day with a gorgeous Chinese dinner at a local restaurant on Danes Island,- and the next day I was off for new adventures in China - - - -
 
 


Danes Island
Celebrating our success - - -
(Photography by Karsten Petersen)
 
 


Guangzhou
- arriving back to the noise and hassle of the big city - -
(Photography by Karsten Petersen)

Epilogue:
At that time I had no plans of going back to Danes Island again, but things worked out differently, and eventually I did return the following year since something had to be checked out - - -
 
 

See final conclusion in   "DANES ISLAND" Revisited - -

Back to  "The Lost Graves" - - -

Back to  CHINA MENU - - -


Updated:  December 19th. 2002
               November 08th. 2004
               Nov. 17th. 2004
               August 01. 2006
              July 04.2008
              July 09.2008
              July 14.2008