Hong Kong and typhoon have a close and explicable relationship, with many deadly ones, such as 1874, 1906, 1937, and 1962 incidents. From the narratives of British colonizers during the late nineteenth century to the news coverage nowadays, typhoon has been a perpetual weather phenomenon that looms over the sky of Hong Kong. The perception of the typhoon has also changed over time. In the past, shock and fear toward the weather phenomenon often also ascribed it as “savage”, “monster-like”, or “deadly”. With increasing scientific understanding and education, people in Hong Kong slowly embraced this phenomenon with a much calmer attitude. Meteorological observations and forecasting together with preemptive design strategies, construction, and salvage operations are the parameters of this process.
The weather observatory in Hong Kong (HKO) was established by the end of 1883. Followed were two sets of warning signals that consist of visual and sonic systems. In tracing the genealogies of the weather warning system in the case of the Hong Kong Observatory, the essay sees the inseparability of the visual and the sonic qualities that both constitute the weather-observing system. Vision and the sound are both constituting and assisting the very core of western modernity and its enlightenment project. Nonetheless, as many philosophers and theorists have suggested the coexisting and inseparability of the visual and the sonic, and the changing subjectivity of the subjects engaged, the messy historical and archival materials often suggest the unstable quality of this paradigm. The two systems work together as one safe-proof system, with the presence of the visual system often requires the use of the sonic one, vice versa. A reading of the materials involved in the Hong Kong Observatory indicates the constant shifts of the visual and the sonic systems over history, where failure, glitch, misinterpretation, and overlook often involved.
＊Poster images credit: Hong Kong Public Records Office, Government Records Service and Hong Kong Observatory