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The Legend of Motorboats in the Victoria Harbour


Walla Walla

“Walla-Walla” is a kind of motorboat, which is named after the distinct sound produced by the boat's engine while operating. These wooden, passenger-carrying motorboats with small hulls and no deck, were only permitted to ply their trade in the sheltered part of the Harbour (Class 1 Districts). Because of their special operation and historical background, they have become an important part of Hong Kong's maritime transportation.




The passengers of “Walla-Walla” were diversified. “Walla-Walla” shuttled between anchorages and buoys, ferrying the crews of seagoing vessels and foreign warships back and forth to various piers. In addition to the crews of seagoing vessels, commuters also chose this convenient transportation during rush hours or when returning home at night. Some people took “Walla-Walla” to Tsim Sha Tsui to catch an early morning train and back to their hometowns, or newspaper publishers who needed to rush to different parts of Kowloon in the morning to distribute newspapers.


Walla Walla Flag

In the past, due to the limitation of communication technology, if a seagoing vessel needed to call “Walla-Walla”, apart from making arrangements in advance by the agent, the crews could also fly the “Walla Flag” on board to indicate the need for motorboat service. "Walla Flag" is an international signal flag, representing “Number Zero”. The International Signal is a flag communication system between vessels that allows them to indicate their needs or intentions quickly and clearly. With the development of technology, very high frequency (VHF) began to be used from the 1970s to the 1980s, and mobile phones were introduced in the 1990s. Vessel dispatching is much easier and more flexible than before as we do not have to rely on flags.



It is worth mentioning that although “Walla-Walla” was operated 24 hours a day, the fare was calculated according to the distance or duration of the ride only and was not affected by the departure time. In case of inclement weather (e.g. Typhoon Signal No. 3), the charges may be doubled.


Nowadays, the wooden “Walla-Walla” has been replaced by land transportation and new types of vessels, but the dial-a-boat service is still available on a limited basis. As part of the transportation history of Victoria Harbour, “Walla-Walla” is still the collective memory of most Hong Kong people. Whenever we recall the sound of those “Walla-Walla”, we cannot help but marvel at the changes of the times.

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Powers Billie
Powers Billie
08 de mai.

I appreciate how you've highlighted the historical significance of the "Walla-Walla" dial-a-boat service in Victoria Harbour, showcasing its enduring legacy in the collective memory of Hong Kong people. It's fascinating to see how transportation methods have evolved over time, yet the nostalgic sound of the "Walla-Walla" continues to evoke a sense of wonder and reflection on the changes that have occurred.

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