I’ve recently gotten back into Taiwan’s history of shipwrecks, savages, and pirates, perhaps because I’ve lately also been reading a lot of Conan novellas. The most famous shipwreck involved the Rover, an American merchant vessel that ran aground near Eluanbi (southern tip of island) in 1867. The ship didn’t quite sink after hitting a coral reef there, but when the survivors came ashore a tribe of Formosan aborigines murdered them all (54 according to some accounts). This wasn’t nearly the most catastrophic shipwreck for the white man, however, as during the first Opium War, in 1841, the British transport ship Nerbudda went aground near Taichung (where I currently live), at Da’an harbor–only to be followed a few months later, in March 1842, by the shipwreck of a brig named the Ann. The Nerbudda had more than 250 crewmen (mostly Indians) and the Ann around 55, most of whom made it ashore in both cases, only then to be captured by Qing soldiers and marched south to the capital at Taiwanfoo, today’s Tainan. The men were imprisoned and then, in August of 1842, beheaded at the order of the Daoguang emperor in Beijing.
Well, then there were the pirates, esp. the Chengs: Cheng Chilong and his son, Cheng Cheng-kung (Koxinga) but also the pirate queen Cheng I Sao…I guess you can see the strategic significance of Taiwan if you consider that a pirate dynasty could fend off the Chinese, Europeans, and Japanese from a base hereabouts, not to mention running a successful pirate empire. But more about buccaneers and such later on.