The Polaroid 80-Series Land Camera, manufactured in the early 1970s, was part of our kit on Hong Kong Marine Police launches of that time.
The photographs were instant, in that you yanked them out of the side of the camera just seconds after the shot had been taken. Once out, there then followed a ‘talk-amongst-yourselves darkroom moment’ concluded by peeling the photo from the negative. Then, if the developing process had worked, an image would miraculously appear – well, sometimes (the cameras were not waterproof). We were issued with them for evidence purposes. If, for example, we had a smuggling case, we would photograph the items seized, then attach the photo to the report sheet. However, when the first Vietnamese refugee vessels began arriving in Hong Kong, I used my issue Polaroid to take photos of the boats. Here are some that I kept.
Taken in 1978. Two of my men talk to one of the women whose child was quite sick. We eventually arranged a helicopter to airlift the mother and child to hospital.
The same vessel as in Photo Two. One of my men (bottom left) prepares to take a line from the refugee vessel. A sign hanging above the cabin reads, ‘S.O.S Vietnam Refugees.
One of my men is standing on this vessel as we escort it into the inner harbour for further processing. It was usual to put one officer on board an escorted vessel as some refugees had problems with their navigation.
A sailing vessel with 65 refugees on board. This one was in good condition and was making good speed. We intercepted it off Fan Lau Point, southern Lantau Island in December 1978.
A motorized vessel intercepted off the Soko Islands in June 1978. This one had 34 refugees.
An overcrowded motorized sampan. A small outboard engine can be seen at the stern, together with a spere fuel can. It’s amazing how these small craft made it to Hong Kong.
My own launch, PL 50, escorts an incoming Vietnamese motorised vessel into Hong Kong waters in 1978.