The open sea is a magical place. Ancient mariners once believed that the world was flat. Those that ventured off the map would come to an edge, then their vessels would cascade over into oblivion. Later, stories would surface of giant monsters roaming the depths or mystical sirens tempting sailors into jagged rocks. When it came to maps, there were often great discrepancies along shorelines until cartography became a defined science. One issue that has been debated in recent times surrounds the territorial rites of Korea and Japan over small islets making up what is commonly referred to as Dokdo (Korean) and Takishima (Japan). While these countries go back and forth stating their claims to the international community (despite hard proof that the islets are Korean territory), the one thing that cannot be disputed is the beauty captured by visiting the remote site.
The Franco-English name of the islets comes from Le Liancourt, the name of a French vessel that nearly crashed upon the rocky shores in 1849. Dokdo and the surrounding landmasses consist of two main islets and 35 smaller rocks. The total surface area is a meager 0.18745 square kilometers (46.32 acres), with the highest elevation at 169m (554ft). Today, Dokdo is protected by the Korean Coast Guard and is home to two Korean citizens, an octopus fisherman and his wife.
The two main islets have been given the names Seodo (서도, “Western Island”) and Dongdo (동도, “Eastern Island”). These two small islets that break the water’s surface rest 151m (495ft) apart. Seodo is the largest of the pair. It has more shoreline and a higher peak; however, Dongdo provides more usable land. The islets are believed to have formed somewhere between 2 and 4.6 million years ago during the Cenozoic era.
One might think that island life here would be tranquil, but nothing could be further from the truth. The islets are known to have extremely harsh weather. In winter, northwesterly winds can be so violent, that it prevents ships from docking. Precipitation is also high, reaching a staggering 1325mm (52.1in) of average rainfall each year. Because of its high humidity, fog is a common sight, so it’s easy to understand why the Le Laincourt nearly crashed.
Tours to Dokdo take place year-round and are scheduled by numerous groups. However, because of Dokdo’s small size and choppy water, the trips are often paired with journeys to the nearby island of Ulleungdo. This location is equally beautiful and best experienced with a full camera charge and empty memory card.