The History of Green Island
A Volcanic Beginning
The island was originally formed by a volcano eruption during the Pliocene and Pleistocene eras. It's made from volcanic tholeiite, andesite and volcanic explosive fragments and it boasts an area of 15 km2. It's actually part of the Luzon Volcanic Magma Arc which formed due to the compression of underthrusting oceanic crust, at a depth of around 25 kilometres (or 16 miles). The andesite rock contains the crystals pyroxene and amphibole, which are visible to the eye. The geochemistry of rock from the Island reveals that it is enriched in potassium, strontium and rubidium and other light rare elements. The chromium and nickel that were once present in the rock have now been depleted.
What's behind the name?
The Island's name has an interesting and varied history. The island was originally inhabited by aboriginal Amis people, who named it Sanasai (approximate translation). Later, in the 19th and 20th Century, Green island was known by the names Sama-Sana, Samasana and Samasana. In the Pinyin romanization of it's Mandarin pronunciation it's known as Lüdao or Lü Dao. In it's Wade-Giles romanization it's named Lu Tao and in it's Hokkien pronunciation it's known as Lek-to.Prior to 1949, the Island was typically known by the Chinese as Bonfire Island (or Huoshao). The name Green Island was officially adopted by the Republic of China on August 1, 1949, on the orders of Huang Shih-hung(黃式鴻), the magistrate of Taitung at the time. The name "Green Island" is a translation of the island's Chinese name, which is written as 綠島 in traditional and 岛 in simplified characters. The islands original Chinese name was Huǒshāo Dǎo.
A Turbulent Time
The island was first used as a place of exile for political prisoners during the martial law period of Taiwanese history. Due to it's isolated location it was used prominently by the Kuomintang during the White Terror. After their release, many of the prisoners that were jailed between the late 1940s and 1980s went on to establish the Democratic Progressive Party, most notably Shih Ming-teh who was considered a highly 'dangerous' political activist at the time. The influential social critic, poet and cartoonist Bo Yang also served prison time on the Island.