Hashima Island is situated in the East China Sea, roughly 15 or so kilometers from Nagasaki City and, prior to settlement, was a reef extending around 125 by 300 meters. The small-scale mining of exposed coal beds had been a feature of neighbouring island economies for centuries, but increased demand for coal for the Japanese salt-making industry, and emerging fleets of steam-powered ships, in combination with the introduction of mining equipment from Britain, initiated a major drilling project on Takashima Island in 1869, and its neighbor Hashima Island in 1887. Three years later, Hashima was sold to the Mitsubishi company, a fast-growing shipping enterprise.