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Scientists seek to forestall beheading of Yehliu rock formation
Taiwan News, Staff Writer
2014-08-28 04:07 PM
Incessant weathering has reduced the circumference of the neck of the iconic Queen's Head Rock at Yehliu on Taiwan’s north coast to a lissome 126 centimeters, and if no action is taken to prevent further loss the rock could very well topple over sometime within the next five years. A team of geologists and other specialists recruited by the Tourism Bureau of Taiwan arrived at the national scenic area on Thursday to take precise measurements and carry out tests to determine the feasibility of reinforcement aimed at extending the lifetime of one of Taiwan’s most treasured natural wonders.

The scientists are considering a variety of solutions involving nanotechnology which would use a fine coating of water and chemicals to protect the famous stone, which unfortunately consists of sandstone naturally vulnerable to the forces of nature such as wind and water, as well as occasional abuse by thoughtless visitors.

A polymer specialist from National Taiwan University will paint small portions of four nearby rocks with various compounds of waterproof glue and study the results after five days of weathering.

Professor Hsieh Kuo-huang of NTU’s Polymer Research Institute explains that the polymer penetrates into the rock and fills in gaps that weaken the integrity of the overall structure. It also acts as a weather-resistant cement and cover that will resist the effects of constant moisture-laden winds on the coast as well as occasional typhoons and tropical storms that sweep the area.

Hsieh explains that different compounds will be used to determine their effectiveness in forestalling the ravages of wind and water. He notes that the 126-centimeter neck supports a ‘head’ which has been seriously eroded but currently still weighs an estimated 1300 kilograms. Hsieh notes that without preventive treatment the head will continue to erode and could very easily break off and fall within about five years.

Some environmentalists with a more passive bent have said that as the rock head is a “natural” attraction it would be better to let nature take its course and just leave the formation alone. If it falls, it falls, they say. The popularity of the peninsular scenic area with its unique collection of heads, shoes and other forms sculpted by Mother Nature over long years suggests a need for preventive action, however, and the National Tourism Bureau is seeking to find the least intrusive and longest-lasting solution to the problem of the queen’s shrinking neckline.

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