Sunday, 15 November 2015

Nature Versus Science

The famous Queen's Head at Yehliu Geopark
Two years ago my mom and I visited Taipei and her friend took us to the Yehliu Geopark to see the sandstones that are shaped by the water and wind into some fun recognizable things, like pineapple buns, morel mushrooms, and candles.

But the most famous is the "Queen's Head" that is supposed to have a similar likeness to Queen Elizabeth I.

More mushroom-looking sandstones in the park
However, a recent news report says that the 4,000-year-old natural sculpture might be in danger of collapsing, as the neck is getting 1.5cm to 1.6cm thinner each year, making it harder to support the 1.3-tonne head.

Scientists are trying to save the landmark, but others are split over how to tackle erosion.

"The neck may become too thin to support the head and might break off within the next five to 10 years, if nothing is done," says Hsieh Kuo-huang, a professor at the Institute of Polymer Science and Engineering at National Taiwan University.

"Any strong earthquake or severe typhoons may bring down the rock formation," says Hsieh, who is one of the scientists studying to preserve the rock.

He and his team have developed paints to protect the rock and strengthen the neck area. The paint was tested on rocks near the Queen's Head in August, but it peeled off, and the concoction has been tweaked and reapplied again elsewhere to test.

Other scientists say nature should take its course and if the head falls off, then so be it.
Natural erosion has created these "candles" by the water

"As the coastal landscape was made by erosion, the lifespan of the Queen's Head is limited," says Pan Han-shen, an activist from the pro-environment Tree Party. "I don't understand why we would want to freeze its lifespan."

Seeing the sculpture in person is quite impressive, but for the park administrator Kuo Chen-ling to say the rock could be moved into a museum seems very strange. The rock formation and many others scattered around the geopark bring in over 3 million visitors per year, but how much longer will they last?

It is an interesting idea to want to preserve the Queen's Head, but is it logistically feasible? Seems like Mother nature should be left to her own devices and eventually it will fall down. Maybe she is shaping another rock as we speak?




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