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Published on : Tuesday, July 19, 2016
Queen’s Head, one of the most famous scenes of Yehliu Geopark on the north coast of Taiwan is on the face of disintegration as it is facing erosion. Scientists are battling to save the ancient structure. Steps taken to conserve the rock remains uncertain as conservation work to protect it from marine erosion has proved unsuccessful.
The rock, which is said to resemble Queen Elizabeth I’s profile, attracted about 3 million visitors in 2015. More than three million people visit the coastal landmark in northern Yehliu each year.
The tilting “head” is an imposing sweep of sandstone that mushrooms out of a slender stem. At its narrowest part, the neck of the structure measures 126 centimetres compared to 138cm in 2008. Researchers say the circumference of the neck is shrinking by 1.5 to 1.6 centimetres a year, making it harder to support the 1.3-tonne head.
Honed by sea water and strong winds, the head tapers to a point, likened to the piled-up curls of the eponymous royal. But at 4000 years old, exposure to the elements means it may soon topple.
Tang Helena, Neo-Space International Inc assistant general manager, said that, in addition to being battered by sea water and wind, the fragile neck is at risk from typhoons and earthquakes.
To prevent the visitors from the rock, a circle of stone was installed. This was installed in 2006, before which, touching the rock was a regular occurrence.
Hsieh Kuo-huang, a professor at the Institute of Polymer Science and Engineering at National Taiwan University, had developed a paint, using nanotechnology which manipulates tiny matter on an atomic and molecular scale to protect the rock. The paint had been applied to one formation in the park as a test. But the initial tests were unsuccessful as the paint had peeled off, turning the test area a shade of white due to moisture generated from within the rock, making it standout among the other formations.
Tang said, the paint is a bit like cosmetics, which makes the rock look unnatural.
The authorities are also exploring other modern systems to protect the natural formation. Options including introducing a glass cabinet and a steel rib were turned down as natural disasters like typhoons and earthquakes might bring unexpected damage to the formation.
While scientists wrack their brains for a solution, others feel nature should be left to take its course.
Pan Han-sheng, an activist from the pro-environment Tree Party, said that, as the coastal landscape was made by erosion, the lifespan of the ‘Queen’s Head’ is limited.
However, it is not all bad news for the park and visitors. On Jan. 20, 2010, one formation created a profile like a princess after a part of it broke off. The new landmark was named Cute Princess following an online poll.
Park administrator Kuo Chen-ling, said that, even in the worst scenario, a toppled ‘Queen’s Head’ could be placed in a museum and attract tourists.