Tue, Feb 03, 2004 - Page 2 News List

Marooned student decides to leave Chilai mountains

STORM IN A TEACUP The reluctance of a graduate student to drop his research efforts despite inclement weather sparked a debate among education officials

By Jewel Huang  /  STAFF REPORTER

A National Taiwan Normal Uni-versity graduate student studying deer in the Chilai Mountains promised to leave the area once the weather improves enough for a helicopter to land, Taroko National Park officials said yesterday.

Kuo Cheng-yan (郭正彥) reportedly refused to leave along with two colleagues last Saturday, four days after snow trapped the trio in the mountains.

The graduate student in the department of life science yesterday sent a message to the university and to the park officials saying that he wanted to leave the mountains because he feared an approaching cold front could bring more heavy snow.

Until Sunday, Kuo had insisted on staying in the mountains to conduct research on the distribution and behavior of deer in the Chilai Mountains, 3,300m above sea level.

He said that his food and equipment were sufficient and that he was reluctant to interrupt his research when it was so close to being finished.

Although the Ministry of Education said it basically supported Kuo's decision as long as his provisions were adequate, the university's authorities demanded that he leave the mountains.

Kuo's research adviser, Wang Ying (王穎), flew back from the US in a bid to persuade Kuo to leave his research base along with a park official, who was waiting with the Sea Gull Helicopter Rescue Team in Chiayi.

Thick clouds prevented the helicopter's departure yesterday, but the team said it would review the weather again this morning.

Concerned that the capricious weather might endanger Kuo's safety, park director Huang Wen-ching (黃文卿) said he hoped the student would value his life more than his research and leave the mountains.

Huang added that the national park would not fine Kuo since he had promised to leave.

But according to Kuo's girl-friend, who contacted him by mobile phone, Kuo had not refused to leave the mountains last Friday.

She said that Kuo had no idea that park officials had tried to take him away from the mountains and that he had missed the helicopter.

Kuo's parents supported their son's decision to stay on, if that had actually been his decision, and believed that Kuo could take care of himself.

Although many people have described Kuo as "selfish" or "wayward" for remaining in the mountains despite the inclement weather and wasting social resources, a graduate student surnamed Lin at National Taiwan University, who has four years of experience climbing the Central Mountain Range, said the incident was a result of the Taroko National Park officials' insufficient information about those seeking help.

"As far as I know, Kuo registered with Taroko National Park and complied with park regulations, so the park officials should not force him to leave the mountains since he had not sent out an SOS," Lin said.

Lin pointed out there is a standard procedure for mountain and park rescues, adding that he thought the park officials had overreacted.

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