The Yehliu Geopark (野柳公園) on the nation’s northern coast yesterday signed a partnership agreement with Japan’s Akiyoshidai Quasi-National Park to facilitate academic exchanges and promote tourism on both sides.
The partnership is also aimed at enhancing understanding of each other’s natural resources and raising public awareness of environmental protection, Yehliu Geopark vice general manager Tang Jin-huei said.
“We need to preserve our geological heritage so our offspring can learn to appreciate their environment,” Tang said.
Through the partnership, each park will launch programs to introduce the other to local tourists, she said, adding that while tours for research teams will also be arranged in the future.
For instance, a 3D exhibition featuring the landscape at Akiyoshidai Quasi-National Park will be held before March 16 at the Yehliu Geopark, Tang said.
The park is home to one of the world’s most famous rock formations — the Queen’s Head, which has been sculpted by waves and wind over time and has the appearance of the head of an elegant-looking woman.
Tang said the park attracts about 2.7 million tourists each year, 80 percent of whom are visitors from abroad.
The Akiyoshidai Plateau in southern Japan’s Yamaguchi Prefecture is the largest karst plateau in the country, according to its official Web site.
The limestone that composes the Akiyoshidai Plateau was formed about 300 million years ago when a coral reef heaved upward as a result of movements in the Earth’s crust, the Web site said.
Meanwhile, public opinion on the fate of the Queen’s Head is mixed, Tang said, citing an ongoing survey by the Yehliu Geopark on whether the fragile rock formation should be allowed to break up naturally or should be reinforced by artificial means.
About 55 percent of the 2,400 respondents so far support the idea of preserving the Queen’s Head, she said.
Due to years of natural erosion, the “neck” of the formation has been getting thinner, shrinking in circumference from 144cm in 2006 to 126cm last year, experts said.
It is predicted that the Queen’s Head will fall off naturally in five years as it becomes more difficult for the neck to support its weight. The break could happen sooner if there are strong winds or a powerful earthquake.
In an effort to preserve the formation, the Tourism Bureau hired a team of experts in 2011 to seek a means to reinforce the rock.
One of the proposals offered was to use nano-sealing technology to strengthen the rock, said Chen Mei-hsiu (陳美秀), chief of the bureau’s North Coast and Guanyinshan National Scenic Area Administration.
The results of the survey, as well as the experts’ analysis, will be published in June, Tang said.