Taiwan's ancient Queen's head at risk of being beheaded

Scientists are fighting to save the ancient rock from erosion

The Queen's head in Yehliu, New Taipei (Courtesy of Flickr user 阿嵐)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — One of Taiwan's best-known natural wonders, a piece of rock shaped by nature to resemble the head of a woman, is threatened by a crack at its base, officials said Tuesday.

The North Coast and Guanyinshan National Scenic Area Office released a statement Tuesday, explaining the origin of the crack at the bottom of the ancient rock 'Queen's head' and its actions to save the rock from erosion.

A fissure was recently reported to be seen under the Queen's head, the best known spot in Yehliu, on Taiwan's north coast in New Taipei City. However, it is actually a natural formation of joints, said the office. The office published photos of the Queen's head taken in 1969, 1980, 1990 and 2010 to prove that the crack has existed for over 40 years.

A research team from National Taiwan University has observed the rock for two years, and the speed of weathering has so far maintained the same pace, added the office in the announcement.

However, researchers have warned that 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. The office indicates that it has taken some measures to prevent the tragedy, including the adding of guards to prevent sabotage by members of the public. It is also planning to reinforce the rock and to monitor the erosion. 

The famous Queen's Head on the northern coast of Taiwan was named for its supposed likeness to England's Queen Elizabeth I. The rock has been honed by sea water and strong winds. Scientists are battling to save the ancient rock from erosion and to preserve its elegant shape.