Yehliu Geopark, Taiwan

Queen's Head in Wanli, Yehliu Promontory
Queen’s Head in Wanli, Yehliu Promontory, in northern Taiwan. Credit: Alton Thompson/Wikiped

Yehliu is a cape in Wanli District, New Taipei, Taiwan.

The cape, known by geologists as the Yehliu Promontory, forms part of the Daliao Miocene Formation. It stretches approximately 1,700 metres into the ocean and was formed as geological forces pushed Datun Mountain out of the sea.

A distinctive feature of the cape is the hoodoo stones that dot its surface. These shapes can be viewed at the Yehliu Geopark operated by the North Coast and Guanyinshan National Scenic Area administration. A number of rock formations have been given imaginative names based on their shapes. The best known is the “Queen’s Head” (女王頭), an iconic image in Taiwan and an unofficial emblem for the town of Wanli. Other formations include the “Fairy Shoe”, the “Beehive”, the “Ginger Rocks”, and the “Sea Candles”.

Yehliu Natural Landscape

Yehliu Cape

The stratum of Yehliu is mainly composed of sedimentary rocks; the formation of sea bays is due to the impact of sea erosion on softer rock layers, while those hard and solid ones may therefore turn into sea capes eventually.

The prospect as presented from a long distance view of Yehliu Cape is like a turtle crouching down by the sea; therefore, the cape is also called “Yehliu Turtle”. In the olden days, Yehliu was a key channel of the trade route between mainland China and Keelung harbor. Yet, the waters around the area were torrential and dangerous, and often caused serious shipwrecks. A legend was told that once a turtle elf was making trouble in the sea. A fairly was dispatched by Jade Emperor to tame the turtle elf. The fairy was riding an elephant with a sword in her hand. When she arrived, she yelled at the turtle and said, “What a naughty turtle; how dare you do such evil things and kill so many innocent people. I, bestowed with the power of this holly sword, shall punish you and you shall have no way to escape.” The turtle elf was serious hurt then. After that, whenever the weather changes, people may notice a strand of smoke permeating through the air at Yehliu Cape. And that’s when you’ll hear local people say. “look, the half-dead turtle is making its last breath again”.

Cuesta

Cuesta refers to a kind of ridge featuring a stiff slope on one side and a gentle slope on the other side. It is formed by gently tilted sedimentary rock strata as a result of orogeny.

Two cuestas can be seen in Yehliu, a long, narrow wave-cut platform is connected between these two cuestas. To avoid confusion, the one located near the entrance of the park is called “Big Cuesta”, while the other, with its end engulfed by sea, is called “Gueitou Mountain”.

One may take a look at the full view of Yehliu Cape by standing on the pavilion; it may be a surprise to you to find out the traces of orogeny left on rocks, and see the candle shaped rock, ginger rocks and mushroom rocks neatly lie up on the wave-cut platform.

Weathering

Weathering is the decomposition of earth rocks through direct contact with the planet’s atmosphere, while the rocks may turn into sands, mud and soils due to the chemical changes of inner substances or physical function—heat expands; cold contracts. Yehliu is located in the subtropics zone with a temperate and humid climate. Each year, the place is under the influences of Northeast monsoon and wave erosion for over a six-month period. The impact caused by weathering can be detected apparently on rocks, whereas the formation of strange rock landscapes is also due to the decomposition of the special rock layer as existed underground.

Weathering Ring

Weathering ring often appears as brown-color pattern on the surface of rocks, especially on the parts with cracks. The weathering ring shown on rocks can be regarded as pieces of extremely fine craftsmanship rendering flawless beauty with high ornamental value.

Weathering often occurs along the joins of rocks as they are exposed to the plane’s atmosphere. If the water or the rocks contain iron, it may become ferric oxide after a long time interaction; whereas the color of the weathering ring may darken and turn into tan or brown color. The more complete the processing of oxygenation is, the darker the color will be.

Sometime, the ferric oxides may become harder when having a further interaction with the sand grains inside the nearby rocks, or other substance. If the hardness of which is bigger than its adjacent rocks, it will raise and become a ridge; otherwise it will descend downwards and even leave several compounds rich in irons in the cracks.

Honeycombed Rock

Honeycombed rocks refer to the rocks that are covered with holes of different sizes and appear like the honeycombs as a result, for example, the top of the mushroom rock.

Honeycomb Weathering

Owing to the differential erosion caused by weathering, the surface of rock turns into the shape of honeycomb or window lattice. The flat, level rocks are spreading across the land and covered with holes of different sizes. They are just like tiny windows on the ground.

Causes for the formation of Honeycombed Rock and Honeycomb Weathering

The formation of honeycombed rock and honeycomb weathering is caused by the organism detritus on concretions. The process can be divided into three phases:

  • The organism detritus: The concretions are covered with numerous of shell and urchin detritus.
  • Small holes: The holes appeared on the surface of rocks are formed as a result of organism detritus being dissolved by sea water or the decomposition of rocks.
  • The formation of honeycombed rock: The decomposition process continues as influenced by sea salt, and the holes gradually turn into big ones, while the shape of which is just like the honeycomb.

Mushroom Rock

The mushroom rocks grouped on the wave-cut platform are formed with globe-shape rocks on the top while supporting by the thin stone pillars on the bottom. Queen’s Head is the most famous mushroom rock in Yehliu.

The formation process of mushroom rock can be divided into three phases:

  • Two broken concretions within rock layers are formed vertical to the sea level; as a result, the erosion caused by seawater may progress along the concretions, leading to the formation of stone pillar lining up in row.
  • The formation of mushroom rock is caused by differential erosion as the top rock layer containing calcium and being more durable for erosion than the lower rock layer.
  • The mushroom rock as formed is under continuous plate extrusion and thus is raised above sea level. Once it’s exposed to the planet’s atmosphere, it will suffer from weathering as well as rain erosion and turn into the shape as we see it now.

The mushroom rocks can be divided into three types according to the difference appearances as manifested on the head and neck of the rock: “Thin-neck rock”,” thick-neck rock” and “neckless rock”. As many of the thin-neck mushroom rocks undertake heavier load on the top and they may be toppled down easily if striking by earthquake or violent winds and waves.

The mushroom rocks may turn into various kinds of shapes in a progressive manner as they are chronically eroded by wind, sun and rain. They may involve into neckless rock, thick rock, thin rock and even the broken-end rock eventually. The top of the thin rock may fall apart if the neck of the rock contains incomplete sands and thud accelerating the formation of broken-end rock.

Ginger Rock

Since the rock layer contains irregular concretions within, the harder concretions may raise above the ground while the softer ones may descend downward as erosion imposes upon the rock. The surface of the hard concretion may become rough and uneven as it is exposed to the atmosphere and having direct contact with the wind and the sea. The interlacing patterns as shown on the surface of ginger rock are the result of crust extrusion occurred underground. These patterns as shown are called “joints” in Geology. They get the name “Ginger Rock” because of their rough surface and the beige tint as appeared.

The thickness of rock layer containing ginger rock in the area is about 50 cm, while the ginger rock landscape spreads from North-East to South-West of the cape in a band distribution manner. The tilted rock layer makes the scene available on the sea cliff and the wave-cut platform.

Candle Shaped Rock

The candle shaped rock is a conical rock standing erectly on the ground. It is 0.5~1 cm in diameter with the top being narrower than the bottom. A round shape concretion containing lime is formed on the central top of the rock and being surrounding by circular grooves, just like a candle tray.
The formation process of candle shaped rock can be divided into three phases:

  • The formation of candle light: The candle light refers to the ball-shape concretion contained within the rock layer; it is small in size. As the said concretion is harder than its adjacent sandstone and is more durable for sea erosion, it eventually raises above the ground when its surrounding sandstone being worn away by seawater.
  • The formation of groove: As the seawater flows around the concretions, a circle of groove is formed since the sandstone that surrounds the concretion is being worn away by seawater.
  • The formation of candle tray: The seawater flows along the circle of rock that surrounds outside the concretions, a rock formed in a shape of candle tray is developed as a result of sea erosion occurred chronically.

Local people usually depict the landscape around the candle shaped rock in this way: “Stone clock, stone breast, the jump of carp, the mouse is sucking the cat’s breast (Taiwanese)”. Whereas, the stone clock refers to the candle shaped rock on the left, the shape of which is like a large clock hanging upside down. The stone breasts refer to the two rocks, excluding the one on the right hand side, that are formed in a shape similar to women’s breasts. The jump of carp refers to the scene when the wave is splashing against the carp rock, it is just like a carp jumps out of water. The mouse is sucking the cat’s breast is a phrase used to describe local people used to go the sea to collect sea weeds to make their living, while risking their lives as the surroundings there were quite dangerous.

Sea Notch

As the bottom of sea cliff is close to the sea level, it is frequently eroded by sea water and a notch will be developed as a result. We can find out sea levels as presented in different times according to the position of notch as developed. The sea notch may further be developed into a sea cave deep down into the sea cliff.

Sea Cliff

When a series of sea notches are continuously eroded by seawater, the stones above will be fallen apart and recessed as they lose the support from the bottom, while an erected sea cliff and a wave-cut platform will be developed eventually.

Wave-Cut Platform

As the sea cliff is under continuous sea water erosion, it is gradually receded and leveled; as a result, a flat platform is thereby developed.

Sea Cave

As the sea waves continue to splash on rocks along the coast, the rocks on the shoreline will be worn away and a sea cave will be formed as a result. “Lover’s Cave” is one of the biggest sea caves as developed in the case.

Ocean Erosion Pothole

Ocean erosion pothole is formed as a result of seawater erosion as well as weathering imposed on the notches created by differential weathering. A grain of sand may often be found inside the pothole.

Melting Erosion Panel

On the wave-cut platform, corrosion often takes place on the basins filled with seawater, and thus leading to the formation of the flat, shallow holes. The corrosion process includes the chemical reaction taken place between the mineral substances within the rock and seawater, debris exfoliation caused by salt weathering and etc. Sometimes, the bottom of the panel may contain calcium sediments which make the rock hard and solid.

Joints

During the formation process of sea cape, the rock layer is extruded by external force that causes the development of crevices. These crevices are called joints. Joints look very much like faults in appearance, yet the rock layers on both sides of the rupture surface do not generate relative movement along the said surface. Joints can be developed in various sizes; take those as found in Yehliu for example, they can be as small as the bean curd rocks or as large as the sea grooves. Some of them even can be served as brides that connect both sides of the land.

Joint landscapes can be divided into three types:

  • Sea Groove: It is formed as a result of sea wave’s splashing, eroding along the surface of the joint of the rock layer.
  • Close-type joint: The raindrop goes deep into the rock layer and dissolves part of the chemical or mineral substances inside the rock, while the rock is exposed to sunlight and thus leading to the formation of weathering ring as the dissolved substances being settled around the concretions.
  • Bean Curd Rock: The rock is formed by seawater flows and erodes along two groups of concretions interwoven vertical to each other.

Bean Curd Rock

It takes two groups of concretions nearly being vertical to each other and under the erosion of seawater that makes the rocks develop into the shape of bean curd.
One may notice a set of beautifully formed “Bean Curd Rock” spreading neatly at the edge of sea cliff on the left while strolling on the stairs leading to Big Cuesta.

Sea Groove

Sea groove is formed as the surface of concretion is eroded by sea waves while the concretion is developed in a position vertical to the cape. The small bridges set up in the park are meant to connect two lands where sea grooves are formed below.

Trace Fossil

In Yehliu Geopark,you can see many long and tube trace on the ground. These are the caves of creatures which live in the sand before. When sediments continuously collected, cemented, and became part of the sedimentary rocks. The trace of early creature lives were reserved in the sedimentary rocks, which’s called “trace fossil”.

Queen’s Head

Queen’s Head, one of the most famous scenes in Yehliu, is a kind of mushroom rock. It is formed due to the differential erosion caused by seawater during curst movement. When comparing the height of which with the crust’s rising rate, it is assessed that the age of the rock is about 4,000 years old. The so called “Queen’s Head” is in fact a mushroom rock; it gets the title because the shape as formed after the top of rock being fallen apart in 1962~1963 appears like the side face of Queen Elizabeth.
Queen’s Head is regarded as the landmark of Yehliu, yet its fame doesn’t bring any good to itself since it not only undertakes natural devastation but also being spoiled by mankind. The narrowest part around it neck is about 138 cm now.

Fairy’s Shoe

Legend says that this one piece of shoe was left accidently by a fairy that came down to earth to tame the naughty turtle elf. The fairy’s shoe belongs to ginger rock, and is formed due to seawater erosion on rock layer that contains rocks of different hardness, along with the impact caused by stratum extrusion.

Marine Bird Rock

A giant bird-like rock is situated near the entrance of wave-cut platform while its formation is due to the impact of weathering.

It is said that a Netherland-owned sailboat was shipwrecked on the offshore sea of Yeahliu and floated to the front area of Lover’s Cave. None of the crew in the ship survived, yet a little bird was standing on a rock and kept whimpering for help until it died. As a result, the rock was named after Marine Bird (Bird of Sailing) in memory of the little bird.

Ice Cream Rock

The ice cream rock is formed as a result of differential erosion. When looking at it with face toward the hill, its shape is like the yummy ice cream people love to eat in summer days, while it turns into the figure of an E.T when viewing it with face toward the seacoast.

Elephant Rock

The elephant rock is the lime concretion or lime lump featuring stiff texture while being formed under the influences of differential erosion. Legend says that the fairy forgot to bring the elephant back when she defeated the turtle elf; as result, the elephant stood there waiting to be taken home and rejected to go ashore

Peanut Rock

The peanut rock is situated on the left hand side of the fairy’s shoe. Concretion with special shape is eroded by seawater and thus rises above sea level. It was formed in a figure similar to a peanut and thus it’s called peanut rock.

 

Pearl Rock

The pearl rock is a globe concretion and is spreading all over the park. As the pear rock situated below the fairy’s shoe is a beautifully formed globe concretion, it’s also called the earth rock.

Camel Rock

When looking toward South East of Yehliu Geopart, you may a notice a strange rock standing beside the harbor of Donao. The rock looks like a camel resting with its face looking toward Yehliu, and thus it’s called camel rock. By the way, it also looks like the figure of the snail.

The Buddhist Monastic Pig and The Little Turtle

The queerly-formed ginger rock with a top like pig, while on the left hand side of the rock, a ginger rock manifested in the shape of a turtle situates by the seashore.

Mazu Cave

A small-size sea cave called Mazu Cave stands between the first and the second area. Two hundred years ago, one fisherman discovered a piece of Mazu statue inside a sea cave when he was collecting lavers in this area. Local people couldn’t afford to build a temple to settle the statue thus they put it inside a cave. Yet, the place was not a safe location to settle the statue since it was frequently tortured by monsoon and typhoon. One night, Mazu made her presence before the fisherman saying her desire of being settled in Jinshang; it was when the Ci Hu Temple was build up in 1809 B.C to consecrate Mazu. Now, a religious parade of Mazu will be performed regularly on the 16th day of the fourth month in lunar calendar every year.

Japanese Geisha

The shape the mushroom rock is like the figure of an elegant, attractive Japanese geisha.

Fried Drumstick

The shape of the ginger rock is like a fried drumstick, while the cause of its formation is the same as those drumstick-shape rocks as founded around the Dragon Rock in the second area.

Carp Rock and Parrot Rock

A rock featuring a concretion in a shape of the eyes of the fish is situated on the left rear of the candle shape rock; thus people call it Carp Rock. On the hill opposite to the carp rock, a rock in a parrot shape lies down towards the sea can be seen.

24 -filial piety hill

A total of 24 pieces of rocks are located below the Yehliu Cape. The name “24-filial piety hill” was given by a group of tourists out of inspiration while taking photos in the place.

 

 

Old Man’s Head (The Old Man and The Sea)

The Old Man’s Head is also called Skeleton Rock; the rock on the right hand side is formed in octopus’ shape, and people call it the Octopus Rock. The two of them are called “The Old Man and The Sea”

Pig Fore-Leg, Pig Rear-Leg

On the seashore across the bridge, a rock is formed in a shape like pig-leg and people call it the Pig Fore-Leg rock, while on the hill opposite to the bridge, a rock in a shape of pig hock stands on the edge of sea groove and it is called the Pig Rear-Leg rock.

 

Lovers Cave

Lovers Caves are two sea caves that internally connect to each other. Once upon a time, a couple made decisions to die together in this place as their family disapproved their love. The girl fell asleep inside the cave and dreamed of a bird asking her to cherish her life; the girl told the boy about her dream and the boy listened with surprise since he himself dreamed of the same scene as the girl did. Later on, they gave up the idea of committing suicide and went home with hope.

Lion’s Head Rock

The rock inside the pond in front of the Dragon’s Head Rock is formed in a shape of a lion’s head; and thus people call it the Lion’s Head Rock. A tour guide from Singapore once joked that how come the Merlion Statue makes its presence in Yehliu.

Dragon’s Head Rock

A unique-formed mushroom rock, with one side features an image of the dragon’s head while the other side is like the shape of a puppy’s head. Make sure to say your prayer before the Dragon’s Head Rock to have its blessing.

 

Gorilla Rock

This rock is formed in a shape of giant gorilla squatting down to worship the dragon king. You may find it like two puppies licking each other while approaching it.

“Xi-Yin-A Ku”-(Naughty kid’s Cave)

Beside the second sea groove bridge, tourist used to play with kids by throwing coins into sea and made them jump into the water to pick up the coins. It’s not only a game but also a trick played by tourist to test young kids’ guts. As those kids enjoyed the game very much and forgot their time to go home, their relatives would search around all over while shouting out loud “You naughty boys, how dare you playing around and forget the time to come home”.

Taiwan Rock

The Taiwan Rock stands right behind the first sea groove bridge, as its peculiar figure is formed as a result of differential erosion, it is shaped in a fashion similar to shape of Taiwan. You may notice the pattern in the center of the rock is where the real Central Mountain Range of Taiwan locates.

Bar-B-Q Drumstick and Three Drumsticks

The drumstick-shape rocks are located near the coast beside the Dragon’s Head Rock. The shape of the rock is like a large drumstick placing on the stone while three little ginger rocks are lying in parallel on the right hand side of the drumstick rock, and are called as Three Drumsticks.

White Smoke of Gueitou Mountain

A legend says that a turtle elf will spit out smoke whenever the weather is going to change or before the big waves come. In the olden days, local fishermen took it as a sign of climate change.

Pineapple Bun

On the back of the Gorilla Rock, there stands a peculiar shape concretion nearby the sea. The interwoven joints appeared on the concretion is very much like a pineapple bun. It is strongly advised that visitors shall observe the tour guide regulations to preserve these natural wonders.

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Reference:
Wikipedia: Yehliu
Yehliu Geopark : Yehliu Natural Landscape

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