HNC students explore geological formations in Taiwan

HNC students explore geological formations in Taiwan

Jacob Davis was one of several students who relocated to Taiwan for the spring 2022 semester. While taking classes at National Taiwan University (NTU) alongside his main virtual coursework with HNC has been challenging, field trips for various classes have proven rewarding in enhancing students' knowledge about the region. Jacob discusses an excursion taken with his NTU geology class.  

Being a student in HNC classes as well as NTU classes can be a pretty exhausting experience. But it also provides the chance to experience some unique places. A few of us students got to take advantage of one such opportunity when three of us traveled down to the Hengchun Peninsula on a geological excursion. This is a special class at NTU that just meets on the weekends and, while its primary goal is to learn about the formation of Taiwan and characteristics of its different geographies, it also seeks to let international students explore southern Taiwan.  

We headed out at 7am on a Friday morning and first went to two places before getting all the way down to Hengchun: the Chelungpu fault museum and Moonworld. The fault museum had an extensive replica of a cross section of the fault that was paired with a light display which walked students through the different formational eras of the fault. It was HUGE, which helped us understand the scale of what we were talking about beyond what we could see in a textbook. Moonworld was a shift, as it had nothing to do with what was under the earth but was all about what was on top of it. It consists of these extremely steep formations that are made of nearly exclusively mudstone. Rare intense uplift in the area accompanied by frequent erosion due to rain and the impermeability of the mudstone are crucial to Moonworld’s formation. After this, we continued down to Kending, a small beach town where we would be based for the weekend. In addition to this being an academic venture, it was a great way to connect with other students at NTU, Taiwanese and international alike.

The next day, we headed to spots up and down the peninsula, starting at Jialeshui on the eastern side, where we collected data on the sandstone/mudstone beds to make our own stratigraphic maps, and moved southward to Longpan park, a coral reef platform that rose to become a cliff overlooking the coast! After lunch, we headed to Baolichi, which was a similar formation to Moonworld, and then to Shimen Battlefield to apply our knowledge in identifying different types of igneous, metamorphic, and sedimentary rocks. Honestly, it was much harder than expected - the sheer number of rocks that look wildly different but were the same classification was frustrating, to say the least. 

The last full day we had there was by far my favorite. We started off by climbing around coastal coral reefs at Maobitou and Wanlin that had risen just above sea level, so all the corals were dead. But we were able to easily see dead corals, how rain and sea spray dissolved the limestone coast, and how vegetation was able to create “mystery holes” in large rocks. Being able to scurry over the raggedy corals by the ocean was a welcome change from the busy streets of Taipei. After the seaside, we went tromping through the jungle and skidded down the side of the former Sangou lagoon to go fossil hunting! Armed with a tiny shovel and all the determination of an amateur geologist, I started digging away without much direction. But my spirit paid off, because I found a crab fossil embedded in a rock a bit bigger than the size of a baseball. I had no idea what it was, but upon seeing my professors’ reaction, realized it must have been something special. Our group got some major bonus points for sure! This day ended with a BBQ with all of the students and teachers on the trip, a great way to end all the 7:30AM – 9:30PM days. 

On our way back, we stopped at Guanshan, which provided a vantage point to see all of the sites we had visited over the past couple days. Being able to point out the individual locations and discuss how they were the result of the two sea plates (Eurasian and Philippine) colliding in different conditions was the culmination of the knowledge we had been learning in the class. Being able to see the practicality of that knowledge, not just some facts in a textbook, was beyond fulfilling. We finished up at Guanshan and then hauled our way back to Taipei.  

Having the chance to explore parts of Taiwan where tourists can’t go, paired with relevant academic knowledge of each formation and materials, is something that is rarely provided outside of the college experience. I felt beyond grateful that we were able to take part in this and see a face of Taiwan that otherwise we would have never experienced. And, of course, we made some great friends along the way!