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The Island of Taiwan
Despite its relatively small size, there are eight National Parks In Taiwan. This number of parks is mostly due to the mountainous nature of the island of Taiwan and its numerous points of natural beauty. Taiwan is by far the largest of the islands that make up the Republic of China. Some of the other islands include the Penghu Islands, Lan-Yu, or Orchid Island, Lutao, Hsiao Liuchiu, and Kinmen and Matsu. The two latter islands are very close to mainland China.
Because of this great beauty, it is not surprising that in 1544 it was named Beautiful Island, or 'Formosa,' by passing Portuguese mariners. That name was retained for many years and is still connected with the fine Ooloong tea that is produced in the cool air of the mountain sides.
Taiwan itself is often said to be the shape of a tobacco leaf. It is only 394 km (244 miles) from north to south and about 144 km (70 miles) at it widest point. That is, it is about half the size of Tasmania, but it has almost the same population as the whole of Australia: 22 million.
- The Central Mountain Range has over two hundred peaks over 3,000 m, that is over two hundred peaks higher than Australia's highest mountain, Mt. Kosciuszko, which is 2,228 m.
- The highest peak is Yu Shan, Jade Mountain. It is the highest in East Asia at 3,952 m, even higher than Japan's Mt. Fuji.
- The southern end of the Range lies close to the Tropic of Cancer, so the northern part of the island is subtropical with long hot, humid summers and surprisingly cold, but brief, winters with enough snow on a number of the higher peaks for people to go skiing.
Yang-Min Shan, or Yang-Min Mountain, lies in the north of Taiwan and is within the bounds of Taipei City, the Capital of Taiwan and of all the Republic of China. The Yang-Min Shan National Park covers an area that includes hydrothermal vents, or fumeroles.
The Fumeroles and Hot Springs
The map at the top shows the terrain of Yangminshan. It is quite steep, so the roads wind around, but a surprising number of people live here as it is close to the city but away from the heavy pollution and the noise of the traffic. Except at weekends, when there are many visitors, it is a lovely peaceful place to visit and recover from the busyness of Taipei City.
There are both fumeroles and hot springs in Yangminshan National Park. The area is part of the Tatun Volcano group that spreads across northern Taiwan. There are also many hiking trails, as the scenery is very beautiful, especially in the Spring when the cherry trees are in bloom. There are also some refreshment places and some good quality restaurants that are popular at night.
- The Hot Springs: The hot springs are so popular for bathing in at weekends that it's difficult to find a place to park, if driving there.
- Hiking: There are many hiking trails on Yangminshan and they are easily accessible from Taipei. Some of these trails can be quite a challenge.
- The Fumeroles: There are public buses, so it is not difficult to visit the fumeroles and many of the local people will do so at weekends, as the pungent steam is considered good for anyone suffering from colds.
The word, 'fumerole' comes from Latin and means 'smoke.' Fumeroles are hydrothermal vents and they occur where there is an opening in the earth's crust, often near volcanoes, and steam and gases issue from these openings, which may be quite small cracks or long, large fissures.
There is one area close by some homes where the water from the hot springs and the steam water have flowed downhill. Over many years, minerals from the underground magma has been emitted from the fumeroles and boiling water. As the mineral-rich water flowed down it has formed colourful terraces and these are interesting to see.
Fumeroles Produce Gas and Minerals
On Yang-Min Shan there are different sized fissures and the area is quite extensive as the site in the photographs is not the only one on the mountain. It is quite noisy as the steam and bubbling, boiling water issue powerfully from gaps in the hillside. The steam adds to the humid heat in summer and along with the almost suffocating odour of the sulphur, the atmosphere seems almost surreal.
The Tatun Fumeroles
Fumeroles occur where hot igneous rocks are not far below the surface and they interact with groundwater, causing it to boil and produce the steam.
- The Tatun Volcano Group is volcanically active and the area is active hydrothermally.
- The fumeroles here seem to us to be very hot, but they are considered to be of a low temperature when compared with fumeroles in other parts of the world.
- It is interesting that the composition of the gas and its production remains fairly constant and does not seem to be influenced by changes in the weather. The fumeroles continue to push out the steam even in the heaviest rain.
- Sulphur is the tenth most common element in the universe.
- In the Bible sulphur is known as 'brimstone' and when visiting the Yang-Min Shan National Park it is easy to see why it was connected with the idea of Hell.
Some of the fumeroles on Yang-Min Shan produce sulphur and, although this seems to be a dangerous undertaking, there are small businesses that harvest the sulphur. It is then used for industrial, medicinal and chemical purposes.
Products that use sulphur include the manufacture of special skin soap, matches, insecticides and fungicides. In Taiwan, as in China, it is also a component of gunpowder and so is useful for the many fireworks that are produced.
Today, sulphur in most of the world is produced from natural gas and petroleum.