In the heart of the Taiwan Strait lie the islands of Penghu: an archipelago of up to 100 islands that stand out like pearls against the bright blue ocean.
The Penghu Islands make up Taiwan’s only island county; 20 of the 100 islands are inhabited, and are home to the county’s 93,000 residents.
While 64 of the islands are permanently above water, the rest are submerged at high-tide, emerging intermittently when the sea level is at its lowest.
The Penghu Islands rose from the sea eight million years ago during a series of volcanic eruptions that occurred off the coast of China over a period of 10 million years.
Layers of lava and debris from the eruptions gradually built up and grew above sea level, solidifying as a cluster of islands marked with unusual rock formations.
Enormous hexagonal pillars form the islands’ cliffs and
coastlines, very similar to the rocks found at the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland.
Known as basalt columns, these rocks were formed by lava cooling rapidly, causing it to contract and crack into these geometric shapes.
Weathering from the sea and the strong coastal winds have softened the edges of many of these columns, and has helped shape the islands into their unique forms.
One of the most impressive examples of the effect of erosion in Penghu is the Whale Cave on Hsiaomen Island: a natural arch created by seawater eroding through a wall of basalt columns.
The shape of the islands themselves is constantly subject to change, sculpted by sediment deposited and shifted by the sea.
Lungcheng Gulf on Chimei Island is named after its resemblance to a dragon, though as the coastline of the island gradually shifts, the dragon’s winding shape will change, too.