Tough science

Updated: 2014-06-13 07:32

By Chen Liang (China Daily)

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Tough science

Imaging Biodiversity Expedition Inc photographer Zuo Lingren zooms in on a tuft of wild orchids during the photographic survey in Dulongjiang township in Gongshan county, Yunnan province. Niu Yang/China Daily

It was supposed to be a simple research trip to explore the rich biodiversity of Yunnan province, but the wild weather and unpredictable landslides made the journey more challenging than the participants could ever have imagined. Chen Liang reports.

It was Day 2 of a trip through the Dulong River valleys in the northwestern corner of Yunnan province, when the 13 members of the expedition realized that their plan to explore the area's rich biodiversity had hit a snag.

On May 8, the expedition, co-organized by the forestry bureau of Nujiang prefecture and a Beijing-based biodiversity survey institute, was driving from Dulongjiang township in Gongshan county to the hamlet of Qinlangdang in three four-wheel drives. About 15 minutes after passing a particular section of the road, a large tree and several boulders fell from a nearby slope and blocked the way-they were trapped.

"We might have to stay one or two days longer than the two days we planned at Qinlangdang," Zuo Ling-ren, the team leader and communication director with the institute, Imaging Biodiversity Expedition Inc, told his team. "At least we have already entered the best part of the Dulong River. Just enjoy your time."

He was overly optimistic. But at the time, no one knew that the rain, already pouring for three days, would continue to fall for another five days, causing not only a tree to fall, but another 31 landslides along a 7-kilometer stretch of dirt road. The road between Dulongjiang township and its remotest human settlement, which is only 4 kilometers east of Myanmar, remained closed for 12 days.

To make matters worse, on May 9, heavy rains led to a power outage and the loss of mobile phone signals.

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