NEW AND LONGER YANGTZE SOURCE DISCOVERED

Wong How Man
27 June 2005

At 1:15pm (China time) on June 15, members of a scientific expedition organized by the China Exploration & Research Society arrived at a new and longer source of the Yangtze River in southern Qinghai province on the Tibetan plateau. The location is southwest of Zha Duo Country at an elevation of 5,170 meters with coordinates of N32˚36’14” E94˚30’44.” Vetaran explorer Wong How Man – who made his first pioneering discovery at the Yangtze source region in 1985 as leader of a National Geographic Expedition – led the team.

The 2005 team included Yunnan Institute of Geography Director Zhang Fan, former NASA scientist Martin Ruzek, biologists Dr William Bleisch and Wang Yufeng, anthropologist Dr Michael Moser, Taiwan’s Rhythms magazine Editor-in-Chief Wang Chih Hung, Tibetan culture expert Qiju Qilin, Logistics Manager Berry Sin, Chief Mechanic David Icke, Tibetan doctor Qimo and others in logistical supporting roles. Steve Yuen, a noted Hong Kong film director and his crew, also joined the expedition. A second film crew from Beijing was also on hand to document the journey.

The 19-member team traveled for thousands of kilometers from southern China in several specially prepared Land Rovers and embarked on the last exploration leg with 26 horses, nine yaks and seven Tibetan guides/caravan helpers.

“When I was in the US last October, I reviewed the latest high-resolution satellite images of the Yangtze source region with Martin Ruzek and found that I had overlooked a nearby tributary which is over one kilometer longer than the old source I discovered in 1985,” said Wong.

“This tributary was obliterated by clouds when I studied the Large Format Camera images from the Space Shuttle of 1984 for my 1985 expedition. One kilometer for a 6,400 kilometer-long river is not very much, but at the headwater, that counts for a lot when compared with two nearby sources.”

Local Tibetans call the newly found tributary, which is now the scientific source, Duo Chao Neng. It is at 5,170 meters and slightly below the watershed of a mountain sitting on the border of the Tibet Autonomous Region with Qinghai province called Jashigele Shan.

“Traditionally local Tibetan nomads considered the previous source Ruo Sha Neng I defined on two expeditions in 1985 and 1995 as the Yangtze or Dam Qu source. Though now that is confirmed to be slightly shorter than Duo Chao Neng, it is nonetheless important,” said Wong.

“I am happy to call the older source the Traditional Source whereas this newly discovered source is the Scientific Source.’ Wong said, content that he has visited all three sources, including the shorter Geladandong glacial source which Wong called the “official” or “convenient” source as it is endorsed by the government as well as being much easier to reach.

“It is just wonderful that at the dawn of the 21st century we can still make contribution to such an important geographical feature on earth. I cannot thank my team enough for their concerted efforts,” said Wong.