Giant's Causeway

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by kaseybeggi
Last updated 7 years ago

Environmental Studies

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Giant's Causeway

Giant's Causeway

Dia duit! Welcome to Northern Ireland 🍀 and the Giant's Causeway! Here the Giant's causeway is about 40,000 interlocking basaltic columns as a result of a volcanic eruption. Look below to learn more about this natural wonder.

Geology: around 60 million years ago, also known as the Paleogene age, the area of Antrim was known to have very high volcanic activity. As the basaltic lava intruded into the "chalk beds" it cooled over time and contraction occurred. The cooling resulted in horizontal contraction which In many cases the horizontal fracture has resulted in a bottom face that is convex while the upper face of the lower segment is concave, producing what are called "ball and socket" joints.  Size depends on the speed on how the lava cools.

The legend: Strong giant Finn McCool (MacCumhaill) is having trouble with someone across the water. The Scottish giant, Benandonner, is threatening Ireland. An enraged Finn grabs chunks of the Antrim coast(he describes them as near perfect hexagon tubes stacked next to each other like puzzle pieces) and throws them into the sea. The hexagon columns form a path for Finn to follow and teach Benandonner a lesson. Finn puts himself in a bad position because Benandonner is terrifyingly massive. Finn beats a hasty retreat, followed by the giant, only to be saved by our hero’s quick-thinking wife who disguised him as a baby. The angry Scotish giant saw the baby and decided if the child was that big, the father must be even bigger than he thought!!

The science: 60 million years ago the land in Northern Ireland was very different. Weather was warmer and vegetation was growing rapidly. Tectonic plates were moving apart and the magma from deep inside the earth breeched the surface and cooled into basaltic rock columns. Things settled down for a little but started back up again and more lava pushed its way to the top. This time the lava cooled slowly and evenly in a deep pool. Cracks taveled through cooling rock creating the columns we see stretching up making the honeycomb effect (hexagon shape)

In the end: It took millions of years of erosion for the honeycomb columns to begin to be revealed. The sea level rose and fell over and over again. It wasn’t until after the last ice age (15,000 years ago) that the columns were revealed at the shore as they are today. Now we can see the 40,000 columns of naturally shaped basaltic rock. But you choose.... The Legend or the Science


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