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Giants Causeway - Ireland


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Giants Causeway

An area of about 40,000 interlocking basalt columns, the Giants Causewayis a result of an ancient volcanic eruption. Located on the north-east coast of Northern Ireland, most of its columns are hexagonal, although there are also some with four, five, seven and eight sides. The tallest are about 12 meters (36 ft) high, and the solidified lava in the cliffs is 28 meters thick in places. In a 2005 poll of Radio Times readers, the causeway was named as the fourth greatest natural wonder in the United Kingdom.

The Giant's Causeway (known as Clochan an Aifir or Clochan na bhFomharach in Irish and tha Giant's Causey in Ulster-Scots) is an area of about 40,000 interlocking basalt columns, the result of an ancient volcanic eruption. It is located in County Antrim on the northeast coast of Northern Ireland, about three miles (4.8 km) northeast of the town of Bushmills. It was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1986, and a National Nature Reserve in 1987 by the Department of the Environment for Northern Ireland. In a 2005 poll of Radio Times readers, the Giant's Causeway was named as the fourth greatest natural wonder in the United Kingdom. The tops of the columns form stepping stones that lead from the cliff foot and disappear under the sea. Most of the columns are hexagonal, although there are also some with four, five, seven and eight sides. The tallest are about 12 metres (39 ft) high, and the solidified lava in the cliffs is 28 metres thick in places.The Giant's Causeway is today owned and managed by the National Trust and it is the most popular tourist attraction in Northern Ireland.



Situated on the North coast of Ireland (about two miles north of Bushmills), the Giant’s Causeway is an area of approximately 40,000 interlocking basalt columns, the result of an ancient volcanic eruption; however the legend is more convincing for those who prefer a more colourful story. 

The site plays a major part of Ireland’s heritage, attracting visitors from around the world each year since it was first documented in 1693 and realistic sketches were published in 1740. The Giant’s Causeway has often been described as the Eighth Wonder of the World and was declared as Ireland’s first World Heritage site by UNESCO in 1986. Once you have visited, you will quickly see why it has become Ireland’s top tourist attraction.  

Visitors each year marvel at the beauty of the 40,000 unique hexagonal basalt columns which form stepping stones that disappear downwards into the sea. The site is also popular with geologists and, according to them, the Giant’s Causeway was formed some 50-60 million years ago as a result of repeat outpourings of volcanic basalt, during the Tertiary period of the earth’s evolution.  Today the Causeway Coast is still an important location for geological study.



Legend

Legend has it that the Irish warrior Fionn mac Cumhaill (Finn McCool) built the causeway to walk to Scotland to fight his Scottish counterpart Benandonner. One version of the legend tells that Fionn fell asleep before he got to Scotland. When he did not arrive, the much larger Benandonner crossed the bridge looking for him. To protect Fionn, his wife Oonagh laid a blanket over him so he could pretend that he was actually their baby son. In a variation, Fionn fled after seeing Benandonner's great bulk, and asked his wife to disguise him as the baby. In both versions, when Benandonner saw the size of the 'infant', he assumed the alleged father, Fionn, must be gigantic indeed. Therefore, Benandonner fled home in terror, ripping up the Causeway in case he was followed by Fionn.
Another variation is that Oonagh painted a rock shaped like a steak and gave it to Benandonner, whilst giving the baby (Fionn) a normal steak. When Benandonner saw that the baby was able to eat it so easily, he ran away, tearing up the causeway.
Another version of the legend was that Fionn had spent many days and nights trying to create a bridge to Scotland because he was challenged by another giant. A fellow boatsman told him that the opponent was much larger than he. Fionn told his wife and she came up with an ingenious plan to dress Fionn like a baby. They spent many nights creating a costume and bed. When the opponent came to Fionn's house; Fionn's wife told him that Fionn was out woodcutting and the opponent would have to wait for him to return. Then Fionn's wife showed him her baby and when the opponent saw him he was terrified at the thought of how huge Fionn would be. He ran back to Scotland and threw random stones from the causeway into the waters below.
The "causeway" legend corresponds with geological history in as much as there are similar basalt formations (a part of the same ancient lava flow) at the site of Fingal's Cave on the isle of Staffa in Scotland.


giant causway

History

Some 50 to 60 million years ago, during the Paleogene period, Antrim was subject to intense volcanic activity, when highly fluid molten basalt intruded through chalk beds to form an extensive lava plateau. As the lava cooled rapidly, contraction occurred. Horizontal contraction fractured in a similar way to drying mud, with the cracks propagating down as the mass cooled, leaving pillarlike structures, which are also fractured horizontally into "biscuits". 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. The size of the columns is primarily determined by the speed at which lava from a volcanic eruption cools. The extensive fracture network produced the distinctive columns seen today. The basalts were originally part of a great volcanic plateau called the Thulean Plateau which formed during the Paleogene period.

Tourism

The discovery of the Giant's Causeway was announced to the wider world in 1693 by the presentation of a paper to the Royal Society from Sir Richard Bulkeley, a fellow of Trinity College, Dublin, although the discoverer had, in fact, been the Bishop of Derry who had visited the site a year earlier. The site received international attention when Dublin artist Susanna Drury made watercolour paintings of it in 1739; they won Drury the first award presented by the Royal Dublin Society in 1740 and were engraved in 1743. In 1765 an entry on the Causeway appeared in volume 12 of the French Encyclopedie, which was informed by the engravings of Drury's work; the engraving of the "East Prospect" itself appeared in a 1768 volume of plates published for the Encyclopedie. In the caption to the plates French geologist Nicolas Desmarest suggested, for the first time in print, that such structures were volcanic in origin.

The site first became popular with tourists during the nineteenth century, particularly after the opening of the Giant's Causeway Tramway, and only after the National Trust took over its care in the 1960s were some of the vestiges of commercialism removed. Visitors can walk over the basalt columns which are at the edge of the sea, a half mile walk from the entrance to the site.

 

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