Years ago, the Irish giant Fionn mac Cumhaill was challenged to a fight by his rival the Scottish giant Benandonner. However the two were separated by the North Channel, and no matter how much the other tried neither could cross the water. So anxious was Fionn to brawl against Benandonner he built an enormous causeway across the channel to the Scottish side. Fionn defeated his rival in the clash, but Benandonner, frightened Fionn might follow him, destroyed the causeway as he retreated back to Scotland.
Or so the legend goes, anyway. Geologic study asserts the Giant’s Causeway in the Republic of Ireland was formed when volcanic activity around the region of Antrim caused highly fluid molten basalt to push through chalk beds and form an extensive lava plateau, the contraction of the basalt caused it to take the shape of spindly pillars.
Looking at the basalt columns in reality, I preferred the giant story.
In one direction, the rock formations stretched from the beach to the foot of the nearest hills; in another, the rocks sloped toà the side, teetering at 45° angle as if they would slide into the coast at any moment. For the most part though, the rocks were sliced into neat, uniform sections and scattered, as if they were thrown haphazardly, across the surrounding beach and countryside. Staring at these polygonal columns, it was hard to believe the basalt pillars were created from the same geologic formations that usually produce the twisted, black chunks of rock that I usually associated with volcanoes.
As I listened to the ocean break violently against the basalt columns, I gazed at the surrounding countryside of the gently sloping hills, their green fields clashing with the blue skies, the individual cows lazily making their way across, and thought to myself that it was easy to see why the people of olden times would think only giants were capable of producing this natural phenomenon.
For hundreds of years people have been inspired by Giant’s Causeway. In fact, the site was first recorded as being discovered back in 1693 in a presentation to the Royal Society, and grew exponentially in popularity when Dublin artist Susanna Drury won first place in an art competition held by the Royal Dublin Society in 1740. Since then, visitors have flocked to this natural marvel to explore sites like the Giant’s Boot, and Chimney Stacks.