Sunday, November 1, 2015

The Giant’s Causeway

Kali Wiggins

“Giant’s Causeway, Ireland,” by Jeff Mauritzen, National Geographic

The Giants Causeway is a stunning geological phenomenon located on the northern coast of Ireland. Tourist travel from all over the world and visit this extraordinary site to personally witness the breathtaking view of the causeway,and better understand the reasoning behind the famous legend about the giant who supposedly created it. Richard Pococke, who was well-known in Ireland for his documentaries about natural locations, personally visited the Giant’s Causeway and observed that it consists of tens of thousands of vertical and geometrical shaped basalt columns ranging in height and width.In one of his letters, Pococke recorded that the pillars have anywhere from three to eight sides, and they could range from one to two feet in diameter.

Like any unusual story, there is a logical and scientific reason behind the formation of the Giant’s Causeway. Since 1986 the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has considered the Giant’s Causeway to be a part of the World Heritage List. They credit the causeway as an important geological site,which over the last three hundred years of scientific studieshas led to a better understanding of basaltic volcanism. It is now understood that the causeway was formed fifty to sixty million years ago as a result of volcanic activity. Scientists now know the lava formed from the volcanic eruption solidified and contracted unevenly causing the many interlocked, geometrical pillars(Martin).

“Giant’s Boot,” by Sean McClean

Tourists find the causeway so astounding because the structural composition of the interlocked columns makes it seem as if it was man made; therefore several versions of the famous Irish legend about the giant named Finn McCool have arisen to compensate for people’s disbelief. Many of the stone structures have become linked to the legend because they resemble human items. For instance, “the giant’s boot” is a humongous stone that strongly resembles a boot, which compels people to associate it to the legend of Finn McCool and the Giant’s Causeway. (Martin)

Chelsea Martin, who is the author of many articles on, wrote an article about the Giant’s Causeway that describes a popular version of the Irish legend. Finn McCool, an Irish giant, grew tired of the ongoing rivalry between himself and a Scottish giant named Benandonner. He built the causeway in order to cross the sea, confront his enemy face to face, and put an end to the conflict.  However Finn’s plan did not go accordingly because he greatly underestimated the size of the Scottish giant. He panicked when he realized he could not compete with Benandonner. Thankfully for Finn, he had a clever wife who disguised him as the couple’s baby before Benandonner showed up. Once the giant arrived and saw the “baby”, he became terrified as he contemplated how giant Finn must be if his child was already so huge. This version says that the Scottish giant destroyed the causeway as he fled back to his home, to ensure Finn could not follow him.

Although some might not believe the legend of Finn McCool, the Giant’s Causeway itself is an incredibly unique formation that unites people from all over the world that are interested in its beauty. The ancient Irish legend of Finn McCool only adds more of an attraction to the world heritage site, inviting people who have an imaginative mind to visit this rare formation and better understand how the Irish legend began.

Works Cited:
Martin, Chelsea. “Mystic Places: The Giant’s Causeway and the Legend of Finn MacCool.” Fairy Room. 15 Oct. 2012. Web. 8 Oct. 2015.

Mauritzen, Jeff. “Giant’s Causeway, Ireland.” Photograph. National Geographic. National Geographic Society, 5 Sept. 2014. Web. 14 Oct. 2015.

McClean, Sean. “Giant’s Boot.” Photograph. Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Dec. 2004. Web. 14 Oct. 2015.

Pococke, Richard. “An Account of the Giant’s Causeway in Ireland, in a Letter to the President from the Rev.  Richard Pococke, LL. D Archdeacon of Dublin, and F. R. S.” Philosophical Transactions. 45 (1748): 124-127. JSTOR.Web. 8 Oct. 2015.

UNESCO World Heritage Centre. “Giant’s Causeway and Causeway Coast.” UNESCO. (1992-2015) Web. 7 Oct. 2015.

Links for Further Research:
YouTube: Giant’s Causeway, North Ireland by George Pollen
This website contains information on the structure of the causeway and its legend.

World Heritage Site- For World Heritage Travellers
This website contains information on the geological formation of the causeway for tourists interested in visiting this world heritage site.

The Giant’s Causeway
This website contains another version of the legend and tells the history of the causeway’s first documented account.

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