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Giants Causeway and Causeway Coast
Transcript of Giants Causeway and Causeway Coast
CAUSEWAY COAST Main description History: La Girona Local Wildlife The Giant's Causeway lies at the foot of the basalt cliffs along the sea coast on the edge of the Antrim plateau in Northern Ireland. It is made up of 40,000 massive black basalt columns sticking out of the sea, but also on the sea bed.
The dramatic sight has inspired legends of
giants striding over the sea to Scotland. Geo-
logical studies of these formations over the
last 300 years show that this incredible
landscape was caused by volcanic activity
during the Tertiary, some 50–60 million years
ago.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 or eight sides. The tallest are about 12 metres high, and the solidified lava in the cliffs is 28 metres thick in places.
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. Perhaps less well known is the fact that the area is a haven for sea birds such as fulmar, petrel, cormorant, shag, redshank guillemot and razorbill. Rock pippits and wagtails explore the shoreline and eider duck are found in sheltered water.
The National Trust has made an inventory of rare and interesting plants which have survived the feet of many thousands of visitors. They include sea spleenwort, hare's foot trefoil, vernal squill, sea fescue and frog orchid; making this an exciting place for botanists, with also, in summer, great stretches of sea campion. Fulmar Cormorant Redshank Sea spleenwort Mythology Long ago, the legend was that Finn MacCool, an Irish giant, wandered around the north coast. It's said he would look across the narrow stretch of sea to Scotland. There, a Scottish giant, named Benandonner, was Finn’s greatest rival. He constantly challenged his strength and reputation.
As the two giants had never met, Finn decided to invite Benandonner to Ireland, to engage in a decisive battle. But there was no boat large enough to carry giants, so Finn built a huge causeway of giant stones across the water so that the Scottish giant could travel on dry land; so he would have no excuse to avoid the confrontation.
However, Finn realised to his horror that his opponent was a Much larger and more fearsome rival than he anticipated. He ran to his home in the nearby hills of Antrim, and like any sensible man, asked his wife for advice.
Oonagh, a practical woman, disguised Finn as a baby, with a
large nightgown and bonnet.
She placed him in a huge, badly made cradle, telling him to keep
quiet and pretend to sleep, as Benandonner’s great shadow
darkened the door. Oonagh brought the Scottish giant in for
tea, pleading with him not to waken Finn’s child, Looking at the
massive ‘baby’ lying in the cradle, Benandonner became
frightened, saying that if this was the child, he had no wish to
meet the father. He went back to Scotland, ripping up the
Causeway behind him, terrified that the awful Finn might
follow him home. And that explains the incredible forms of
the basalt columns and that some of them sink into the sea. 60 million years ago the land here was different: the climate was warmer and vegetation grew. Tectonic plates were moving - Europe and North America were moving apart. Magma from deep inside the Earth rose through cracks in the surface. Lava flowed. It cooled in contact with air and rock, hardening into basalt. For hundreds of thousands of years, all was relatively quiet. Then the earth cracked open again and more lava forced its way out. This time, the lava cooled slowly and evenly in a deep pool. Cracks travelled through the cooling rock, creating the columns we see
stretching up and making the
honeycomb pattern we can see today.
There are over 40,000 columns at the
Giant's Causeway, most are six-sided,
but there are others with fewer or
more sides. Later eruptions left these
columns hidden deep underground. It
took millions of years of erosion for
the columns to begin to be revealed.
The sea level rose and fell and rose again. It wasn’t until after the last ice age, about 15,000 years ago, that the columns were revealed at the shore as they are today. Formation of the Giant's Causeway In addition to its geological significance, the Causeway Coast contains a notable archaeological site representing a significant period in European history.
On 26 October 1588, La Girona, (a galleass of the Spanish Armada), sank off Lacada Point, close to the Giant’s Causeway, only three months after sailing from La Coruña as part of the most elaborate invasion force ever conceived.
The Armada had been expelled by the English fleet from the Channel and a great number of ships were forced to sail round the north of Scotland and west of Ireland to return home. The Girona had been forced ashore in South Donegal for repairs where she took on the crews of at least two other ships which had sank off the Irish Coast. The Girona set sail from Scotland. A gale struck and La Girona was driven ashore at Lacada Point. When she sank, only nine of the 13,000 men aboard survived.
The discovery of La Girona in 1967 by Robert Stenuit was one of the most important nautical archaeological finds of modern times. The items saved from the site of the wreck included cannons, cannon balls, coins, priceless jewellery and navigational equipment.
La Girona treasure was purchased for the nation in 1972 and is now held in the permanent collection of the Ulster Museum, Belfast. The find has been of great historic significance.
The wrecking of La Girona is remembered in the name of the bay close to where she sank, Port na Spaniagh. Painting of La Girona Treasure from La Girona Some incredible images