The Giant's Causeway, County Antrim, Northern Ireland
© Dieter Meyrl/Getty Image
In the footsteps of giants. The Giant's Causeway, Northern Ireland
Throughout history, humans have crafted legends to explain natural phenomena that defy our understanding. A prime example is the Giant's Causeway in Northern Ireland where some 40,000 basalt columns spring from the ground at the shore. Scientists tell us these columns developed 50 to 60 million years ago, when lava erupted from volcanic fissures, then cooled and contracted, cracking into hexagonal structures.
But Gaelic legend tells a different tale. It says the giant Fionn mac Cumhaill, anglicized as Finn McCool, built a bridge across the sea to fight his Scottish giant counterpart, Benandonner. The remains of his bridge are said to be found in the Giant's Causeway on one side, and Fingal's Cave on the Scottish island of Staffa, also formed by basalt columns. Though we understand the geology of the Giant's Causeway now, some may prefer to picture giants striding across the sea.