Mystery of The Giant's Causeway in Ireland has been unlocked

Time for a bit of folklore.

Benandonner was a giant from Scotland. He was something of a tool and constantly threatened to lay a beating on Ireland.

Fionn mac Cumhaill was a giant too. He resided in Ireland. Fionn wasn't down with Benandonner's wanting to put a hurt on his homeplace. In fact, Fionn was so bent out of shape about it that he decided to rip up chunks of County Atrim and throw them into the sea in order to build a causeway to Scotland. The causeway would make it possible for Fionn to travel and beat Benandonner's ass.

With the Giant's Causeway built, Fionn stomped off to Scotland to get down with his island's adversary. He didn't stay long though: Upon reaching Scottish soil, Fionn discovered that Benandonner was frigging huge – like, giant, even for a giant. Afraid of having his ass handed to him, Fionn hightailed it back to Ireland. When the larger giant heard that Fionn had come to Scotland to fight him, but turned coward at the last moment, he set out for Ireland across the causeway to lay a curb stomping on poor Fionn.

Seeing that her husband was in trouble, again, Fionn's wife, Oonagh, bundled her husband up in swaddling clothes, disguising him as a baby. Benandonner came upon Oonagh and saw the enormous baby. He freaked out: if Fionn's child is that big, even as a toddler, Fionn himself must be HUGE. Benandonner crossed the causeway once more, back to Scotland and safety.

That's the story of how the Giant's Causeway was created, as it was taught to me.

According to The Guardian, a team of volcanologists have declared that they've got another theory on how the Causeway's 40,000 (give or take) hexagonal columns were created:

Yan Lavallée, professor of volcanology at the University of Liverpool and lead author, said: “[This] is a question that has fascinated the world of geology for a very long time. We have been wanting to know whether the temperature of the lava that causes the fractures was hot, warm or cold.”

To answer the question, Lavallée and colleagues recreated the process in the laboratory using basalt cores drilled from the Eyjafjallajökull volcano in Iceland. The 20cm-long cylinders, gripped by a clamp at each end, were heated to more than 1,000C until they began to soften into lava. The samples were fixed at each end in a mechanical grip and cooled to test at what point they snapped.

The basalt magma fractured at between 840-890C, the study found, suggesting that this is the temperature at which the Giant’s Causeway would have formed.

It's not as much fun as the version that involves Fionn mac Cumhaill, but is still pretty fascinating.

For a longer read of the science that Lavallée and his team got up to, check out their findings in the journal, Nature Communications.

Image via pixabay, courtesy of Ben_Kerckx

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