* yes, there should be FIVE sets of boots but Allen ignored my advice to get adequate rain gear...

Monday, May 6, 2013

Giant's Causeway

Last summer, Allen had to go to some meetings in Belfast.  We decided to make a trip of it and had to find something for me to do with the children that was close to the train station, self contained and would keep us occupied for several hours.  We settled on the W5 children's museum and it was a fabulous stroke of luck.  Megan adored it so much that we promised her a return trip in May for her birthday. 

Noah, not Megan, she was exploring
the wonderful world of pulleys with her father
All you really need to know is that they have a water table... room, really.  With balls.  And ramps.  And a screw.  Where you can build damns.  And!  Send Balls Down Ramps via (loud) PNEUMATIC TUBES!

The next day, we set off for the Giant's Causeway...

The Giant's Causeway is an odd confluence of the wonders of geology.  (I bet you don't get to read that often!)  Because I ran directly into the comforting bosom of the Social Sciences as soon as Vanderbilt would let me, I quote directly from wikipedia...

Some 50 to 60 million years ago,[5] during the Paleogene period, Antrim was subject to intense volcanic activity, when highly fluid molten basalt intruded through chalk beds to form an extensive lava plateau. As the lava cooled rapidly, contraction occurred. Horizontal contraction fractured in a similar way to drying mud, with the cracks propagating down as the mass cooled, leaving pillarlike structures, which are also fractured horizontally into "biscuits". In many cases the horizontal fracture has resulted in a bottom face that is convex while the upper face of the lower segment is concave, producing what are called "ball and socket" joints. The size of the columns is primarily determined by the speed at which lava from a volcanic eruption cools.[6] The extensive fracture network produced the distinctive columns seen today. The basalts were originally part of a great volcanic plateau called the Thulean Plateau which formed during the Paleogene period.[7]
 The Irish, being The Irish, came up with their own interesting legend behind the rocks involving giants and outwitting rather than out fighting.  In a nutshell, Finn MacCool, who is a hero with supernatural abilities who wears a size 26 shoe (he left one on the beach) but who isn't a giant, needs to battle a Scot who is a giant.  Giants apparently don't like to get their feet wet so Finn builds a causeway for him to come over.  When Finn realizes the size of the giant, he pretends to be a baby (at his wife's suggestion) and when the giant sees the size of the "baby" he makes the logical deductions about the size of the father and runs away.  As I have said, the Irish don't win by having the biggest muscles...

I told Allen that I knew had been in Ireland for a sufficient amount of time when I looked at the cliffs and thought, "Why isn't there a castle?"  The Irish coast is a defensive marvel.  It's full of straight drops, hidden hazards, and rocky shores.  I can understand why the Vikings finally really got a toehold in Dublin.  It contains the most invasion friendly beach I have yet seen in Ireland.  Of course, I guess the difficulty lies in the fact that once you have finally managed to land, you are presented with lovely rolling hills that rather lend themselves more to agriculture than defense.  But, I'm not much of a student of military history.  I can say with some confidence, that I totally would have built a castle on the cliffs of the Giant's Causeway.  Building next to sheer cliffs, abutting some nice pasture land seems like the way to go.  To give credit, we did see quite an extensive castle ruin a little further down the coast.  Plus, The Windy Gap which comes between the two sides of the cove (?) (I'm also not a geographer) has the highest wind speeds of all of Ireland.

My mother tells me that I used to be completely transfixed by watching smoke come out of chimneys.  I feel the same way about waves now.  Given an opportunity and reasonably pleasant weather and no children needing minding, I could sit and watch them break on rocky coasts for ages.  I don't feel quite the same way about sandy beaches.  There just aren't as many possibilities on a nice, flat, stretch.  Luckily, Ireland has my back.

There is a long history of locals providing guided tours of the area and you can still get them from National Trust employees.  But, they also offer wearable audio guides.  It's pretty much an ultra-sturdy iPod.  The really handy thing is that they have a tour especially made for children walking on the path where they do learn about the geology but there is also a stronger focus on the legends related to what the children are seeing.  Megan and Charlie both really enjoyed getting to be in change of their Very Own Tour.  Noah also listened to the audio much better than I was expecting but also found it to be an excellent camera phone.  He took pictures of whales, sharks, sea lions, and star fish.  Sadly, he was the only one to spot any of them.  I take pictures with my phone but Allen uses a proper camera.  It takes him a while to post his pictures because he tends to be quite picky about what he will post.  But, the picky pays off.  You can see his pics on his flickr stream under the username mackenab.

The National Trust has also put together an app where you can pretend to be Finn building the causeway.  I wasn't blown away but if you have kids and you want to teach them a little about Irish culture with a touch of geology thrown in, it's worth a look.

No comments:

Post a Comment