(ORDO NEWS) — Every year, millions of tourists flock to Northern Ireland to visit the Causeway of the Giants, an unusual structure of some 40,000 hexagonal stone columns that gently descend into the sea.
Theories for the stones’ formation range from being built by the mythical giant Finn McCool to more scientific explanations.
Now Dr. Mike Simms, curator of natural sciences at the New York State Museums, has come up with the first new theory since 1940. He wondered why unusual geological features are found only at sea level.
And he came to the conclusion that the formation of stones was caused by an event that lasted only a few days, and not thousands of years, as previously thought.
The Road of the Giants covers approximately six kilometers of the coast of Northern Ireland. About 40,000 stone pillars, usually with five to seven sides, make up the region’s tourist attraction.
This site was formed 50 to 60 million years ago during the Paleogene period and became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1986.
The scientific explanation for its formation, widely held for decades, is that the river valley was filled with lava that accumulated at a greater depth than usual. When the thick layer of lava cooled and hardened, it formed these regular pillars.
However, Dr. Simms put forward the idea that if this lava-filled depression were a valley, it would cut through the old layers of lava underneath.
He found layers of old lava on the shore on both sides of Giant’s Causeway, which sloped inward, where the older layers had not been eroded away.
Dr. Simms said, “In explaining this, I find the cake analogy helpful.
The destruction of a river valley is like cutting open a layer of a pie to reveal the layers below the surface.
In my interpretation, what we are actually seeing are layers of older rock descending towards the Causeway – more like a badly baked pie that fell through the middle.
I believe the earth sank as the lava rose and poured out to the surface. Lava filled the depression, creating conditions for the formation of columns.
This event likely took only a few days, rather than the many thousands of years that erosion would have taken to create a river valley.
Dr. Simms explained that he first thought about this theory during a trip to the World Heritage Site in 2012.
He had been to the Giant’s Road many times before and agreed with the generally accepted theory. But a conversation with another geologist gave him a new idea.
It is worth noting that some other experts have already supported Simms’ theory, although, of course, it needs proof.
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