Geology and Myth
It was on a very wet October morning that we arrived at the giants causeway, its located just outside of the town of Bushmills, county Antrim, on the north Irish coast.
Its a national trust site so you have to pay a fee to get in to the area. Its a small walk from the visitors center to the causeway itself but its well worth it.
This is both a magical and mythical location and one of the worlds most geologically fascinating places.
I took the following images on the day and even though it was very wet and dull I think they get across the feeling you have when your walking around this site. I have added some information as the the geology and the myth’s associated with this truly wonderful place.
The Geology of the causeway
Giant’s Causeway, ( Irish: Clochán an Aifir) promontory of basalt columns along 4 miles (6 km) of the northern coast of Northern Ireland. It lies on the edge of the Antrim plateau between Causeway Head and Benbane Head, some 25 miles (40 km) northeast of Derry. There are approximately 40,000 of these stone pillars, each typically with five to seven irregular sides, jutting out of the cliff faces as if they were steps creeping into the sea.
Formed 50 to 60 million years ago, during the Paleogene Period, the Giant’s Causeway resulted from successive flows of lava inching toward the coast and cooling when they contacted the sea. Layers of basalt formed columns, and the pressure between these columns sculpted them into polygonal shapes that vary from 15 to 20 inches (38 to 51 cm) in diameter and measure up to 82 feet (25 metres) in height. They are arrayed along cliffs averaging some 330 feet (100 metres) in elevation.
Myths behind the magic
Thanks to Kirribilli for this re-telling:
Long, long ago there lived a mighty warrior who was known across the length and breadth of Erin for his strength and bravery, no man on the island was his match and apart from repelling the hoards and the armies that attempted to invade our green land, being the best can be a bit boring and Fionn mac Cumhaill needed a challenge, he needed to prove to himself that he was the greatest warrior both on and off the island.
At that time the scourge of Scotland was a giant called Benandonner and on hearing tales of this beast of a man, Fionn knew that if he could beat this giant, his name would be known the world over. He made his way up to the Ulster coast, shouted across the water at Benandonner and challenged him to a fight.
Now normal people would take a boat and sail across the sea but not these two, they set upon ripping huge rocks out of the ground and throwing them into the sea separating Ireland from Scotland until after hours and days of back-breaking work there stretched a rocky causeway linking the two lands.
They’d agreed to fight between their two lands and seeing that bridge was complete, they made their way across the land bridge. As they approached each other it became apparent how big Benandonner really was, this wasn’t just a big man, this was a true giant.
Now Fionn was not a small man himself but the sheer size of the Scottish giant scared him, suddenly a fight with a monster like that wasn’t as appealing…
So he ran.
But not too far, once he was out of Benandonner’s sight he disguised himself as a baby, which was somewhat apt as he always had his best ideas when he sucked his thumb.
When Benandonner found the baby he asked it who its father was, he was told the baby was Fionn mac Cumhaill’s. When he heard this and saw the size of the baby, he imagined how big the father would be, he would be gigantic, he wouldn’t stand a chance, so he ran.
He ran back to the land of the Scots and on his way back he made sure to destroy the bridge, lest Fionn ever come looking for him…
I have been spending a little time each evening this week sorting through by Landscape images of Ireland, it’s been a great exercise to do and has reminded be of so many of the great locations I have visited here in this great country.
I have always keep a special place in my mind and memories for the many Lighthouses I have been to visit, from the south coast to the very north of the country, like The lighthouse below, which I posted about sometime back 🙂
St John’s Point Lighthouse, Donegal
Last week I changed my blog header to an image of St, Johns Point Lighthouse in county Donegal, so I though I would just share some details about this great place.
Its an amazing lighthouse at the mouth of Donegal bay and like many Lighthouses it was build through hard work and taking a risk with time and money, followed with many years of hard work and care in order to keep it running so that many lives could be saved.
From the Commissioners of Irish Lights
This is a harbour light used to guide from Donegal Bay, it marks the north side of the bay leading to Killybegs Harbour from the entrance up to Rotten Island.
The Corporation for Preserving and Improving the Port of Dublin (the Ballast Board) received a request on 24 February 1825 signed by merchants and traders of Killybegs requesting a light on St John’s Point. This was not approved until April 1829, and Trinity House gave their statutory sanction the following month.
The tower, built of cut granite, was designed by the Board’s Inspector of Works and Inspector of Lighthouses, George Halpin, and erected by the Board’s workmen under Halpin’s supervision.
The tower, painted white, had a first order catoptric fixed light 98 feet above high water with a visibility in clear weather of 14 miles. The light was first used on 4 November 1831 with the buildings in an uncompleted state. The final cost at the end of 1833 was £10,507.8.5.
A Lighthouse Poem
By : Ashley Rose
The stone facade bound into the coarse rock,
Signaling, sending, and saving,
Streaks of light alluring threat to vessels.
Like flare of alert, warning of an ominous havoc.
Sending waves of whispering light into the mute air,
Advising all to depart back to the watchful sea.
The light reflects on the storm driven oceans,
tracing the surface with an inkling of caution,
a lighthouse, beacon of hope.
The tides swoosh against the jagged cliff,
where tattered remains of a ship remain.
The waves roar as a dull overcast envelopes the sky.
The lighthouse’s beams echo off a ship,
leading the wandering adrift to safer waters,
as a guide to shelter.
I first visited Skellig Michael in 2012 and the following images and post were taken and created during and following this visit, since then the island has been used during the making of the latest Star Wars movie “The Force Awakens”.
While no one worried too much about this remote and sacred place being used for this purpose, I think a lot of people are very much hoping that it does not mark the start of the island being openly used in such away, here it Ireland places like this are treasured and their peace is defended strongly. The Island is also the home to some very unique and protected wildlife.
Skellig Michael : an island escape
Skellig Michael is an Island some 12 to 16 kilometres by boat from the ring of kerry, county Kerry, Ireland. It is most famous for the fact that during the 6th to the 8th Century’s a religious settlement was established here.
The Island is a world heritage site and falls under the guardianship of UNESCO, you can find the official historic details from the link on the world heritage web page here : Skellig Michael
In my last two posts I shared the boat trip to the Island and then the long but wonderful walk up to the settlement at the very top of the Island some 218 meters from sea level. Today I just want to share images of the inside area , the location that the people who lived here spent their life’s and also the location in which they are buried and there final resting place.
The images in the Gallery below are placed in the order that you view the buildings when you walk through the site, the only access is through a small passage in the outer walls.
The very first thing that greets you are two small head stones, in a very small patch of grass. These are the graves of two young boys, it was a tradition that monks in this period would take very young boys as members to their orders. These boys where from families on the main land and once they moved here they would most likely never return to see there families. Our guide informed us that it is a possibility that both boys were killed by Viking invaders as when the remains where examined wounds were found that indicate that they were killed by the use of weapons, both boys did not pass the ages of ten or twelve. It is also thought that other graves in the pictures here, in the centre of the living area contain some adult victims of such attacks.
A monastery may have been founded as early as the sixth century, reputedly by Saint Fionán but in 1044 rededicated to Saint Michael, the image here shows a large sculpture that is located towards the middle of the complex. It was described by our guide as being a cross but it could also be very much in the form of a human figure, with the arms to the side and a head looking over the site.
The word Skellig is defined as meaning “splinter of a stone”, and thus this rocky island was dedicated to saint Michael, there are also other Islands around Europe and maybe further away that are dedicated to this saint ( Mont Saint-Michel France, St Michael’s Mount Cornwall)
One of the most famous features of Skellig Michael are the so called Beehive structures, there were may be six or seven of these of which six are still standing, they were the living spaces for each of the monks, this fact would indicate that a maximum of seven people lived here in the beehives at any one time, there is a structure at the very end of the settlement that is constructed completely differently, It is thought that the head of the order would have lived in this building but few fact to prove this exist.
In any case the indications are that eight people lived on Skellig Michael at anyone time during its long history.
Living with in these stone constructions looks very harsh , during the time they were occupied however they would have looked very different, in some of the pictures you can see supporting stones that stick out of the main buildings by some amount, it is thought that these stones supported a covering of thatch consisting of straw and clay, this would have been deep and was used to keep the inner stone structure warn and dry. Not all but some of the Beehives have a hole in the roof that was used to let out smoke from fires inside.
At some point I want to post about the life’s of these people, who they where and why they chose to live here, I need to read a little more however , so for the moment that’s it. Three post over the last three day, that I hope share a visit to this wonderful and mystical island.
If you get a chance I would really encourage you to visit. Its an experience of a lifetime and helps you to open your mind to European history.
I cannot help however feeling that this place holds something else other than the official history, The question as to why these monks felt the need to occupy Skellig Michael, so far of the Irish coast line, is very big !
This place feels like an escape, a refuge but from what and why ?
With such massive risk’s taken by a small group of people to construct three stone stair-ways to the top of the Island and then build the walled settlement, the question of why looms very large. These were times when the word of Christianity was first being spread across Ireland so why the need to hide away here ?
I need to do much more reading, before I understand these bigger questions 🙂 and even then maybe some of the answers have been lost !
During this week, I just wanted to return to some of my most loved Irish Landscape locations and Monday today’s post I want to share some images I have taken since 2014, these relate to the Irish Bog and Peat lands of the Irish Midlands and the West coast.
Ireland has internationally important peat/bog lands but they are always under serious threat. Over the last few years the Irish government has protected areas of special conservation from historic family rights to cut peat in these areas, a decision that created problems for some but one that was very much needed in order to start the process of returning the bog’s to a point of growth and sustainability.
I love these locations, they are remote and full of life both plant and wild life and I feel like many others that they do need very special care and support.
When you visit locations like the Bog of Allen, you can see a contrast between the areas that are still wild and untouched and the areas that have been harvested for peat, when you see this contrast and its different effects on local bio-diversity you would only hope that one day we can find a less damaging way to heat our homes and produce energy.
Irish Bog-lands Gallery
There are so many wild species at Fota Wildlife park, county Cork – but few as sweet and attractive as the little Meerkat’s. Like many of animals they occupy their own island and you view them from across the water of a lake.
I spent a good time during my visit with these little creatures and found it difficult to move on, they are such great fun to watch 🙂 🙂
Here is their introduction and details, provided by Fota wildlife park themselves !
About the Meerkat
A favourite of visitors young and old, the Meerkat is a smaller member of the Mongoose family. Measuring up to 35cm in length and weighing up to 730grams, it has four long, strong claws on each paw to aid with burrowing and likes to stand on its hind legs from high vantage points when possible.
The Meerkat is found across southern Africa in the wild, particularly around the savannahs and open plains of Botswana, Namibia, Angola and South Africa.
The Meerkat is a social and curious animal that lives underground in groups called mobs, gangs or clans. Much of its time is spent digging and foraging for food including insects, roots, eggs, small reptiles and scorpions – the Meerkat is immune to the latter’s poison unlike mankind.
While pack members are feeding, at least one of the mob will be on guard, standing on its back legs and watching for predators such as eagles, foxes for jackals. Should any danger arise, an alarm call will alert the entire group who will then quickly venture underground.
Meerkats share the job of looking after their young. When born, the pups are mostly hairless and cannot see or hear. They generally open their eyes after two weeks and start to eat food other than milk a week later. Females tend to be larger than males and can have as many as four litters of up to five pups a year – generally around rainy season when food is plentiful.
Considered to be of Least Concern, local populations of the species are susceptible to disturbances and habitat loss caused by mankind.
Did you know?
The fur on the Meerkat’s belly is thin and helps it to regulate its own body temperature. It sits up or lies on warm ground in order to increase its temperature and reduces it by lying belly-down in a cool, dark burrow.
The Fota Connection
The Park’s Meerkat clan arrived in 2010 and took up residence in a new exhibit near the main entrance. Its habitat has since been revamped further with the addition of a new viewing house, allowing visitors more intimate interaction with one of the world’s most interesting and active species. The original group, Tippy and her three daughters, came from Belfast Zoo but Fota’s numbers have since increased into double figures.
This weekend i am planning to do some river walks, Springtime down near the rivers here in Kilkenny is a great experience with so much new life around.
What-ever you are doing I hope you have a great time 🙂
Spring On The River
By Archibald Lampman
O sun, shine hot on the river;
For the ice is turning an ashen hue,
And the still bright water is looking through,
And the myriad streams are greeting you
With a ballad of life to the giver,
From forest and field and sunny town,
Meeting and running and tripping down,
With laughter and song to the river.
Oh! the din on the boats by the river;
The barges are ringing while day avails,
With sound of hewing and hammering nails,
Planing and painting and swinging pails,
All day in their shrill endeavor;
For the waters brim over their wintry cup,
And the grinding ice is breaking up,
And we must away down the river.
Oh! the hum and the toil of the river;
The ridge of the rapid sprays and skips:
Loud and low by the water’s lips,
Tearing the wet pines into strips,
The saw mill is moaning ever.
The little grey sparrow skips and calls
On the rocks in the rain of the water falls,
And the logs are adrift in the river.
Oh! restlessly whirls the river;
The rivulets run and the cataract drones:
The spiders are flitting over the stones:
Summer winds float and the cedar moans;
And the eddies gleam and quiver.
O sun; shine hot, shine long and abide
In the glory and power of the summer tide
On the swift longing face of the river.
There are so many different Species of Wildlife at Corks Fota Wildlife park that you would need many visits in order to get to know as much as you can about them all, along with getting enough time to observer their individual personalities.
During last weekends visit I found so much that I liked about them all but for me the Red Ruffed Lemurs were very special fun to spend some time with. They never stopped moving around their island and their climbing and balancing skills were just amazing to take in.
Here are some basic details about these wonderful Lemur’s
About the Red Ruffed Lemur
Named for the long thick fur that grows around its head and body, the Red Ruffed Lemur is an agile primate that has made the island of Madagascar its home. Males and females look the same – its body is close to its feet, the animal has piercing (sometimes reddish) eyes and it usually weighs between seven and 12 pounds.
Ruffed Lemurs are found exclusively on the island of Madagascar off the continent of African, and are generally found in the upper canopy of the tropical rainforests on the eastern side of the island.
The species is considered to be crepuscular, which simply means that they are most active at dawn and dusk. Their diet consists mainly of fruits, seeds, nectar and plant matter and the animal scent marks its territories and uses an elaborate system of alarm calls to alert other group members if predators are nearby.
Female Red Ruffed Lemurs don’t carry their offspring like most other primates; instead, mothers give birth and leave their young in nests that are generally found between ten and 20 metres above ground level. However, infant mortality is high with about 65% of newborns not reaching three months.
The species is listed as being Critically Endangered after a significant decline in population in recent decades because of agriculture, logging and mining activities across its habitat. In fact, over 90% of Madagascar’s original rainforest is gone.
It is estimated that there could be as few as 1,000 to 10,000 left in the wild, while the Black & White Lemur is the most Endangered of the two Ruffed Lemurs.
Did you know?
The Ruffed Lemur feeds on nectar by sticking its long nose deep into the flower. The Lemur’s snout becomes coated with pollen in the process, which is then transported to other flowers – making the animal an important pollinator within its local habitat.
The Fota Connection
The Park is home to three of the 16 species of Lemur and two varieties of the Ruffed Lemur – the Red and Black and White species.
The Ruffed Lemurs are maintained on separate islands alongside each other in the lakes area as they are territorial animals, while Fota has been actively involved in a series of projects aimed at preserving what remains of their natural habitat in Madagascar.
During last weekend we visited Fota wildlife park in county cork and spent many great hours getting to know many of the animals they have in their care.
The Siamang Gibbon at the park are all member of the same family 🙂
Here are some details and fact about them , just to help you get to know them a little better 🙂
About the Siamang Gibbon
With a Latin name that means ‘Dweller in the trees’, the Siamang Gibbon is a tailless, black-furred ape that can grow to be twice the size of other Gibbons. Like other apes, the Siamang Gibbon has quite an upright posture and well-developed brain. However, it can weigh up to 14kg and has a special throat sac to amplify its call, which can be heard up to two miles away in the forest canopy.
Native to the forests of Sumatra, Malaysia and Thailand, its home range overlaps with both the Lar and Agile Gibbons 0 though because of its largely leaf-eating habits, it does not compete for what the forest has to offer the other species.
Siamangs are very agile and acrobatic creatures and their extra-long arms help them swing up to 15 feet in one move. Its arms stretch out to help with balance while walking and because it uses its hands so frequently while traveling, the Gibbon tends to carry items with its feet.
Siamang Gibbons are considered to be Endangered as 70-80% of their primary habitat has been lost to palm oil production in recent decades. The illegal pet trade has also taken a toll on wild populations, but there are a growing number in existence in captivity across the world.
Did you know?
The Siamang Gibbon mates for life with both parents playing a role in rearing offspring. Breeding males and females also sing duets in order to maintain their bond and establish territory boundaries.
As a fellow ape, the Siamang is also the closest related animal to Mankind in the Park.
The Fota Connection
One of the noisiest crews in the Park, the Siamang Gibbons are hard to ignore and have been at Fota right from the beginning.
They feed on fruit, vegetables, nuts and willow branches and can often engage in long bouts of calling out if the Park is busy and they feel their territory might be under threat. Situated on Monkey Island, their location allows visitors get right up close.
During the last weekend we visited Fota wildlife park in county cork and spent many great hours getting to know many of the animals they have in their care.
The weather was perfect during the time needed to walk around all the islands and planned routes around the park, with many of the animal on open display and very easy to view you get a very personal experience.
The image above is of a female Bennett’s Walley, with two of her babies resting Snuggly in her pouch, I felt very lucky to get a great view of the three of them as they all napped in the midday sun 🙂
About the Bennett’s Wallaby
Sometimes called the Red-necked Wallaby, the species has a mainly grey coat with reddish shoulders and a black nose and paws. The male’s body can measure up to 90cm in length and weigh up to 18kg; the female, in contrast, is smaller – though both have five clawed-tipped fingers that are used for feeding and grooming.
A native of the east coast of Australia and Tasmania, the Bennett’s Wallaby is noctural – resting during the day and coming out to feed at night. Largely a solitary animal, it follows a herbivorous diet and gains most of the water it needs through the food sources it consumes. Breeding can occur at any time of the year with females giving birth to one offspring – known as a Joey – once every 12 months.
The Wallaby’s ears are very sensitive and are its first line of defence in that it will bound away from a predator as soon as it hears one nearby. Each of its hind legs has an elastic tendon that allows the species catapult itself forward as its tail acts like a rudder, enabling the Wallaby to change direction quickly.
Once hunted for their meat and fur and persecuted by ranchers and farmers, Wallabies are now a protected species. The move has seen their numbers in the wild increase in recent years and as the species is tolerant of alternative habitats, it is of Least Concern on the Endangered List.
Did you know?
Similar in size to a grape when born, Joeys grow to 2,000 times its birth weight during the first six months of its life. They begin to leave their mother’s pouch from about seven months and are fully independent at a year old.
The Fota park Connection
The Park’s Wallabies are free ranging and now number between 50 and 70 animals around the island. More easily spotted in the early morning or late evening when the Park is quieter, this species feeds on the grass of the African Savanah or Woodlands areas and tends to be timid and hard to get too close to
I will post lots more images of all these great creatures at Fota park and do my best to introduce them to you 🙂
By : K.D..
End of Friday, I float out, slide out, glide outside,
weekend feeling starts from first waking I confide,
One foot in front of another, quickens apace, work-gate in sight,
threshold crossed and happy stride full of departed delight,
Cars swerved, by fast-approaching buggies I am unnerved,
station observed, seat on the 2-free day 16.09 train reserved,
Disembark, footfalls skip a nifty 2-step through the post-work park,
the free-time frieze en route, a sanctuary breeze of homewards commute,
Those demons cars evenly spaced, at every turn they are placed,
but the finishing line streets dissolve as I brandish my relaxed resolve,
Safely settled in a cosy cuddle of creative mind, alligned, now to unwind,
thoughts to etch, ideas to sketch, inhaling hearty breaths of home stretch.
Have a great weekend 🙂 🙂