The National Trust opened the new £18.5million Giant’s Causeway Visitor Centre less than three months ago. In this short period the World Heritage Site has already welcomed 250,000 visitors from 130 countries, including over 90,000 from Northern Ireland.
Upon opening, one small piece of interpretation section evoked a wide and mixed response. As a result, on 18 July the conservation charity committed to undertake a review of this particular section.
Having taken on board a wide range of feedback, and commissioned interpretive specialists to develop a suitable reflective piece, the National Trust has now amended the existing exhibit.
A new piece of audio, approximately 20 seconds in length, replaces the previous recording and makes the Trust’s views completely clear.
Graham Thompson, Project Director for the Giant’s Causeway, said: “This change will help clear up any misunderstanding there may have been.
“The National Trust only endorses the scientific explanation of the origins of the stones yet recognises that others have alternative beliefs.
“The National Trust is content that this review is complete and thank all for their feedback on the matter.”
The amended transcript can be viewed below within the Debating Characters section. See the previous transcript here.
Column 1 – Stone or Giant Fossil? : Thomas Molyneux & St. George Ashe
Ah, so you’d like to know my opinion on the matter? Thomas Molyneux is the name, State Physician of Ireland my calling.
I made a long study of the Causeway, this wonder of creation, and the first thing to say is that it has nothing to do whatsoever with ancient myths and legends and so forth – superstitious nonsense!
I believe what we have here is simply basalt rock; now hours of study through my lens show no signs of fossils in the stones… whatever others may have to say on the matter… and whoever those others may be – these ridiculous letters aren’t even signed!
Oh, come now, Dr. Molyneux! I do not admit to writing any letters, but I shall freely confess to being St. George Ashe, Bishop of Cloyne, and to believing firmly that the fossils are not in the stones – they are the stones themselves!
The shape of the columns tells me that they are the stems of huge, fossilized sea creatures – mighty relatives of the little Entrochus fossils that the dedicated searcher may sometimes find along the coast.
Preposterous, old friend! One might as well talk of fairies and giants!
Tcha! We’ll see, Dr. Molyneux – we’ll see!
Column 2 – Forged in fire or born in water? : Nicholas Demarest & Abraham Werner
Bonjour! Nicolas Desmarest at your service! And so you are interested in knowing how the great stones were created, n’est-ce pas? Bien! Amateur I may be, but I am still a man of science. And, whatever Abraham Werner says, the Causeway is exactement like the volcanic stones in the Auvergne in France.
No, no, no, you say volcanic – I say it is…
Thank you, Herr Werner, but you will permit me to finish, s’il vous plaît! Ahem! I have observed this old lava again and again and everywhere in it – voilà! Columns. In the Giant’s Causeway, these same columns are proof of an old volcano. Werner may be a mining expert – but when it comes to geology…
…when it comes to geology, I am Teacher of Mining and Mineralogy at the Freiberg Mining Academy und NOT un amateur! I visited the most famous basaltic hill in Saxony, near Stolpen, in person, and it is not a volcano! More – there is no volcano anywhere near it! Earth’s waters, not its fires, created its rocks!
Bof! Mon dieu. Ignore Herr Werner! I myself have seen ancient lava that has flowed over great distances! You must search far to find its source – so perhaps this area, too, was once flooded with lava and…
Nein, Monsieur Desmarest! Nein, nein, nein!
Mon Dieu, ces Allemands! This is the 18th Century, n’est-ce pas?!?!
Column 3 – An Ancient Earth or a New Creation? : James Hutton and Dr Richardson
Now see here, I am deeply concerned that…oh I do beg your pardon. My name is Richardson – the Reverend Doctor William Richardson. Rector of Clonfeacle.
I am a keen naturalist, so I have every sympathy for open-minded scientific enquiry. But as I say, I am deeply concerned that Mr. Hutton may mislead you with his theories on the age of the Earth.
We know from the Bible that the Earth is 6,000 years old! One has merely to count the generations between Adam and the birth of Our Lord. And for all his eminence as a geologist, and his standing with the Royal Society in Edinburgh, that makes Mr. Hutton’s theory nonsense!
Now, now Dr. Richardson, I am well aware that my theory is challenging…upsetting to many…I myself find it dizzying…yet when I look at the evidence, at the slow and steady volcanic formation of rocks – occurring even as we speak! – I am driven to believe that 6,000 years is a mere blink in the life of the Earth – I see no vestige of a beginning, no prospect of an end!
Well, I shall return to Antrim once more, Mr. Hutton! I am sure I shall find proof there that all rocks are formed under the sea – and put an end to your theory of an ancient Earth!
Indeed? Well I wish you luck, sir…
Column 4 – Bamboo? : Captain Morton
Ah, good day to you! Morton’s the name – Captain Charles Morton, Royal Navy. So – want to know the real truth as to the origins of the Giant’s Causeway stones, do you?
It seems to me that anybody who’d sailed with me would have a better chance of understanding their origins than these landsmen who sit and read their books.
As for me, well, the logs will show that I served Her Majesty Queen Victoria long enough in the tropics to recognize bamboo when I see it!
The long, narrow stems – the occasional joints on the columns – why, any Jamaica Station hand would know this for bamboo.
Giant bamboo, yes, as befits the age of dinosaurs – but fossilized bamboo it must be and is!
(Chorus of laughs)
Quiet there! Quiet on deck, I say!
Column 5 – A Special Place
Today there is a clear understanding among scientists that the heat of the earth was the driving force behind the formation of the Giant’s Causeway – and that the earth is far older than had previously been thought. James Hutton suggested this back in 1785; modern geologists agree with him.
All the scientific evidence points to a volcanic origin for the columns of the Giant’s Causeway, around 60 million years ago.
However, not everyone agrees with the scientific view. There are some people who believe – often for religious reasons – that the earth was formed more recently: thousands of years ago rather than billions.
The National Trust supports the scientific view of the formation of the Giant’s Causeway. We are proud to be the guardians of such a special place – one that has played an important role in our understanding of the world around us.
For further information on this exhibit, please speak to a Ranger.
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