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by Andy McInroy
Two Landscapes a World Apart
Living in Northern Ireland, it's not surprising that The Giant's Causeway is one of my favourite locations to photograph. I've been photographing these famous rock formations for ten years. I never get bored of the variation in light and shadow that the changing seasons bring to the mythical stones.
It is hard to gaze upon The Giant's Causeway without imagining the legendary giant, Finn McCool, building this landscape, block by block, with his bare hands. The Irish legend tells how Finn made this causeway to allow him to pick a fight with another great giant who lived in Fingal's Cave on the Scottish island of Staffa.
Putting the legend aside for a moment, I should probably spoil a good story and explain the scientific theory of how The Giant's Causeway was formed. The stones were created about 60 million years ago, shortly after volcanic magma spilled out from beneath the earth's crust. The hexagonal packed columns that we see today are a result of the rapid cooling process which caused the molten material to solidify, contract and crack along the regular joints we see today. Anyway, I'm not sure what Finn McCool would think of that crackpot theory.
On a freezing day in late February, I waited patiently for three hours on the stones and was privileged to be able to photograph the impressive Middle Causeway in perfect light. For a little under ten minutes it glowed like honeycomb in the setting sun. Luckily, the stones were empty of the usual hoards of visitors, many of whom have travelled across the globe to see this unique sight. It is true to say that this landscape must be one of the most recognisable places to photograph on the planet. However, is it really as unique as we might think?
Shortly after taking the photograph you can see above, I stumbled upon a photographic guide written by Brent Pearson, an Australian landscape photographer. His guide described an oddly familiar landscape on the other side of the planet, in New South Wales to be precise. When Brent directed me towards an image of this landscape by Garry Schlatter, I couldn't believe my eyes. Not only was this Australian causeway a ghostly dobbelganger of The Giant's Causeway that I know and love, but it was also curiously named, 'Fingal Head', a name it shares with the home of the great Scottish Giant in the Finn McCool legend. Interestingly, there are some suggestions that this headland may have been named by the great Captain Cook who almost certainly must have known about the rock formations on the island of Staffa and also those at The Giant's Causeway.
These two landscapes sit on opposite sides of the globe and are separated by 10,000 miles, yet they are seemingly mirror images of each other. The Giant's Causeway faces the evening sunset and the last light of day while Fingal Head faces east and sees the light of dawn. The Giant's Causeway is the home of Finn McCool while Fingal Head is named after the home of his great rival. These are landsapes connected by myth and geology and are truly two landscapes a world apart. I wonder how many more of our favorite places have ghostly doubles in far off places?
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Images from Google Earth
Text © Andy McInroy