Photo Essay: Basaltic Columns

Basaltic Columns

I must say, we’ve had some killer photo essays here at STE recently. But basaltic columns? Does anybody even know what those are?

Well, I do. It’s Mother Nature’s reminder to us that she’s in charge and that if we think we can build to the skies, think again, because she can too. Basaltic columns – or, more specifically, hexagonal basalt in most cases – are the incredible rock formations featured below that bear striking resemblance our own construction methods, but in an eerie, alien-like juxtaposition.

I seem addicted to the stuff, and I think you will be to after you have a peek at these photographs. A world tour of hexagonal basalt and basaltic columns, anyone?

Giants Causeway, Northern Ireland

The basaltic columns of the Giant’s Causeway are one of Northern Ireland’s best attractions.  The myth says that a giant once built this causeway to have a walkway over to Scotland (only about 12 miles away, where you’d end up towards Campbeltown).  However, after a skirmish of sorts, a Scottish giant ran back to Scotland and tore up the causeway behind him.  All that is left is this strange display that sinks into the sea.

Staffa Island, Scotland

Staffa island is one of the gorgeous Hebrides Islands we recently featured.  It is a place that must be seen to be believed – it looks as if these basaltic columns just shot out of the ocean, driven by some strange alien force.  Three caves on the island, including the unique Fingal’s Cave, make the display even more bizarre.  They say the Scottish giant who ran from Northern Island made this island his home and chiselled away at these incredible displays.

Devil’s Tower, Wyoming, USA

This imposing structure was the first national monument declared in the entire United States.  Ominously called the Devil’s Tower, you can see clearly the basaltic columns that line the outside.  This picture doesn’t really illustrate how huge this structure is – it is massive both in height and circumference.  Geologists can’t piece together how exactly the tower was created.  Mother Nature likes to keep a few secrets to herself it seems.

Svartifoss, Skaftafell National Park, Iceland


I’ve heard many people say Svartifoss is the most beautiful waterfall they have ever seen.  And it’s hard not to disagree after seeing this small yet perfectly formed water flow that is flanked on either side by row after row after row of basaltic columns.   They say that these falls are so beautiful the sight has inspired architects in the designs of Reykjavik’s National Theater and the Hallgrímskirkja church.

Sheepeater Cliff, Yellowstone National Park, USA


This gorgeous cliff is a geological old man – 500 thousand years old.  Today, you won’t see any sheep grazing around the base of the basaltic columns; the name refers to a tribe of native American Indians who once lived there.  Basalt is a common material found throughout Yellowstone park, both on hiking trails as well as visible near some roadways.

The Prisms of Hidalgo, Mexico

Mexico might have beaches and nightlife, but it also has its own incredible set of basaltic columns.  Known as the gully of Alcholoya, this area is actually now a Vacation Center, so a visit to watch the waterfalls cascade around these hexagonal columns and feel the sun radiate off these prism is a must-have Mexico experience.

Devil’s Postpile, Mammoth Lakes California, USA


I’m not sure what’s so devilish about this set of basaltic columns, but it’s almost comic as it looks like someone (a giant?) just shoved the stone pillars out of their way in a rush to get through the park.  The columns are everywhere in the area, including some columns down near the base of the adjacent Rainbow Falls are several stories tall.  Simply incredible and a good reason to head for Mammoth Lakes.

Rubini Rock, Franz Josef Land, Russia


If you’re desperate to see all of the world’s basaltic columns, I’m afraid you’ll need to head quite far for this selection. Popular with bird watchers, Rubini Rock is home to an enormous bird colony – as if these hexagonal basalt columns were made just for our flying friends.  But Rubini Rock isn’t easy to get to – it’s in Franz Josef Land, a group of islands that belongs to Russia and can be found just south of the North Pole.  Yup – that’s right, you’ll need to board an ice-breaking boat that will carry you northward bound.  Talk about a journey!

Boyabat, Turkey

boyabat basaltic columns

Boyabat is a Turkish town near the Black Sea, and not necessarily a tourism hotspot.  It was once an important place during the time of the Byzantine Empire, but today it’s mostly a commercial area.  However, you can see this spectacular set of basaltic columns with a gorgeous wavy top.  It’s as if Mother Nature wanted to express a further bit of creative flair when finishing of this display.  Just stunning.

Have I missed any great basaltic columns or hexagonal basalt formations?

Let me know in the comments.

Photo credits: 000007, luxpim, colin.faulkingham, ben husmann, Julia Mazerova, hmerinomx, brian, Wikimedia Commons, Wikimedia Commons.

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