Photo by Angus Kennedy

by Tas Walker

One striking feature of the cliffs at Giant’s Causeway, Northern Ireland, is an orange bed that forms a prominent band in the sheer basalt face. This bed creates a natural bench and the cliff path follows it around the bays. It is 10–12 metres (30–40 ft) thick and composed of soft, friable, red and brown material. Technically it’s called the Interbasaltic Bed—i.e. the bed between the basalts.1,2

The standard story is that the Inter-basaltic Bed is a thick soil that formed by weathering over an unimaginably long time. For example, the website of the Giant’s Causeway Visitors’ Centre says of that layer, “During 2 million years of warm, wet climate the lower basalt weathered to form a deep red rock called ‘Laterite’.”3 On the face of it, this seems to be an argument for long ages and to contradict the biblical timescale.

However, such soil is unlike any forming in the United Kingdom today, so geologists propose that in the past the climate was warm and wet like tropical Africa. They say the exposed top of the Lower Basalt weathered into a thick soil that supported lush vegetation for perhaps two million years. Then the next lava flow erupted and covered the landscape.4

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