Round Ireland with a Geologist

By Rhys L Griffiths

All rights reserved - science made simple.

All rights reserved – science made simple.

I had always wanted to travel around Ireland and now I was getting the chance! It was my first week working for science made simple and I was off on a tour of Ireland, presenting science shows…

science made simple presenter Leanne picked me up on the Saturday ready for our ferry from Pembroke Dock to Rosslare where our adventure began. The tour was organised by Engineers Ireland and we would be presenting ‘Who wants to be a Superhero’, a very fun and engaging KS2 engineering show. Our first stop was Letterkenny which is the complete opposite side of Ireland to where we began. This was going to be a very long drive…

A detour to the Giants Causeway

Pretty quickly I discovered that Leanne is a Geologist, she has a PhD in Volcanology (the study of volcanoes) and she is awfully fond of rocks! We therefore made our drive a little longer by taking a detour into Northern Ireland to visit the Giants Causeway.

 

Rhys and Leanne at the Giant's Causeway. All rights reserved - science made simple

Rhys and Leanne at the Giant’s Causeway. All rights reserved – science made simple

This impressive landscape consists of over 40,000 polygonal columns of rock which formed 50 to 60 million years ago. They are the result of volcanic eruptions, spewing hot basalt lava across the land. As the lava reached the sea it cooled and began to contract, forming cracks and eventually the regular columnar structure that you can see today.

My science made simple début

In Letterkenny, I watched as Leanne masterfully presented the show to over 300 enthusiastic children. The next day we were moving on to Sligo and it was going to be my first time presenting shows for science made simple! Although I was a little nervous, I was also excited and ready to get stuck in.

My first ever science made simple show. All rights reserved - science made simple

My first ever science made simple show. All rights reserved – science made simple

We were based in Sligo’s Institute of Technology and presenting to the local primary schools who had travelled in especially to see our science shows.  It was here where I made my science made simple début and loved every second of it. The show went well and the children were engaged the entire time, which any science communicator would tell you, makes the job worthwhile.

Galway was the next stop and was the place I was looking forward to most. The city centre was bustling with life, which was a nice change of pace after the sleepy Sligo and the shows we performed at the university went well.

Our next destination was Birr in county Offaly, but instead of heading straight there we took a bit of time to do a bit of sight seeing. We visited the Cliffs of Moher and Father Ted’s Parochial house, home of fictitious priests Ted, Dougal and Jack from the popular 90s sitcom. This was a chance for Leanne to look at more rocks and me to reminisce about a well loved TV show.

Leanne loving rocks at the Cliffs of Moher. All rights reserved - science made simple

Leanne loving rocks at the Cliffs of Moher. All rights reserved – science made simple

Father Teds house. All rights reserved - science made simple

Father Ted’s house. All rights reserved – science made simple

Beautiful, Brilliant Birr

Leanne presenting at the Birr Theatre.

Leanne presenting at the Birr Theatre.

 

The first thing that struck me about Birr was just how nice it was. Instead of an academic institute we were presenting in a theatre which had a grand stage and blinding spotlights making it difficult to see the faces of anyone past the second row!

To pick volunteers we would run into the audience leaving us both out of breath by the end of the show.

 

 

Next we visited Birr Castle, where we found they had their own science centre! This is because Birr Castle is home to the Leviathan telescope, which was built in 1845 and was the largest telescope in the world until 1917. The telescope was an impressive structure and stood tall within the castle grounds. While walking around the castle gardens we also stumbled upon Ireland’s oldest suspension bridge. Made of Iron, this bridge has been standing for over 200 years.

 

The Leviathan telescope. All rights reserved - science made simple

The Leviathan telescope. All rights reserved – science made simple

Birr is also home to the site of the world’s first automobile fatality. Back in August 1869, Mary Ward was riding in a steam powered carriage, built by William Parsons, the Third Earl of Rosse, when they turned a corner, she fell out, bumped her head and died. They were only travelling 2mph, yet it is still recorded as the first automobile fatality in the world.

Considering the Superhero show spends time talking about telescopes allowing us to see things we cant normally see, bridges being built to be super strong and how we can reduce impacts to save peoples lives, Birr seemed an incredibly appropriate place to visit on this tour of Ireland.

A Final Day and a Ferry Home

After one day in Thurles, Tipperary, we made our way to the outskirts of Dublin where we stayed the night in a place called Rush. The following morning we made our way to the dock and boarded a ferry to take us to the Port of Holyhead.

During our time in Ireland we presented ‘Who wants to be a Superhero?’ to over 2000 children, all of whom were keen to be involved. They leapt at the chance to volunteer for our demonstrations, answered all of our questions and even informing us of their favourite Superheroes. I may have been thrown in the deep end but it was an amazing experience and I am really looking forward to travelling around Wales over the upcoming months bringing ‘Who wants to be a Superhero?’ to even more children.

On a windy ferry leaving Ireland. All rights reserved - science made simple

On a windy ferry leaving Ireland. All rights reserved – science made simple


 

science made simple offers ‘Who wants to be a Superhero?’, a Key Stage 2 show that takes a look at how scientists and engineers are making superhero powers a reality!


 

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Posted in Geology, News