In this week’s eSkeptic:
- Grand Irish Odyssey: 19-day Geology Tour of the Emerald Isle in 2018
- Science Salon Sept. 17: Dr. Nancy Segal — Twin Mythconceptions
- Promotional Offer: Save 25% off the Reasons to Believe film on Vimeo
- Debate Sept. 15: Is God a Figment of Our Imagination? Shermer v. McGrath
- Debate Oct. 19: Solving Moral Dilemmas: How Do We Know What’s Right?
2018 | IRELAND | JULY 15–AUGUST 2
Join us for a 19-day tour of the Emerald Isle
Ireland’s famed scenic landscape owes its breathtaking terrain to a dramatic 1.75 billion year history of continental collisions, volcanoes, and glacial assault. Join the Skeptics Society for a 19-day immersive tour of the deep history of the Emerald Isle, while experiencing the music, hospitality, and verdant beauty that make Ireland one of the world’s top travel destinations.
Sunday July 15: Dublin — A Geological City Arrival & Welcome Reception Day
Please Note: An optional tour will be available this day provided there are a sufficient number of members who check-in in time.
The rich geological heritage of Ireland is literally present in every street and building in Dublin. A geological walking tour of the city culminates with a behind the scenes visit to the Geological Museum at Trinity College, which is housed in the majestic, 19th century, Byzantine-inspired Museum Building, incorporating many of the rocks we’ll see over the coming days.
Monday, July 16: Beer & Gardens
Ahem. Drink up the history of Ireland’s renowned beverage at the Guinness Storehouse. An interactive tour of the facilities concludes with a frothy pint in the Gravity Bar: a seven-story, glass-walled facility, offering panoramic views of the city.
Explore the National Botanic Gardens. Over 20,000 plants, housed in 19th century iron and glass greenhouses. The Gardens played a crucial role in the identification of the pathogen behind the Irish Potato Famine and continue to be the site of important botanical research.
Tuesday, July 17: Mountains & Monasteries
The day begins in Wicklow Mountains National Park: rolling granite peaks wrenched upwards 420 million years ago as ancient Ireland collided with North America. Later smoothed by glaciers, the mountains host a unique heath and bog ecosystem, home to rare orchids and carnivorous plants.
Then it’s a visit to Glendalough monastic city. An ancient institute of higher learning, the 10th century complex of churches and monuments is situated in an idyllic glaciated valley (Glendalough means ‘Valley of the Two Lakes’).
For those with a little more energy, a gentle walk past the upper lake takes you to the Glendalough Miner’s Village, the ruins of 18th century silver and lead mine, where you can search for the rare mineral pyromorphite.
Wednesday, July 18: Ancient Organisms, Lighthouses & Crystal
Most of the enigmatic Ediacaran Biota died out before the Cambrian Explosion. A few species held out, however. At Booley Bay, you’ll get to touch the remains of Ediacaria, one of the final representatives of Life’s first animal experiment.
From there, it’s off to the Hook Head Lighthouse. Perched on fossil-rich Carboniferous limestones, the Hook Head Lighthouse has guided mariners for almost 800 years, making it the world’s second oldest operational lighthouse.
Then then take some free time in the afternoon to explore the charming city of Waterford. Home to the famous Waterford Crystal, this small port city is the oldest in the Ireland.
Thursday, July 19: Copper & Fire
Spend the day visiting the tops sites of the UNESCO Copper Coast Geopark, including rare columnar rhyolites, spectacular copper minerals, mine audits, pillow basalts, and hyaloclastites—mixtures of volcanic glass and lava formed during the explosive interaction of lavas and ocean water.
For a break from the geologic, we’ll take lunch in the picturesque village of Dungarven, followed by a chance to browse local artisans, visit the quaint and lovely Waterford County Museum, and explore Dungarven Castle.
Friday, July 20: Countryside Carved by Water
Cirques are nature’s amphitheatres. Steep-sided open valley’s gouged by glaciers, they often possess a central lake, called a tarn. We’ll begin the day at Coumshingaun Lough, widely considered one of the finest and most beautiful examples both features in Great Britain.
From there we head underground to witness the erosional power of streams on a guided tour of the Michelstown Cave, one of Europe’s most spectacular show caves. Massive limestone caverns filled with stalactites and other structures will take your breath away.
Saturday, July 21: Bridge to the South
Today we head south—as far south as you can go in Ireland—to visit Mizen Head, ranked as one of the 100 Great Geosites. Devonian metamorphic rocks create dramatic cliff vistas, accessible by the brave via a 180’ tall pedestrian bridge. A tour of the lighthouse, signal station, and visitor center to learn about the site’s importance in the history of transatlantic radio communication add a human dimension to the stop.
From there we head through the scenic Killarney National Park with a short stop in Killarney on our way to our next hotel where we rest up for the next exciting day ahead.
Sunday, July 22: The Force Awakens
The day begins with a tour of the iconic Ring of Kerry. One of the world’s most beautiful scenic drives, this 110 mile loop passes through picturesque villages, rugged coastline, and lush green countryside.
From there we’ll head to Valentia Island to see one of the oldest and longest tetrapod trackways on Earth. 50 feet long, these 380 million year old footprints represent some of the first steps ever taken on land by our deep ancestors.
Finally, we’ll take a boat 8 miles to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Skellig Michael. You’ll recognize the islands as Luke Skywalker’s otherworldly refuge in the finale of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Ecologists, geologists, and archaeologists have long recognized them as one of the most important seabird colonies in Ireland, a classic example of fault-mediated geomorphology, and the site of a 7th century monastery.
Monday, July 23: Volcanoes of Sand
Today is all about sediments and structures. A series of stops take us to textbook examples of weird and wild geology: sand volcanoes, slumps, sea arches, folds, and cyclothem boundaries. We’ll visit the scenic Bridges of Ross and the Loop Head Lighthouse, stop at the Pollock Holes (a local secret: huge, ecologically-rich tide pools and swimming holes), and see an example of astronomically-forced climate change recorded in the rock record.
Tuesday, July 24: The Barren Burren
The dramatic Carboniferous Cliffs of Moher and the brilliantly white karst landscape of the Burren National Park are today’s destinations. Recipients of both UNESCO Geopark status and a 100 Great Geosites ranking, these two stunning sites exemplify the interaction of bedrock and glacial and coastal erosional processes responsible for Ireland’s diverse and majestic terrain.
Wednesday, July 25: Search for your Galway shawl
After a behind the scenes tour of the 19th century James Mitchell Geology Museum, you’re free to explore the brightly painted, bohemian city of Galway. Hailed by the New York Times as Ireland’s “most Irish city”, relax in the pubs, soak up the city’s vibrant arts culture, or shop for handcrafted goods as you take a much needed break.
Thursday, July 26: Marble & Fjords
We travel through the “savage beauty” of the Connemara region to visit Connemara National Park, stopping at the Connemara Marble Visitor’s Centre to see the diversity of marbles produced by the tectonic cooking of Cryogenian limestones, and Killary Harbour, Ireland’s only fjord.
Friday, July 27: The Western Coast
A loop takes us through County Mayo. The first stop is Clew Bay, whose hundreds of tiny islands are actually a field of submerged drumlins, enigmatic structures left behind by retreating glaciers.
Then it’s on to Ballycroy National Park for a walking tour of the pristine blanket bog habitat preserved in the region.
At the next stop, Annagh Head, you’ll interact with the oldest rocks in Ireland: at 1.75 Ga years old they predate the oldest fossils of cells with nuclei.
We’ll end the day at Céide Fields, the world’s best example of a Neolithic farmed landscape, capturing the transition from hunter gather to agricultural society.
Saturday, July 28: The Land of Yeats
The day is spent exploring the ancestral home of William Butler Yeats, Ireland’s most famous poet. A romantic countryside of lakes, rivers, forest, overseen by limestone ridges and the iconic table mountain of Benbulbin.
Sunday, July 29: The Edge of the World
The cliffs at Slieve League, some of the highest in the world, tower a staggering 2,000 feet above the Atlantic Ocean. You’ll experience them from above and below. Starting at the Slieve League viewing platform for a safe, but exhilarating view from the top. After that, we’ll descend to the harbour below for a personal boat tour of the base of cliffs, keeping an eye out for basking sharks and dolphins.
After the wild morning, we’ll calm down in Glenveagh National Park: 40,000 acres of unspoiled wilderness that surround the lush gardens and buildings of Glenveagh Castle.
Monday, July 30: Giants & Thrones
The day begins at Potrush Nature Reserve, ground zero for an epic intellectual battle in the early history of geology, where fossils appear to be preserved in volcanic rocks.
Then we move onto the Giant’s Causeway, perhaps the most iconic geological site in the world, where 40,000 columns of basalt create an unearthly sight that begs for a supernatural explanation.
And we’ll finish up the day Ballintoy Harbour, a starkly beautiful landscape of basalt and chalk that you might recognize as the setting of the Iron Islands on Games of Thrones.
Tuesday, July 31: Maritime Mega Disasters
We head to Belfast to take in the international award-winning Titanic Belfast, where the history and tragedy of the ill-fated voyage are brought to life in nine massive, interactive galleries. We then head to Harland & Wolff for a behind the scenes tour.
Before heading to the city, however, we’ll stop at the site of a far larger maritime disaster. At Waterloo Bay, deposits formed by ancient mega tsunamis herald the coming of the one of the greatest mass extinctions in Earth history.
If time allows, the day will wrap up with a group tour of the Ulster Museum, home to Northern Ireland’s preeminent collection of fossils, rocks, and minerals.
Wednesday, August 1: Coming Full Circle
The final leg of our tour takes us back to Dublin, but not before we stop at another famous circle: the Ring of Guillion. Officially designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the ring is a massive circle of volcanic rock formed by the collapse of volcano 58 million year ago.
Enroute to the Ring of Guillion, we’ll visit the Mourne Mountains, North Ireland’s highest peaks, towering blocks of granite emplaced at during the same volcanic events that produced the Ring and the Giant’s Causeway.
Thursday, August 2: Homewards
All details above are subject to change.
OUR TOUR LEADER
Dr. Jason Loxton
We are pleased to announce that award-winning science educator and Geologist/palaeontologist Dr. Jason Loxton will be leading our Irish tour. A longtime skeptic and passionate science communicator, he is renowned for his talent and wit as a lecturer, and his public science outreach in schools, museums, and science competitions. Jason’s teaching style has been described as “clear,” “hilarious,” and “crazy excited.” He holds a 4.9 rating (out of 5) on ratemyprofessors.com.
Dr. Loxton has developed science curricula for the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and conducted climate change education research for Nova Scotia’s environment department. He sits on the scientific advisory board for the Joggins Fossils Institute, at the Joggins Fossil Cliffs UNESCO World Heritage Site, and was the co-organizer of the 2016 Canadian Paleontological Conference.
He received his Ph.D. from Dalhousie University and is a senior geology instructor at Cape Breton University, in Nova Scotia, Canada. His academic publications focus on paleontology, climate change education, and science communication. Loxton’s PhD research (part of which was recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science) focused on the Late Ordovician Mass Extinction, and involved hands-on research in the northern Yukon, Scotland, and China. He has also conducted field work with the Geological Survey of Canada and Royal Ontario Museum, the latter at the famous “Cambrian Explosion” Burgess Shale locality.
He studies the taxonomy and distribution of Ordovician/Silurian graptolites—or “really boring-looking smudges,” he says cheerfully. This eye-straining endeavor may be “unglamorous and decidedly not trendy,” as he describes it, but it is just the type of ongoing fossil detective work which has allowed generations of geologists to painstakingly piece together the history of our planet. These kinds of fossil to rock layer comparisons are known as biostratigraphy, which means using fossils to divide the rock record into relative units of time. And for that, modest fossils like Jason’s smudges are just the thing.
He is the brother of Skeptic magazine author and illustrator Daniel Loxton.
Questions & Registration
Please contact The Skeptics Society office at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 1-626-794-3119 with questions or with a credit card to secure your spot.
OUR NEXT SCIENCE SALON: SEPTEMBER 17
Dr. Nancy Segal — Twin Mythconceptions: False Beliefs, Fables, and Facts about Twins
Dr. Nancy Segal, the world’s leading expert on twins, has a new book that sheds light on over 70 commonly held ideas and beliefs about the origins and development of identical and fraternal twins. Using the latest scientific findings from psychology, psychiatry, biology, and education, Dr. Segal separates fact from fiction. Each idea about twins is described, followed by both a short answer about the truth, and then a longer, more detailed explanation…
Reserve your seat(s) online or by calling 1-626-794-3119. Online reservation closes Sunday September 17, 2017 at 11am PDT.
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