Iceland’s lava pillars, located in Skaelinger Valley, have been a source of mystery for hundreds of years, and even inspired a myth that they were caused by a war between trolls, who tossed the large rocks at each other.
However, we’re pretty sure trolls aren’t the answer, and Tracy Gregg, a geologist at the University at Buffalo in New York, agrees.
The strange rock formations come with local lore that says trolls fought a war in the valley and tossed the rocks in the process, reports LiveScience. However, there’s still no evidence trolls exist outside Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, and other Sci-Fi works. With that in mind, there is another, more simple explanation.
Gregg saw the rock formations when she was on a hike through Iceland in 1998. She saw the pillars, which look like trees without branches and knew immediately what they were.
The rough spires are normally seen in the deep ocean where the continental plates peel apart. Lava seeps from the ocean floor and mixes with hot water, cooling the lava into rock. As lava levels rise, the spires grow and harden. Yahoo! News notes that the pillars had never been documented on land before.
Gregg wasn’t able to study the pillars until 2010 when her graduate student Kenneth Christie received a grant to study the structures. The pair concluded that Skaelinger Valley’s formations came into being just like underwater lava pillars, during the famed Laki Eruption of 1783. A volcanic structure in southern Iceland oozed lava for eight months.
Gregg explained that the slow-moving lava likely created a dam on the river that flows through Skaelinger Valley, forming a small pond. From there, the lava and water interacted to create the mysterious pillars. Lava levels eventually fell, allowing the hardened, hollow pillars to stay behind.
The findings surrounding Iceland’s lava pillars could force geologists to change how they believe lava and water interact on land.
[Image via ShutterStock]