23 km east of Yerevan, Armenia, just below the village of the same name, lies the breathtaking Garni Gorge, with cliff walls of well-preserved basalt columns carved out by the Goght River on its sides. This part of the gorge is known as the “Symphony of the Stones,” and it’s easy to see why. The columns suspended against gravity resemble an organ, which explains why the natural monument is also called the “Basalt Organ”. The soundtrack is provided by the river that flows through the gorge and fills the splendor of the stone with the symphony of water.
The organ is made up of enormous symmetrical hexagonal and pentagonal basalt columns (almost 50 meters high), which appear to be handcrafted due to their extraordinary symmetry. These amazing rock formations were formed under high pressure conditions due to the cooling and crystallization of volcanic lava.
The complex topography of Armenia was shaped by a geological upheaval that pushed up the Earth’s crust to form the Armenian Plateau 25 million years ago. How exactly the columnar jointing was formed is still uncertain, but it is usually explained by analogy with mud-cracks resulting from shrinkage at the surface of dried-up mud. The polygonal cracks in basalt are presumed to be due to contraction during cooling, which acts towards the creation of a series of equally spaced cooling centers. A tension crack is thought to form between two centers and since each center is surrounded by many others, a multi-sided polygonal crack system is formed, splitting the rock into roughly uniform polygonal blocks. As cooling proceeds towards the interior, cracks propagate inward at right angles to the cooling surface, resulting in the distinctive columnar structure.
The beautiful symphony of nature.
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