Page last updated at 00:37 GMT, Thursday, 24 September 2009 01:37 UK

Time frame set for 'Darwin roads'

Talk in Glen Roy
Darwin spent five days in the glen

Research by scientists suggests an ancient landscape that inspired Charles Darwin was created over a short time in geological terms.

The Parallel Roads in Glen Roy, which forms part of Lochaber Geopark, are shorelines of ancient lochs.

Scientists from the Royal Holloway, University of London, believe the "roads" were created in just 500 years.

Darwin spent five days in the glen and said the experience surpassed an earlier expedition to Chile.

The university team - Prof John Lowe, Dr Adrian Palmer and PhD student Chaoyuan Chen - explained their research at Lochaber Geopark events held last weekend.

'Remarkable area'

The excavation of the shorelines by lochs blocked by glacier ice during the last Ice Age had previously been a "big unknown".

Dr Palmer said layers of sediments termed as varves could be counted in a similar way as tree rings to give an estimated age for the Parallel Roads.

The team also said new computer-generated digital imagery was providing geographers and geologists with powerful new tools to map, measure and interpret the landscape.

Mr Chen has used this to show how the Glen Roy landscape has altered during the last period in which it was occupied by glacier ice, which was between 12,800 and 11,700 years ago.

Darwin, whose birth 200 years ago is being marked in a series of national events, wrote of his trip to the area in 1838: "I wandered over the mountains in all directions and examined that most extraordinary district.

"I think without any exception, not even the first volcanic island, the first elevated beach, or the passage of the Cordillera, was so interesting to me, as this week. It is far the most remarkable area I ever examined."

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