Another Alaskan Mountain Named After A Politician... It's A Tradition

 Congressional Delegation Wants To Rename A Volcano For Don Young  Mt. Cerberus, erupting. (Photo, Alaska Volcano Observatory)  U.S. Senator...


 Congressional Delegation Wants To Rename A Volcano For Don Young 


Mt. Cerberus, erupting. (Photo, Alaska Volcano Observatory) 

U.S. Senators Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan want to rename an active volcano in the Aleutians to honor their fiery companion, Don Young, who served as Alaska's Congressman for decades.

The volcano is currently named "Mt. Cerberus" -- which is not a Native American name, but Greek. 

Incredibly, there are two "Mt. Cerberuses" in Alaska. 

One is a 3,687-foot peak in Katmai National Monument which received its name in 1917. The other Mt. Cerberus -- the 2,673 foot volcano in the Aleutian Islands that the Congressional delegation wants to rename for Don Young -- was originally named in 1935 by the U.S. Navy Survey Expedition. 

Naming mountains after Ancient Greek and Roman lore comes from a much more intellectual time than we're experiencing today -- a time when Greek and Latin names were considered very cool. (There's also a lava sheet on the planet Mars that's called "Cerberus.") 

So who was Cerberus? He was "The Hound Of Hell" -- a huge dog in Greek mythology, with between 3 and 50 heads. Cerberus guarded the gates of hell, making sure that everybody who was already down there in the underworld never got back out. 

Presumably both "Cerberus" and "Don Young" are good names for an active volcano. 

HOW THE WRANGELLS WERE RENAMED 
Renaming mountains is part of modern Alaska history.  When Lt. Henry T. Allen came to the Copper Valley in 1885, he was all gung-ho on renaming things -- especially mountains. 

Of course, the nearby mountains had all been given names by the Ahtna. But the Russians laid down the gauntlet. They had already renamed the great Mt. Wrangell after the governor of Russian America, Admiral Ferdinand von Wrangel, when they saw it from the sea. The mountain's Ahtna name was "K'elt'aeni." 

Lt. Allen took it upon himself to rename all the remaining Wrangell Mountains with English names. He thought that's what explorers got to do. They got to be modern-day versions of Adam.

Lt. Allen named his mountains after people, not mythical dogs. When he was finished, Lt. Henry T. Allen had lined up the newly-named Wrangell Mountains so they sounded like a lawyer's office in New York City: Drum, Sanford, Wrangell, Blackburn...and Tillman. 

Mt. Drum was named after an army general who had fought the Sioux. Mt. Sanford was named after Lt. Henry T. Allen's dead father, Sanford Allen. Allen was from Kentucky, so he named Mt. Blackburn after a Kentucky politician. He named Mt. Tillman after his old professor at West Point. 


1895 Map Of Alaska showing Mts. Drum, Sanford, Wrangell, Blackburn... and "Tillman". (Library of Congress) 

(Unfortunately, there was no "Mt. Tillman." Allen made a mistake there, especially since he carefully measured the non-existent Tillman, declared it to be 16,600 feet tall -- bigger than any of the other Wrangells -- and said it was the third highest mountain in North America.)

Mt. Tillman wound up on numerous maps of the Copper Valley, for years, confusing incoming travelers for quite a while — until National Geographic showed up in 1903 and was stupefied to discover there was no "Mt. Tillman." (See a typical map showing Mt. Tillman above.) 

Mount Billy Mitchell on the Richardson Highway at the Valdez/Copper Valley border. (Photo, Country Journal) 

Lt. Allen wasn't the only person who came to Alaska and named things after people. Mt. Billy Mitchell, on the way to Valdez, is named after Billy Mitchell, who thrashed his way through the Copper Valley, surveying the telegraph line that came up from Valdez along the trail at the beginning of the 20th century. 

Mt. McKinley recently had its name changed back to "Denali" after much kicking and screaming from people in Ohio, where William McKinley came from. 

It's not surprising that a politician might have a mountain named after him in Alaska. What is surprising, though, is the timing. Today's trend, in general, is to go back to the original names of mountains. And, often. that means the Native names. 


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