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Monday, December 29, 2014

Historic naming of places and objects

I have always appreciated the practice of naming ships and places based on the history of any group.

One of my favourite U.S. Coast Guard Lighthouse Keepers is Ida Lewis.  This modern buoy tender was christened as a tribute to one of the great women in Coast Guard history.

Borrowed from the USCG website
Military and law enforcement agencies are particularly fond of this method, as they are interested in preserving their heritage over long periods of time.  Longtime residents of towns also end up confusing the newcomers by using the former names that were passed down from their predecessors. Most of the structures and landmarks are still there, but they are no longer fulfilling their intended purpose.

I experienced several examples of this when I was stationed in Alaska.  I remained confused for at least 6 months as I tried to memorize the names and locations of various landmarks.  My favourites in the state capitol were the Sub Base, the end of the road, Sheep Creek and the Ore House.

(borrowed from Urban Spoon link)
The Ore House was a great place to have a work party.  The food was great, the atmosphere was rustic, and the tourists didn't get far south on the mainland.  Being a nautical person, I thought it was the Oar House and was named after a traditional location for  launching canoes or kayaks.  My friends got a lot of laughs out of that blunder, and reminded me that Juneau got on the maps drawn by non-native folks lured by gold and other resources.

The mines have been closed for quite some time.  They were used for guided tours until there were significant safety concerns. 

[borrowed from]

The first time someone in town mentioned the Sub Base, they saw my confusion on my face before I could respond verbally.  I screwed up my face, squinting and lowering my eyebrows.  They explained the geographic specifics, and I asked if they were referring to the Coast Guard Station parking lot.
No was the reply, they meant the parking lot adjacent to the Sub Base warehouse.  That building was abandoned and falling apart, but since subs had been stationed there in WWII, they still used the 60+ year old name for the place.

In the picture above you can see the USS Holland as she shepherded her "little chicks" from the North Atlantic to the North Pacific.  The mountains in the background are "small" by Alaskan standards.  Juneau and much of the towns on the Inside Passage have fjord like mountain ranges between 4-6 thousand feet.  These mountains have very steep slopes from sea level up to their peaks.

The Barracuda (SS-163) in Gastineau Channel in 1933
[borrowed from this page with a wide range of photos from 1930-1940s era submarines]

Nautical Chart of the Juneau area
Borrowed from NOAA
This link from a Juneau tourism website will provide some great info on things to do (when it comes to trail hiking and state or national parks Juneau.

You can also see some great Juneau photos, and shots from other parts of the largest state in the U.S.

The end of the road was also puzzling.  Juneau includes a small island (Douglas) and a larger chunk of the mainland.  There is a road covering each of those places, with a small bridge in between.  That equates to 4 ends of the road, since Juneau is landlocked.  Apparently this assumption was not correct.  The "end of the road" only explained the termination of the road south of the Ore House.
All the other "ends" had separate names based on other nearby landmarks.

Sheep Creek was a great fishing spot south of Juneau's downtown.  I assumed that its name was related to frequent visits of sheep, but these animals are not usually interested in being so close to the pesky humans at sea level.  The river was named after Sheep Mountain further into the valley.

Sheep Creek Salmon Hatchery
(borrowed from Wikipedia  - Wiki link )
Near the hatchery above I caught my first fish on a wet fly.  It was a lovely Dolly Varden with its mouth full of salmon fry.

I later learned that those white spots representing some land mammals that I often saw up near Mount Roberts or the Mendenhall Glacier were actually mountain goats rather than Dall's sheep.  The sheep do not live in the Southeast portion of Alaska (often called the pan handle).  They also prefer a drier climate, which you cannot find in the Tongass National Forest.  This is a temperate rain forest which makes the Southeast area of Alaska very moist and sustains the snow capped mountains throughout the year.

So before you name something, think about the hidden meaning of those words.