December 15, 2010

SP Crater and Lava Flow

SP Crater, a volcanic cone and flow in Arizona, is visible in this image obtained by the Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer (ASTER) instrument on NASA's Terra spacecraft. Instrument scientists designated radiation of 0.81 microns red, 0.66 microns green, and 0.56 microns blue. Vegetation is red in that combination. The image was obtained around 2001.

Although I lived in Arizona for 20 years, I was not familiar with this particular volcano or its unusual name. (Other volcanos, such as Sunset Crater and the San Francisco Peaks are much better known in the area north of Flagstaff.) Curious about a volcano I thought I should have known about, I looked up the Wikipedia page for SP Crater and found this amusing section about how the volcano got its name:

The naming of the mountain is a bit of lore from the Old West. S P Crater can be climbed, and the lava flow can be viewed from the crater rim. C. J. Babbit, an 1880s rancher and early landowner of the mountain, expressed his opinion that the mountain resembled a pot of excrement (Shit Pot), and this became the accepted local name. When viewed from certain angles on the ground, the combination of the smooth round shape of the cone, the dark lava spatter on the rim, and the long dark lava flow extruding from the base do indeed resemble a toilet catastrophe. Mapmakers refused to spell out the full name, and the mountain has been shown on maps and other literature with the abbreviated name.

Photo credit: NASA/GSFC/METI/ERSDAC/JAROS, and U.S./Japan ASTER Science Team

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