What is the last geographical feature in the world to be named?
February 12, 2010 4:36 PM   Subscribe

Has every geographical feature of the world been named? What was the last (or most-recent) geographical feature to be named, and when?

For instance, I know that Antarctica's Pine Island Glacier was mapped and named in the 1960s as the result of aerial photos, a good twenty years before anyone would physically reach the glacier.

Do you know any examples of geographical features that have been named more recently?

Are there geological phenomena that have been named in the age of satellite imagery? Is there anything out there left to be named? Has this underwater volcano in Antarctica (unnamed as of this article in 2004) been named yet? Are there others like it?

(This question is pure trivia - it lodged itself in the curious part of my brain and wouldn't let go. I found only dead-ends wherever I searched and can think of no more appropriate place to ask - thanks in advance, fellow MeFites!)
posted by myrrh to Grab Bag (20 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Surtsey? (Mid 1960's)
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 4:45 PM on February 12, 2010

Best answer: Chicxulub crater, 1970's
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 4:46 PM on February 12, 2010

Best answer: Well, there's an island in the middle of Lake Vostok, discovered in May 2005 (under 4km of Antarctic ice). If it has a name, I couldn't find it in a brief search.

Northern Canada (example) appears to have thousands, if not tens or hundreds of thousands of tiny lakes, which I doubt have been named since the region is so remote and unpopulated. And the larger lakes up there also have many many islands, many of which are probably still unnamed.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 5:05 PM on February 12, 2010

There's an underwater volcano south-east of the big island of Hawaii which has been named Loihi.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 5:10 PM on February 12, 2010

A bit more on the above: the Atlas of Canada says there are 31752(!) lakes in Canada covering at least 3km2, and doesn't even attempt to count lakes smaller than that.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 5:12 PM on February 12, 2010

If it hasn't happened already, someone will eventually name the lake behind the Three Gorges Dam. That lake has only existed for about five years.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 5:36 PM on February 12, 2010

Best answer: I'm bombing on the quote (it was quoted in Mapping Mars by Morton) but it basically said that places remain static, boring, places up until people have been touched by it in some way. After that there is meaning attached to that place, and it's worth naming. Take battle fields. They're just that - fields. Some farmer's old cattle field, which suddenly takes on new meaning and "earns" a name beyond "the old corn field" or whatever. So to find what you're looking for you have to find places that haven't been touched by humanity, virtually or not. There's almost certainly features within the Foja Mountain Range in New Guinea that haven't even been seen by human eyes, let alone named.

Take this little steep rise in the range. Odds are good it has no name. We could call it Mt. Metafilter and it's mean nothing to anybody other than as some cheap marketing ploy or prank, but what happens if we call it The Hill of Reminding? If we say it stands as a monument to Humanity's continual search for understanding and meaning in life, that the Hill reminds us that search is entirely within our common construct of global society? When we're gone, it's gone. Before us, it was nothing. The Hill and it's inaccessibility stand as a reminder to generations to come to tread carefully and appreciate what's here, and there, just as everyone, human, animal, plant, just as we've all ever done.

There. Named. Hill of Reminding, 2010.

There might be a good knife's edge summit approach from the North West though. We're totally calling that the Pancakes Approach.
posted by jwells at 5:37 PM on February 12, 2010 [11 favorites]

Also, what counts as a geographical feature? There's a depression in my back yard that doesn't have a name, but it probably doesn't count as a geographical feature. There's a continuum of scale between that and, say, Australia, but I'm not sure where you'd draw the line.
posted by hattifattener at 5:39 PM on February 12, 2010 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Caves and cave features big/novel enough to be named and widely known about are still being discovered. The Kartchner caverns in Arizona were probably not named until the mid-80s, maybe. And the Cave of the Crystals in Mexico was only discovered in like 2000.
posted by madmethods at 5:40 PM on February 12, 2010

I'm failing on finding an article I'm looking for. I believe that Adirondack Magazine was doing a contest to find some feature that was unnamed and have readers give it a name. They checked over some maps and found a pond on a peak somewhere that was not accessible and shouldn't have been ever visited by humans long enough to have a name.

So the readers picked a name, and the magazine submitted it to the USGS (or whoever does this sort of thing) only to discover that on some old, old, map there was a name and they were too late.

So even if you think that something is unnamed, there's really no way of knowing who may have mapped it before and decided to name it after their favorite dog.
posted by saffry at 6:00 PM on February 12, 2010

Since the act of naming always assumes language of some sort, there's the issue of which/what languages you choose to consider with this question. For instance, there are now many dead languages, with no speakers left, and linguists estimate many more throughout human history, most of which we today will never know of or understand. Odds are the speakers of these languages had names for all manner of geography around them, but with the passing of these people and their languages, such places now appear to us "nameless."
posted by 5Q7 at 6:10 PM on February 12, 2010

Some of the islands of Indonesia have no name. There doesn't even seem to be consensus on how many there are.
posted by kisch mokusch at 6:22 PM on February 12, 2010

Buffalo Soldier Hill, in southeastern New Mexico, was officially renamed from a racial slur in 2004.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 7:25 PM on February 12, 2010

Does renaming count? Piestewa Peak. It was once Squaw Peak, but now bears the name of the first Native American woman to die in combat in the U.S. Military - Lori Piestewa.
posted by Sassyfras at 8:20 PM on February 12, 2010

Best answer: The Antarctic seems to have a bunch of unnamed features.

Here are the rules for proposing a name.
posted by jamjam at 9:29 PM on February 12, 2010

Best answer: As part of my job we find and mark a lot of unnamed creeks (60+ last year alone). My field crew wanted to name one but when we found out how much work is involved in formally naming them we kind of abandoned it. You can formally name unnamed features via the USGS. Call them and ask and they'll send you a ludicrous amount of forms and data requirements.
posted by fshgrl at 12:19 AM on February 13, 2010

Mount Chipotle, near the University of Virginia, appears to have been named sometime in December of 2009.

(Yes, it's a pile of snow.)
posted by madcaptenor at 8:58 AM on February 13, 2010

A bit more seriously, water falling on the three faces of Headwaters Hill in Colorado will eventually enter the ocean via the Missisippi River, the Rio Grande, and the Colorado River; this hill didn't have an official name until around 2000 or so, when there was a campaign to give it a name because of this fact. (The web page used to be better -- but it was on Geocities.)
posted by madcaptenor at 9:13 AM on February 13, 2010

Best answer: The paper near me recently named a gap in the foothills.
It was submitted to and accepted by the U.S. Board on Geographic Names.

So, I guess the answer is, no, not everything has an official name.
posted by madajb at 9:14 AM on February 13, 2010

BTW, if you are curious about U.S. names, at least, the U.S. Board on Geographic Names has a search where you can search by decision date.
posted by madajb at 9:19 AM on February 13, 2010

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