I’m always fascinated by the Arizona landscape when we fly over it on our annual trip to Las Vegas.
This year, however, was the first time that I noticed a big crater, a little south of where we were flying, to my feeling not too far from Flagstaff.
I knew there was a big meteor crater in Arizona somewhere and figured this had to be the one.
I just looked it up, and yes, it was the one!
.. learned some interesting facts about it.
I was also intrigued by its official name. Guess what it’s called?
Its official name is:
You may think that this makes sense: calling ‘a’ meteor crater: Meteor Crater.
As it turns out, it is NOT called Meteor Crater, because it is, well, a meteor crater.
Names of natural features are determined by the “US Department of the Interior Division of Names”.
And the “US Department of the Interior Division of Names” has a simple formula for deriving such names: they simply use the name of the post office closest to the natural feature in question.
So, if this post office’s name would have been, say, “Canyon Diablo”, then the crater would now officially have been called “Canyon Diablo Crater”.
Which wouldn’t have been such a bad thing, because that’s exactly what the crater WAS called, before the “US Department of the Interior Division of Names” felt it necessary to change its name to the name of a nearby post office.
And, as it so happened, the name of the post office nearest to this meteor crater was, you guessed it: “Meteor”. Why this post office, located right next to a meteor crater, was called Meteor, is not hard to guess.
So, here we are, with a crater called after a post office, which derived its name from that very same crater.
A bit of a chicked-and-egg situation, although, unlike THAT proverbial problem, we DO know what came first. And even WHEN: some 50,000 years ago, and it wasn’t the post office.
So, what did I learn from all this?
That, apparently, post offices have names.