How about me?
When I learned that scientists in Chile had named a dormant volcano in the southern Andes after Marcos
Zentilli, head of Dalhousie’s geology department, I was so green-eyed I had to restrain myself from abusing him by phone, anonymously of course. “Mount Zentilli,” indeed. Who does he think he is anyway?
I yearn not for such trifles as the Order of Canada, or a Governor General’s Award, but to see my name on a marine chart for as long as men sail the seas. That’s why I’ve always envied Joe Batt of Joe Batt’s Arm as much as I now envy Marcos Zentilli of Mount Zentilli. Whenever Joe Batt let himself down, committed
some faux pas or, for one reason or another, felt shame, surely he said to himself, “All right, dammit, but I am Joe Batt of Joe Batt’s Arm, and Joe Batt’s Arm is right up there where the seas come rolling round
Joe Batt’s Point and, my son, Joe Batt is on the map of Newfoundland forever.”
I, too, need the emotional ballast of knowing that, on some impossibly beautiful and gull-loud shore,
there is something that’s forever Cape Harry Bruce, or may be Harry Bruce’s Neck. Indeed, I’ll settle for a
mere Bruce’s Gut, or even a Harry’s Tickle, I ask for nothing so splendid as a Mount Bruce.
Earth scientists are forever scratching the backs of other earth scientists by parceling out mountains to one another. Why, it’s only a dozen years ago that the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration named undersea mountains after two guys who worked just across Halifax Harbor from my house. I didn’t even know them. Nobody I knew even knew them. But here they were, getting their names on whole mountains when I hadn’t got mine on so much as a stagnant tidal pond. The whole thing was an outrage.
They were S.P. Srivastava (Srivastava Mountain) and Ronald Macnab (Macnab Mountain). Whenever
they were not engaged in devilish machinations to get mountains named after themselves, they worked
as scientists at the Bedford Institute of Oceanography. Since they’d completed their formal education in
the 60s, I suspected they were mere boys beside those whose decades of service to their country (and to journalism) entitled them, to see their names on maps.
Srivastava and Macnab had been lucky enough to have been aboard the U.S. research vessel Surveyor
while she gathered data over a million square miles in the northeast Pacific. She’d discovered a range of
seamounts, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration decided to name them after not
only the two Canadians but 24 American and Japanese scientists as well. Justice is a joke when certain
people have the inside track.
Seething with indecent envy, I publicly lashed mountain-nabbing by elite scientists. Macnab replied in
a private letter. Why was I so bitter? Did I not know that the surface of the earth already boasted a feature named after me, or at least part of me? He enclosed a map of the Newfoundland coast, and sure enough, there it was. An arrow, drawn by Macnab’s helpful hand, pointed at “Harry’s Hole.”
From Dal News, September 11, 1985, page 10