USGS honors conservationist who created the first map of Yellowstone Lake

YELLOWSTONE, Wyo. — Today, The United States Geological Survey (USGS) honored the contributions of conservationist Henry Wood Elliott, who helped created the first bathymetric map of Yellowstone Lake in 1871.

In the report, geological researcher Lisa Morgan explained how Elliott’s discoveries were particularly exceptional for research conducted in the 19th century.

“Not only did Elliott contribute significantly to documenting the features along the routes of the surveys and in Yellowstone, but he also made a complete set of topographical and pictorial sketches of the shores of Yellowstone Lake from the perspective of a boat on the lake itself,” said Morgan.

Yellowstone Lake, 1871, watercolor. Painting: Henry Wood Elliott

“[Along] with Cam Carrington, Chester Dawes, and James Stevenson, Elliott also collected over 300 lead-sink soundings, creating the first bathymetric map of North America’s largest alpine lake in 1871. This was quite an impressive feat, especially given the size of the lake and its waves!”

Morgan explained how such contributions led to later discoveries and further geological advancement in Yellowstone.

For example from 1992-2002, USGS produced the first high-resolution bathymetric map of Yellowstone Lake. Eventually, this led to the discovery of a large, previously unmapped hydrothermal explosion crater in the northern part of the lake. Later research determined that this crater formed about 8,000 years ago. The crater was unknown prior to the mapping not only because it is underwater, but because there are no explosion deposits from its formation on land; rather, explosion material has only been found in lake sediments.

Henry Elliott’s 1871 map of Yellowstone Lake. Photo: USGS

To commemorate Elliott’s work, geologists named this crater after Henry Wood Elliott, the first person to map Yellowstone Lake.

Morgan further explained how Elliott’s discoveries separated themselves from other geologists in that he was uninterested in receiving recognition for his contributions.

“Unlike many of his contemporaries, he declined to leave his name on any feature in Yellowstone. Geologists now honor Elliott’s legacy by referring to a very large explosion crater beneath Yellowstone Lake as Elliott’s Crater,” said Morgan.”Elliott’s dual commitment to science and conservation, and his uncharacteristic (for the time) modesty, are commendable. Elliott’s Crater serves to memorialize the largely unsung and important contributions of Henry Wood Elliott.”

For more information on Henry Wood Elliott and his contributions to geological research click here.

About The Author

Buckrail @ Caroline

Caroline Chapman is a Community News Reporter who recently made Jackson home. Born and raised in Connecticut, she enjoys reading non-fiction, skiing, hiking, and playing piano in her downtime. She is most passionate about delivering and pursuing stories that directly impact the lives of individuals in the community. Her favorite aspect about living in Jackson is the genuine admiration that Wyomingites share for the land and the life that it sustains.

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