Note: Whittlesey has repeatedly made the claim that as an employee of the National Park Service (NPS), what he writes for the geyser mailing list or as part of his duties is for public consumption and in the public domain. All of his postings were made from his NPS .gov email account.

The postings and correspondence in this Appendix take place approximately 18 months after the exchange of Appendix A.

Out of the blue, the following was posted to the Geysers Mailing List on 06 November 1997--

A Message From Lee Whittlesey 11/06

Dear All:

I rediscovered this message from Rick Hutchinson in my files today, and I will soon consign it to the park archives. It is his opinion of the Oblique Geyser name situation. Rick sent me this memo in February of 1996 after Heinrich Koenig was kind enough to send us an advance copy of his paper The Location of Oblique Geyser.

What Rick Hutchinson thinks is (and has been) always relevant, so here is his piece. Lee Whittlesey

February 18, 1996


To: Lee Whittlesey
From: Rick Hutchinson, Research Geologist
Subject: The Location of Oblique Geyser by H. Koenig

I just received in the mail Friday a copy of H. Koenig's paper which I assume may be intended for inclusion into the next volume of GOSA's TRANSACTIONS [sic]. While I do not dispute the historical accounts by A.C. Peale, W. Weed, and C. Phillips, I do take issue with his proposed "reservation" of the name Oblique for an indeterminate geyser in an unspecific, unknown location, and whose current existence of any actual dormant pool or vent is therefore uncertain. I also find it somewhat troubling that he seems unduly harsh in his criticisms of your historical analysis.

Whether or not Weed had doubts on Oblique Geyser's intended location, and whether or not Weed "errored" in applying the name to the largest major geyser up Geyser Creek is, in my opinion, irrelevant. Weed made a definite, documented administrative mapping decision that was and still is appropriately descriptive; many of Oblique Geyser's vents do in fact erupt at various oblique angles. Peale errored, as so many geyser gazers do today, [in] not giving an exact location and adequate description of a thermal feature for a new name they wish to propose. Koenig is not immune to map error either. On the third page of his draft he writes:

"At the same time, the exact location of Oblique was under some speculation. Part of the corduroy road is still visible on the east bank in a thermal area beside the present bridge across the river north of Beryl. An examination in 1982 of the east bank of the Gibbon River by several gazers (including myself) showed at least one possible site for [where] Oblique [may have] existed, a boiling spring in an alcove opposite Beryl Spring."

This is in contradiction to Peale's location description that the group in which the geyser existed was "about 2 miles down the canon" [Peale, 1883, pp. 132-133]. Beryl Spring and the features east of it are only 1.4 kilometers (approx. 4670 feet) south of the head of Gibbon Canyon, which is less than half the 2 miles Peale stated.

Thus, I feel Peale's "named" geyser has no supportable historical or legal standing, any more than do some of the numerous undocumented obsolete names from George L. Henderson and P.W. Norris which precede USBGN accepted names. Thanks to your early research, Oblique Geyser is firmly entrenched in common and scientific usage.

Heinrich Koenig proposes that the name "Avalanche Geyser" be "restored" to the large geyser in Geyser Creek. I distinctly remember that the mid-1970s was a time when T. Scott Bryan seemed to be as prolific in trying to name thermal features as G.L. Henderson. He then proposed the name "Marvelous Geyser" for Oblique, but it fell flat among the Norris Ranger Naturalists, visitors and few geyser gazers venturing up to Geyser Creek. Prior to Bryan's proposal, former West District Naturalist John Stockert wrote a government memorandum/report in which he specifically described the feature and proposed the name "Rockpile Geyser." This name was followed by "Talus Geyser," and only later by "Avalanche Geyser." Bryan was pushing hard to have his second or third name try accepted, but no specific name, including Avalanche, was ever in common usage for it in the 1970s or early 1980s by geyser gazers.

I am more familiar with this sequence of events than just about any other Yellowstone place name issue because I:

1. had been a seasonal Ranger Naturalist at Norris during 1970-1972;

2. had been contracted by the Yellowstone Natural History Association to investigate the history of much of the thermal activity in and around Norris, 1973-1974;

3. was conducting geologic research in the Gibbon Geyser Basin (Sylvan Springs-Gibbon Meadows) area for my Masters Degree thesis, Iowa State University, 1973-1978; and

4. was working with Donald E. White as co-investigator and co-author for our U.S. Geological Survey Professional Paper 1456 on the Norris Geyser Basin and related research in Gibbon Meadows and Elk Park.

Therefore due to the facts presented here: of historical precedence by Weed, of lack of accepted common usage of any name before your discovery of Weed's field notebook (1884), and because of the fact that Oblique Geyser is now firmly entrenched in popular and scientific use, I will object to and vigorously protest any effort which seeks the Yellowstone Resource Council to change the name of Oblique Geyser to "Avalanche Geyser." I welcome hearing your reaction to Heinrich Koenig's draft paper and your thoughts regarding this name issue. Please give me a call at your convenience.

(signed "Rick")

Roderick A. Hutchinson
Research Geologist

I immediately replied

I find this memo from Rick to be annoying and disturbing, because he never did send a copy to me, or tell me any of this information. After sending him a copy of my paper specifically for comment and review, I never heard anything from him about it. Until now. If he had, then not only could I have incorporated his information into my paper, and corrected my errors, I could also have pointed out to him some of my disagreements, or how I arrived at a conclusion, or done further research into the points he brings up. He might even have pursuaded me that I am wrong. Yet, for whatever reason, he chose not to extend to me that courtesy. And I was still a volunteer for him, too.

Notice that all of Rick's work in the Norris area was done in the early 1970s. Only one of the four items cited would have much visitor contact, and only until 1972. How much contact with casual gazers (and potential users of any name) would he have had out at Sylvan Springs? I document that the usage of "Avalanche" became entrenched sometime by the late 1970s-early 1980s. That leaves almost a ten year gap. It only takes one season for a name to catch on. I seem to have been the only party in this discussion who actually bothered to ask gazers who were around then what they called that geyser. They all agreed that "Avalanche" was definitely used by the time I encountered it in 1981, including being written into the Norris logbook. Rocco and I have discussed at length the problem with "2 miles", and I believe we have found a valid interpretation, based on references to the location of the Chocolate Pots. The statement that Bryan was responsible for "Avalanche" is totally without support, bordering on malicious. The source of Avalanche seems to be anonymous, at least for now. The reference to Stockert's use of "Rockpile" is new to me. Would have been nice to have added it to the paper. Also, when did he use it? It would be nice to know because I have a copy of a 1961 map by Frisbee also using that name. (By the way, that's one more use than "Oblique" ever had prior to the 1980s right there.) I found that T.Scott did try to use "Marvelous", but only until he learned that Avalanche was already in use. Saying that the name "Oblique" needs to be retained because it was heavily promoted in the 1980s is an example of circular logic. Finally, the final statement seems to be an "appeal to authority", mostly his own.

Finally,I don't think Rick was ever the best source to judge whether or not a name was "entrenched". Witness his lone continued use of "Sawmill's Satellite" or "Deep Blue's Satellite," long after other names had become entrenched. He seems to have had a bias against gazer created names, of which "Avalanche" would seem to be one.

Privately, I sent this response to Whittlesey--

Sometimes its better to bury an item, and let it be "discovered" at a later date, especially when it doesn't show the author in a flattering light. This was one of those times.

to which he replied--

HK---I don't agree that it shows you in an unflattering light at all. You have your arguments; Rick and I each have ours. Just because we disagree among ourselves does not mean either (any) of us are totally right or totally wrong.

Nor does it mean we have to take it personally or get angry. I took a lot of personal "hits" recently from a great number of GOSA folks in regard to the Oblique/Avalanche business. Even some NPS folks "hit" me on it (Sandy Snell). But I didn't take it personally, and I'm not letting any of it bother me now. Spirited public debate is very important in my opinion; it is how we reach healthier conclusions with all available information.

As a public servant, I have no choice but to make ALL information I know of available to everyone. I can't bury anything. There are too many folks out there who think everything we do in the government is some kind of "cover-up" anyway, and I'm doing my best to combat that situation any time I can.

I look forward to your article on the subject in GOSA Transactions. You're one of the best experts at what you do.

Lee Whittlesey

To which I responded privately on 10 November--

It's one thing to publicize a private letter when all the participants, and even the people who knew them, are long dead. It's quite another when it's not even two years old, and the author is the only recently deceased. What the hell were you thinking? The only rational explanation I can come up with is that this was an attempt to enhance your image, at the expense of all the others involved, including Rick.

While you didn't have to shred the thing, neither did you have to publicly post a private message. One that contains what I (and I am sure Scott) consider to be insults to our personal integrity and our ability as researchers, observers and gazers.

You don't seem to understand. Perhaps my posted response made my position clear, but in case it didn't, I will expand upon it: I find the fact that he failed to inform me of his objections and of information which did not support my paper to be totally unprofessional. I assumed that not hearing back from him was because he chose not to, that either there was nothing egregiously wrong, or he, for whatever reason, didn't feel it worth the effort. (Also, this was typical Hutchinson behavior towards "his" volunteers, which you probably weren't aware.) Now I find out it was worth the effort, but for him to collude with you to undermine my paper.

All I know about the so-called discussion this past summer of the proper name for Avalanche is that I wasn't invited to participate. I wasn't a part of this list at the time, and none of you (including Rocco or Strasser) who knew of my interest and the existence of my report bothered to tell me that it was going on. Not that I really minded, because I knew that those people arguing for "Oblique" had something personal invested in that name, and no amount of research, facts or logical persuasion would change their minds. Instead of wasting my time, I was going to let the paper speak for itself, and I would move on to other things.

So now you post this pile of crap which makes me look stupid and petty (not to mention how it makes Scott look). None of those people who read this (or the previous discussion) have seen my paper, most don't even know of its existence. None of those people would know that Hutchinson's discussion was about the first draft. A draft I changed considerably due to a nasty reply you disguised as a rebuttal article and sent to me. After I peeled back your insults and rude remarks, I found that there was some merit to your arguments, and that I was wrong about a number of things. So I rewrote it and ended up with what I consider to be a much stronger paper. For one thing, I used your criteria to judge my conclusions. You were the one who said, "For subsequent names to displace an historic name, the rule is that the later name must be heavily entrenched in local usage for a reasonable time or else the historic name wins. [your emphasis]" Well, I do show that the name was heavily entrenched for a reasonable time, and a lot of people agree with me. Fine, you (and Hutchinson) are welcome to continue to wish away this inconvenient fact. (You're also welcome to believe Democrats really can't recall, that UFOs exist, that the moon landings were fake, but wrestling isn't, and that Elvis is dead, for all I care.) But this isn't the early 1980s any more, and you are no longer dealing with a small group of gazers in awe of pronouncements from "the experts".

I know you can't prove a negative, but instead of repeating "Avalanche wasn't in entrenched usage [I'm paraphrasing]" as if that settles everything, you could produce some information as to how people did refer to Avalanche in the late 1970s. If not Avalanche, then what did all those naturalists at Norris in the early 1970s call it? Hutchinson mentions that he produced some reports. It would have been nice for him to tell me about them, even provide copies, so I could at least acknowledge whatever method he used to refer to Avalanche. And can those reports even be found? I suspect he never mentioned them because they couldn't be found, just like several other document requests I had made of him.

and the next day I received a reply--

HK---I'm heading to Los Angeles right now, so I don't have much time to answer your letter.

I really don't blame you for being mad at Rick, but don't take that out on me. None of that was any of my business.

I won't waste your time by attacking you as you have done to me, except to say I think you're being needlessly cranky. I repeat: I have no choice where public documents are concerned but to release them; I can't hide them. While it is true that I could have "sat" on the thing, I also have a duty to add as much to my position on Oblique as I can, and Rick's memo helps that. Considering that you may well end up winning the argument anyway, because you are being backed by lots of folks, I think you are being (again) unreasonably cranky.

I don't know what you mean by "I wasn't invited to participate" in the discussion on Oblique. The discussion was on the list-server, and the list-server is public. No one needed to "invite" you, and if you chose not to participate, that is your business. So what are you talking about here?

I don't agree at all that the post made you "look stupid and petty"; your article in Transactions will speak for your position, and all of this stuff is just normal debate on a controversial issue. I have a duty to state my position, and to back it up in every way I can. You may do the same. I, however, will never resort to personal attacks. Nor will I hold it against anyone for legitimately disagreeing with me on any issue, and that includes you.


I took my time in replying (on 26 November)

Damn right I'm cranky. Its from dealing with people like you.

If everything you people do is public, then why does it seem that the "Freedom of Information Act" must be used with the NPS so much? (like the Diversa deal). Im sure lots of interesting two year old memos come across your desk. Can you give examples of others which you feel are so important that they must be published in The Sput immediately?

As for nasty, go back and reread that "rebuttal". Are you willing to have it published? If so, please submit it to the moderator. I have already submitted my reply, contingent on you sending it. (If you don't have a copy, I can clean up my OCR'd copy, and send it to you).

Since everything you write is public, I've been passing some of our correspondence around, including the aforementioned reply and my review of it. I'm not ashamed of anything I've said so far.

You know I wasn't going to go away on this. You have had two years to take this reply and create a proper rebuttal which could incorporate this memo. You obviously haven't or you wouldn't have sent this to the Dunns. I would love to see your documentation of the assertion that "Avalanche" was not used much.

What I find most offensive about all this is that you put me in the position of having to take on Rick in a public manner, by having to answer to the points in this memo. Why is so hard for you to understand that?

No reply, of course.

But that turns out to not have been the end, because a few weeks later, on 11 December, Whittlesey posted the following the the Geysers Mailing List--

I feel compelled to respond in some measure to Jack Hobart's column "Steamed by Geyser Names" in the most recent issue of SPUT.

It is obvious that Jack, as well meaning as he may be, does not understand the complicated nature of and history behind place names, nor the complexity of the principles, policies, and procedures of the U.S. Board on Geographic Names.

Place names are not simple, even though at first blush they may seem to be. For example, Hobart gripes about the recent "call to refer to a geyser erupting from a jumble of rocks as 'Oblique' when 'Avalanche' is a perfectly-appropriate name that is in common usage." Hobart apparently does not understand either the role history plays in names nor the fact that "perfectly appropriate" 1) is in the eye of the beholder and 2) for that reason is often given little or no consideration in the deliberations of the USBGN.

Hobart is correct that GOSA today can sometimes define local usage in the names of geysers. But that has only recently come to be the case. There was no GOSA before the 1980s. Hobart is here assuming facts not in evidence by implying that a name was placed into common usage by GOSA.

Defining "common usage" or "local usage" is difficult. Paul Strasser has recounted how around ten people were using the name "Avalanche Geyser" in the early 1980s and perhaps the late 1970s. Is that enough to constitute "heavily entrenched in local usage"? I do not know for certain. I do have an opinion on the subject which is that it is NOT enough. That opinion coupled with the history of the feature involving Walter Weed resulted in my recent opinions on Oblique. Where the local usage situation is/was cloudy, as here, the USBGN has a long history of siding with historical names. Of course others may disagree with me about how much the name was entrenched in local usage, and that is their right.

Place name matters are not as simple as Hobart makes them seem. He states: "I propose that we not get stuck up in ancient names allegedly bestowed by some equally obscure personality from the distant past." This statement shows a lack of knowledge of the rules for place names as well as a lack of appreciation for the role history plays in everything we do. "We" don't get to propose such a thing. "We" (you, I, GOSA, even the NPS) do not make the rules. The rules are in place in the form of principles, policies, and procedures enunciated by the USBGN. When there is disagreement, the USBGN makes the decisions. Not me. Not you. Not GOSA. Not NPS. We can control local usage to some degree, but a DECISION by the Board is the real power.

Hobart states: "A name given in one century...may...become so inappropriate...that substitution of the one in common usage should be...considered if virtually no one is impacted and if the body of literature referring to it is sparse." No. Again, it is not that simple. If the name has been honored with an official DECISION or appears on maps, one cannot simply dismiss it and "make an easy switch" to a new name. Likewise, it is not that common to find a situation where the "body of literature is sparse," and it is even less common to find a case where "virtually no one is impacted." Where names are concerned, GOSA is almost always impacted, and so is the park.

Hobart is perhaps farthest off base with his comments about Botryoidal Spring, especially when he claims that it "is no longer a spring." OF COURSE it is a spring; all geysers are hot springs, regardless of the fact that not all hot springs are geysers. Hobart wants the name Botryoidal "delegated to the Roman catacombs." Again, it is not that simple. The name Botryoidal is old, proposed by George Marler before 1973 and now heavily entrenched in both literature and local usage. Some of us even think it is beautiful. The name Botryoidal probably also appears on maps (Rocco may even be able to cite such a map). Regardless, just because Hobart does not personally "like" the name is not enough ammunition to change it. To quote a railroad philosopher, it just "ain't gonna happen."

Hobart also claims that one other park feature has an "inappropriate" name but then fails to be clear about what it is. Is he proposing that the name "Porcelain Basin" be changed? I can't tell from his context, but again, it "ain't gonna happen."

Hobart should know that the USBGN has a specific definition of "inappropriate." It usually occurs when someone wishes to name a feature after someone or something that had nothing to do with the region. It is a very subjective criterion for names, and thus the Board tends to look at it the same way they look at "suitability"---appropriateness and suitability are matters of opinion and thus not given as much weight as local usage and history.

Finally, Hobart's proposed name "Champagne Geyser" has already been used. G.L. Henderson gave the name to an unknown feature in Lower Geyser Basin in or about 1885.

Again, I must emphasize that place names are exceedingly complicated. I teach a three-day class called "Yellowstone Place Names" for the Yellowstone Institute each summer, and I would love to have GOSA folks in the class if any of you are interested. It would make the class much more interesting to have geyser experts in it.

Lee Whittlesey
Park Archivist

In response to the comments about him, Paul Strasser posted some comments--

In a message dated 97-12-13 15:39:48 EST, Lee wrote:

Paul Strasser has recounted how around ten people were using the name "Avalanche Geyser" in the early 1980s and perhaps the late 1970s. Is that enough to constitute "heavily entrenched in local usage"? I do not know for certain. I do have an opinion on the subject which is that it is NOT enough.

No, that was not a recounting of every person who knew the name. It was merely a response to your email of appox September 2 which stated:

"I submit that essentially NO ONE was using these names and that only one person (or less than ten persons) even knew of them. "

So I merely stated, off the top of my head, ten people that I knew who used Avalanche. The number ten was chosen by Lee. If he'd said fifteen or twenty I could have thought a moment longer and perhaps come up with some more. Hey, he wanted ten. I gave him ten. In no way did I state that this list was at all complete.

Paul Strasser's arguments regarding Oblique do give some shrift to local-usage arguments for the name "Avalanche," IF ten people were indeed using the name for three years.

That's sure different than your current posting. Well, Lee, what's the number?

My point was that everyone in the late 70's who should have known about it, based on the NPS's decision-making at Norris re access to Geyser Creek, was privy to it. The naturalists knew and the geyser gazers knew. The NPS didn't want anyone else to know, and they didn't know. Sounds simple to me.

And I chimed in on 14 December--

Isn't the appropriate place to respond to an article or letter in The Sput in The Sput? Not all people who read The Sput will see this response, and not all people who read this response have had a chance to read the original article.

When I was editor of The Sput, I informally asked for people who had the knowledge to submit articles on more than just geyser activity. Such items as how naming works, or tips for collecting books on geysers, or video techniques, or backcountry guides. Perhaps the current editors may have more success than I had.

There are ways to determine if names were commonly used in the past. One is the "oral history" method, where a person interviews people who were there, and asks for their recollections. A key factor is to find out how and why they would use a name. Did the person visit, or write reports, or remembering a description by someone else, or just spouting a script written by someone else? Strasser and I have done some of this interviewing, but not surprising that Lee always denigrates the results because they tend to deconstruct his reality.

Another method would be statistical. Go though the old logbooks, and see how often names appear, and when (or if) there were changes in the ways names were used.Unfortunately, only the 1959-1974 UGB and 1986-1993 Norris ones seem to have escaped the Hutchinson filing system, so this method isn't of much use for those thermal areas.

Another thing to do would be to heck to see of the walks listed in the 1970s equivalent of Yellowstone Today mention walks to Geyser Creek, and how they describe them.

Last year Whittlesey contended "In 1978, I had never heard of any of these names [used by Bryan], and I had been in Yellowstone for nearly ten years then. None of these names were in any local usage that I had ever heard of." [Emphasis in original] So an admission that there were people using any of these names is progress of sorts.

Note that he says that in his "opinion" the number of people who used "Avalanche" is "not enough", without making any effort to quantify "enough". A more objective researcher would set up criteria in advance, then produce the data to show how well the hypothesis matches the observations, using some of the methods mentioned above, and not wish away data that doesn't fit. Quantifying the sample space of possible users would be difficult, and I have ideas on how that could be done, but paying the rent keeps me from testing any of them. But even a list of people (and the context of their use) from that era who made mention of that geyser, but used something other than "Avalanche" would give some idea. What I'd also like to see is a pre-1980 Hutchinson report or note on Geyser Creek, just to see how he did refer to the features of the area.

On the other hand, Lee is absolutely correct about who decides. When it comes to names, ultimately the only people who have to be persuaded are those on the US and Wyoming boards. And on the whole, they don't really give a damn about geysers. They act as judges, weighing the facts presented to them. And as the case of Fall(s) River shows, sometimes the results aren't necessarily the most desirable.

Anyhow, if someone feels strongly about certain names, he is going about it all wrong. He should do the research on the feature, including its historic background, and also circulate a petition to, as the guidelines refer to them, the "local residents." What constitutes a "local resident" of a National Park? Perhaps it could be argued that a person who visits frequently, and also repeatedly visited the area in question, and in other ways shown an attachment to the area would qualify. At least then it could be possible to judge how much support a name change would have, and uncover any possible disagreements. By that point there may be enough evidence to show to the board that a favorable decision is warranted.