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A.Word.A.Day--guyot

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guyot (GEE-oh) noun

A flat-topped submarine mountain.

[After Arnold Henri Guyot (1807-1884), Swiss-born American geologist and geographer.]

"The ocean floor also has many underwater mountains. Some, called guyots, have flat tops." Pacific Ocean, Young Students Learning Library, 1 Jan 1996.

The story of the discovery of guyots, also known as tablemounts, is one of serendipity. Harry Hamond Hess (1906-1969) was a professor in the geology department at Princeton University. Called for active duty during World War II, Hess served as commanding officer of USS Cape Johnson. During his expeditions in the Pacific Ocean he continuously used echo sounders to scan the waters beneath him. Understandably, looking for a seamount was the last thing on his mind at the time -- he was more interested in signs of the presence of Axis submarines that could torpedo his ship. However, later analysis of mountains of data of the ocean floor profile so far collected revealed the existence of the flattop seamounts. Hess named them guyots in honor of Arnold Henri Guyot, his predecessor at Princeton. And that's how we got the word for these underwater mesas. Some other above-water geographical landmarks named after Guyot are: Guyot Glacier (in southeastern Alaska), three Mt. Guyots (in the White Mountains, the Great Smoky Mountains, and the Colorado Rockies), and Guyot Crater (on the moon).

You can view a profile of Hess's discovery, the first guyot, at: http://www.photolib.noaa.gov/lb_images/historic/c&gs/theb3811.htm

Stay tuned as we sound out more eponyms, or words derived from people's names, this week. -Anu

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We've heard that a million monkeys at a million keyboards could produce the Complete Works of Shakespeare; now, thanks to the Internet, we know this is not true. -Robert Wilensky


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