Mount Young: Aleutian volcano is renamed for explosive Alaska congressman

a man at a cluttered desk
A 2019 photo of Rep. Don Young in his Capitol Hill office. He died in March, after 49 years in Congress. (Liz Ruskin/Alaska Public Media)

Any day now, President Joe Biden is expected to sign into law a bill that renames a volcano on a small Aleutian Island after the late Congressman Don Young.

U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski said she knew Young’s softer side, as well as the reasons for his volatile reputation. She said she and U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan intentionally chose a volcano.

“As we were looking for something that might be fitting, we looked not only at mountains, but we looked at mountains that continue to blow their top to this very day,” she said.

The mountain is west of Adak, and comprises three volcanic cones. Its previous name, Mount Cerberus, was also named for a fierce creature. In Greek mythology, Cerberus was a hellhound — a three-headed dog that stood guard at the entrance to the underworld.

a volcano
Degassing from the North Cerberus vent on Semisopochnoi Island in between ashy eruptions, seen from the west in 2021. (Allan Lerner, Alaska Volcano Observatory/U.S. Geologic Survey)

Besides the mountain, the bill names a federal building in Fairbanks and a job center in Palmer after Young. 

Congresswoman Mary Peltola, who is finishing Young’s term in office, said Young would probably like knowing that his name is on a job center, uplifting future generations of workers.

“Don always spoke fondly of his time working construction in Alaska, driving a D8 Caterpillar bulldozer, and he always looked out for people who work with their hands,” she said on the House floor last week.

The bill passed both chambers with no opposition. Once Biden signs it, the Board on Geographic Names has 30 days to rename the mountain. Google Maps, though, isn’t waiting. It has already labeled the peak “Mt. Young.”

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Liz Ruskin is the Washington, D.C., correspondent for Alaska Public Media. She reports from the U.S. Capitol and from Anchorage. Reach her at lruskin@alaskapublic.org.

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