A new candidate for the “Mt Fuji of Mars” is proposed. And why stop there… ?
Sumimasen: a few posts ago, I did something ill-considered. It was reckless to designate Mons Olympus, the largest volcano on the Red Planet, as "the Mt Fuji of Mars" (火星富士). For even the briefest glance shows that the Martian mountain (below) looks nothing like Mt Fuji. It isn’t even the same kind of volcano.
And, if you do seek a Mars-Fuji, there are better choices. Take Zephyria Tholus, for instance, an “unusually symmetrical cone located in the Aeolis region of Mars … with a flat-floored summit crater”.
As you’d expect from this description, Zephyria is likely to be a stratovolcano. That is certainly the conclusion of Emily Lewis and James Head, two savants from Brown University who analysed the radar data from NASA’s Mars Orbiter.
Just like the real Mt Fuji, the Martian cone (above) has slightly concave upper slopes and its edifice is “dissected” by two huge erosion gullies. Even the height is Fuji-like: about 3,000 metres today and perhaps as tall as 3,900 metres in the past.
Like Fuji’s, the summit crater plunges about 200 metres deep. However – and this is where the comparison does get a bit stretched – Zephyria’s cauldron is about eight or nine times wider than the Japanese one. Also, its summit slopes are only about half as steep as Fuji’s.
All in all, Zephyria would look squatter than Fuji. That, say Lewis and Head, is only to be expected of Martian volcanoes – the low gravity and thin atmosphere allow eruptive debris to fly further, resulting in a more spread-out edifice. You see, Mars is a foreign planet; they do things differently there.
Yet proposing Zephyria as Mars-Fuji shouldn’t be too controversial. It only extends the Japanese custom of awarding the “Fuji” suffix to any mountain that looks remotely conical. Thus, there is hardly a Japanese prefecture without its own Fuji, from one end of the archipelago to the other: Rishiri-Fuji, Ezo-Fuji, Tsugaru-Fuji …
The point about all these honorary Mt Fujis is that they share the elegance of their original. In short they are “Meizan”. The word is Japanese, but it can apply to any mountain of note, anywhere. When they relabelled Mt Rainier (below) as “Tacoma-Fuji”, homesick émigrés from Japan implicitly recognised that.
So did Fukada Kyūya, the maven of Meizan. Encouraged by the success of his One Hundred Mountains in Japan (Nihon Hyakumeizan), he was busy compiling a Sekai no Hyakumeizan (One Hundred Mountains of the World) when he died in 1971.
But why stop with the world? As Lewis and Head show, other planets have Meizan too. Indeed, there should be more than enough for a One Hundred Mountains of the Solar System (太陽系の百名山). Now which would they be, I wonder.... ?
Emily M. Stewart and James W. Head, Ancient Martian volcanoes in the Aeolis Region: New evidence from MOLA data, Journal of Geophysical Research, 2001
Wikipedia: Mons Olympus
Pictures: Olympus Mons: detail of painting by Gordon Legg, based on a mosaic of black-and-white Viking Orbiter images; Mt Rainier and Mt Fuji (Wikipedia)