Contributed photoEast Carolina University faculty member and conservation director Susanne Grieve proudly displays an ECU flag at New Zealand’s Scott Base in Antarctica. She spent eight months in 2012 leading a team preserving artifacts left behind on the frozen continent by explorers.
Sunday, January 13, 2013
An East Carolina University faculty member has had a once-in-a-lifetime experience — again.
Susanne Grieve, director of conservation at ECU, lived and worked in Antarctica for eight months in 2012 through the Antarctic Heritage Trust, a nonprofit organization based in New Zealand. The trust is responsible for the preservation of four expedition bases on Antarctica that were funded by the British Antarctic Society.
Grieve first went to Antarctica in 2008 after seeing a posting on a discussion list for conservators.
“It changed my life in every way,” she said. That experience, working as a conservator, led to her coming to ECU to teach.
She had to reapply for the 2012 trip.
“I think because I had wintered there previously and I knew a little bit about the living conditions and psychologically what it’s like, they brought me back as a lead conservator.”
Grieve, who specializes in object conservation, led a team of three other conservators, including a book and paper specialist.
From January to late August, Grieve and her team worked through Antarctica’s winter to preserve the contents of Cape Evans, the hut built and occupied from 1910-13 by the crew of Capt. Robert Falcon Scott, who is most famous for his race to the South Pole.
On Jan. 17, 1912, Scott and four of his men reached the South Pole only to find that Roald Amundsen of Norway had beaten them there by four weeks. Scott and his crew began the journey back to their camp; none of them survived. A search party found Scott’s diary and three men’s bodies eight months after they had died from starvation and exposure in their tent.
Scott’s wooden hut, which is at risk from damage due to snow build-up and other environmental factors, contains more than 8,000 artifacts, according to Antarctic Heritage Trust. The trust works to preserve structures and artifacts left by explorers during the early 20th century.
Grieve and her conservation team focused on treating “iconic artifacts” of the Scott expedition structures, including harnesses that the men wore to pull equipment and a pillow that famous Scott exploration team member Apsley Cherry-Garrard used.
They treated 1,300 artifacts during their seven-month season.
“In the United States, that’s unheard of. You might treat an artifact every two weeks. But it has to be done because of the finite resources,” she said.
“While I was down there, it was dark for four months, 24 hours of darkness. No hint of a sunrise or sunset and your body notices that. No flights in or out. No fresh fruits or vegetables. No mail. We did have contact through satellite connections, but you are isolated,” Grieve said.
The base has a no interference policy — everything that is brought to the continent is later carried off. Everything is carefully protected, even food and human waste so it doesn’t adversely affect the environment, she said.
The temperature was another hurdle.
The average temperature while Grieve was at Antarctica was -35 degrees Celsius or -31 degrees Fahrenheit, ambient. With the wind, it can feel like -100 C or -148 F.
With the proper equipment, Grieve could work outside for about two hours at -35 C. She could only stay out about 10 minutes at -100 C.
Grieve said she plans to use her experiences in Antarctica to encourage her students to dream big.
“I never imagined in my life that I’d go to Antarctica to do conservation,” she said. “I think it demonstrates that if you’re passionate about something then there are no boundaries.”
Med students start mentoring program
What started as a class project has turned into a mentoring program involving ECU medical students and local high school and college students.
Participants of the Brody Ambassadors program help aspiring medical students hone their academics, choose the best classes and prepare to apply for medical school.
“Looking at (medical school) from the outside is a lot different from the inside,” said Miller Johnstone, a second-year medical student and one of the organizers of the Brody Ambassadors.
At the Brody School of Medicine, 60 medical students are involved in the mentoring program. Fifteen second-year students have put together talks that can be delivered to local schools. They hosted a health career fair on Saturday.
Each medical class at ECU takes on a class project. Johnstone, vice president of the class of 2015, envisioned a project that would have some lasting impact. The Ambassadors group was the result.
The group partners with the Pitt County Schools Health Sciences Academy to promote personal health and hygiene, increase health career awareness and interact with younger students who might want to pursue a health career.
Last spring, the Brody Ambassadors held its first program, pairing 30 juniors and seniors from area high schools interested in medicine with 30 first-year medical students. The high school students listened to a medical student panel discussion on medical school admissions and heard Dr. John Leonard, a neurosurgeon and clinical sciences professor, talk about what it means to be a physician. The students toured the school, spent time in the medical simulation lab and identified human bones.
Tara Parker, Pitt County Health Sciences Academy coordinator, said the Brody Ambassadors program has been “invaluable” for mentoring high school students who are interested in a health career as well as helping convince them they can achieve their goals without leaving home.
Adelina Cortez, 17, a senior at South Central High School, said the program helped her. She plans to attend ECU in the fall, major in public health and go on to medical school at the Brody School of Medicine.
“I really appreciate them taking the time,” Cortez said, adding that they encouraged her and other health sciences academy students to study hard, make good grades and volunteer in their communities.
The Brody Ambassadors program is funded by class dues and fundraising events.
Dr. James Peden, associate dean for admissions at the medical school, said the initiative to create an organization that goes into the community to mentor high school students reflects ECU’s motto of service and the medical school’s goal of educating physicians who want to help locally.
“I’m impressed by our students’ willingness to be a positive force in their community,” he said.
- Thursday: Four Seasons Chamber Music Festival concert, 7-9 p.m. A.J. Fletcher Recital Hall; featuring music by Strauss, Mozart, Tchaikovsky. Tickets $25 for the public and $10 for students. Call 1-800-ECU-ARTS.
via The Daily Reflector.