The UVic Torch · University of Victoria Alumni Magazine · Spring 1998

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Volcano Shakes up Bizarre Underwater Colony

by Mike McNeney

The giant tubeworms and large clams that surround hydrothermal vents near the Axial underwater volcano, far below the surface of the Pacific Ocean, have a way of bouncing back. "They're well-adapted to life on the edge," says Dr. Verena Tunnicliffe (Earth and Ocean Sciences/Biology).

So she fully expects her research subjects to quickly re-colonize areas near the volcano after the series of eruptions and earthquakes that shook the region in January, probably destroying large parts of the creatures' habitat.

Tunnicliffe will try to confirm her suspicions this summer when she and an international team of scientists voyage 370 kilometres off the Oregon coast to explore the site&endash;along the Juan de Fuca Ridge. They'll view it using a remotely-operated submersible tethered to a U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration vessel.

"There's lots of larvae in the surrounding water so it won't take long for them to re-establish," says Tunnicliffe. The tubeworms, for example, are known to grow by one metre a year.

One of the most startling discoveries of 20th-century biology, the vents support bizarre life forms such as colonies of white tubeworms, clams and nearly 300 other previously unknown species in lightless sections of the ocean floor where sea water is heated to 400 degrees Celsius by molten rock.

The heated water rises through the rock to produce hydrogen sulfide and heavy metals that are highly toxic in other environments. But the animals around the vents use bacteria cells to convert, for their own purposes, the energy produced when the vent water contacts sea water. Known as chemosynthesis, it's an internal life-support system similar to photosynthesis performed by green plants.

The exploration of hydrothermal vents has shown how certain species adapt to severe environments while offering clues about the evolution of many organisms and perhaps even the origins of life, Tunnicliffe wrote in a 1992 article in American Scientist.

Part of this summer's investigation will determine which groups have the best strategies for finding new vents in the aftermath of the Axial eruption. One of the key questions surrounding vent life is, how do vent inhabitants get from one ridge to another? There is little information on how vent larvae move through the ocean.

Tunnicliffe has mixed feelings about the use of a remote submersible this summer. A veteran of 140 dives inside submersibles, she says nothing can replace the feeling of being on the ocean floor.

However, the use this summer of the remote "ROPOS" (operated by the non-profit Canadian Scientific Submersible Facility in Sidney) will have an advantage. Several sets of eyes will be watching the monitor screen and maneuvering the vehicle, as opposed to two people inside a submersible who are out of contact with the surface vessel. Plus ROPOS can remain down deep for much longer than the other vehicles.

Egoyan scripts find "Sweet Hereafter"
in UVic Special Collections

Film scholars studying the development of Atom Egoyan's Oscar-nominated screenplay for The Sweet Hereafter will find all they need in UVic's Special Collections, thanks to a donation by Allen Bell of Victoria, screenplay editor of several of Egoyan's films.

Bell recently gave UVic 14 working copies of Egoyan screenplays including Family Viewing (1987), Speaking Parts (1989), and The Adjuster (1991).

Also included in the gift are letters between Bell and Egoyan and the unpublished manuscripts of three books of Bell's poetry and a novel.

According to a prominent Vancouver dealer in books and manuscripts, the drafts show that "Bell's editing has been critical in shaping the structure, dialogue, and overall tenor of Egoyan's films." And in a letter included in the donation, Egoyan describes Bell's work on The Sweet Hereafter "as always, extraordinary and most inspiring."

Second Annual Golf Classic

The 2nd Annual UVic Golf Classic is set for August 18-19 at Uplands Golf Club. Organizers hope to raise $30,000 in support of the University's athletic program and athletic award and bursary development. Register by calling Jeff Sims (Student and Ancillary Services) at (250) 472-4642.


Dr. Anthony Welch, Dean of Fine Arts, has been appointed the University's first Executive Director of International Affairs. He sees the position as a kind of ambassadorship, leading the development of UVic's international presence on many levels. The appointment is for a five-year term.

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The UVic Faculty of Law, for the third consecutive year, has been named the top law school in Canada by recent law grads surveyed by Canadian Lawyer magazine. The faculty was cited for its small size, relaxed and cooperative learning environment and its "open door" policy.

* * *

UVic has named Dr. S. Martin Taylor Vice-President, Research. He'll oversee all aspects of research conducted at the University. Faculty members received $23 million in external grants and contracts for research in 1996/97, a 200 per cent increase over the last decade.

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Nominations are sought for the 1998 Distinguished Education Alumni Awards. Last year's winners were Chancellor Norma Mickelson, Dr. Sam Lim, and Dr. Alison Preece. Nominations, based on outstanding contributions to education, should be sent by May 31 to the Office of the Dean of Education, University of Victoria, Box 3010, Victoria, BC, V8W 3N4.

* * *

Retired psychology professor Dr. BillGaddes has written a two-volume History of the Psychology Department at Victoria College and UVic. Volume one is a personal memoir of Gaddes' 12-year stint as chair of the department. The second volume recounts the growth of the department during the 1960s. To order, contact the department at (250) 721-7525 or visit the website:

A Classic Case of Dedication

by Robie Liscomb

Dr. Peter Smith (Greek & Roman Studies), UVic's longest serving faculty member, will retire this year. His association with the University goes back nearly 50 years when, in 1949 at the age of 16, he entered Victoria College, then located on the Lansdowne campus of what is now Camosun College. Except for a period of nine years&endash;when he was finishing his undergraduate work at UBC, earning his graduate degrees from Yale University and then teaching at Yale, Carleton and UBC&endash;Smith has been involved with UVic ever since.

"Peter Smith is one of the most gracious, generous and self-effacing colleagues I have had the joy to work with over the last three decades," says his departmental colleague Dr. Sam Scully. "Over his long career he has made numerous unique contributions both to his department and to the University, always in that very humane and lively way that is his signature."

Smith's contributions to the University have been enormous and wide ranging, but there's no doubt that what he values most in his career is teaching.

"I get so much satisfaction from teaching that I've never had any great yearning to be a famous scholar," says Smith. "The one consistent compliment that I've got in my teaching reports is for my enthusiasm. I think that if you love what you're doing and can share that love with students that is very much appreciated."

Smith has published numerous articles and reviews, delivered many conference papers, published a book on the Roman comic playwright Plautus, and penned translations and adaptions for stage performances of works by Aeschylus, Aristophanes, Plautus and Virgil. He is also the university's honorary historian and author of A Multitude of the Wise: UVic Remembered (1993) and, with Martin Segger, University of Victoria: The Development of the Gordon Head Campus (1988).

"I worked with Peter on the Ceremonies Committee over many years," says Helen Kempster, Manager of Ceremonies & Special Events. "Peter had a wonderful instinct for finding humour even in the most stressful of situations while balancing and maintaining the proper decorum of the occasion."

Smith has served the university in an astonishing variety of administrative roles. He was chair of classics from 1963-69 and from 1988-93, acting chair of philosophy in 1969, associate dean of arts and science from 1970-71, dean of fine arts from 1972-80, and acting chair of visual arts from 1972-74.

"Classicists have long been linked with administration," says Smith. "I think that classicists fairly well have to balance analytical and verbal skills. We can write scathing memos and also balance a budget, and there are not an awful lot of people who seem to have that balance." At least one faculty member&endash;Rudolf Komorous (Music, retired)&endash;actually urged Smith to publish his collected memos.

Smith considers his term as dean of fine arts his "favourite job of all time... It was such a neat small group of people and not necessarily all harmonious&endash;far from it." At that time UVic was on the brink of scuttling the faculty of fine arts. Smith looks back with satisfaction at "just keeping the faculty alive for those few critical years and demonstrating that it had a future."

"Peter has always been in the forefront of the intellectual and artistic life of the campus and was a charming and stimulating colleague," says Dr. Alexander (Sandy) Kirk (Chemistry). "I enjoyed both his serious productions of Greek plays in the old Phoenix Theatre and our clowning together in the UVic Follies!"

Smith has also served as president of both regional and national classical associations and was on the executive of the Canadian Association of University Teachers during the troubled years of 1967-68. He held board positions for several local arts groups and was a member, then chair, of the B.C. Arts Board. Smith was also a founding member of the Canadian Association of Fine Arts Deans, and the organization's president from 1975-77.

Smith will not leave teaching altogether in retirement. He plans to offer some tutorials and directed reading courses for Greek and Roman Studies. He has also carved out a niche for himself in the Alumni Cruise and Continuing Studies travel study programs and will host tours to Greece, Sicily and Malta in coming years. He also has a couple of textbook projects in mind, including an etymological textbook growing out of a course he's taught for about 15 years on Greek and Latin roots in English.

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