p22The Sea of Cortez is located between the Baja Peninsula and mainland Mexico and is one of the youngest and most fertile seas on earth. The peninsula was formed approximately five million years ago when part of the Earth’s crust separated along the San Andreas Fault drifting in a northwesterly direction away from mainland Mexico. After colliding with southern California, an ocean basin was formed. This basin is known today as the Gulf of California or more commonly referred to as the Sea of Cortez.

Left in the wake of the collision was an explosion of natural geological wonders; a group of desert islands. The area has remained uninhabited, spellbinding and timeless. This amazing Galapagos type setting plays host to some of the rarest and most beautiful marine life on earth and offers an amazing environment for swimming, snorkeling, diving, kayaking, and hiking.

On July 15, 2005 the islands of the Sea of Cortez were declared a World Heritage Site by the United Nations. It is home to thousands of species of marine animals and is the reason why Jacques Cousteau called this sea “The Aquarium of the World”.

Lela Sankeralli’s journey to the Sea of Cortez is onboard Panterra’s 110 ft. live aboard ship, the “M.V. Adventure“, custom designed and built for comfortable, quiet, intimate cruising. The ship is professionally crewed with passenger certification under the “Nacional de Seguridad Maritima” laws. The Captain and crew bring many years of mariner experience in the Sea of Cortez and offer the warmth and kindness that reflects the beauty and hospitality of the people of Mexico.   In partnership with Panterra Eco Expeditions and Panterra Educational and Cultural Training Society, the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre brings the Journey to the Sea of Cortez to campus.


1Lela Sankeralli is the founder of Panterra Educational and Cultural Programs and started her career as a marine naturalist. She has dedicated her life to teaching and mentoring. Because of an insatiable desire to seek the origins of life on earth, her passion as a wanderer and explorer has led to a career in designing educational programs in the Gulf Islands of Canada and the Sea of Cortez, Baja, Mexico.  In 2004, Lela retired, turning her business of 18 years into a non-profit organization. Her goal throughout her career has been to make a difference in the lives of the students she has come in contact with, turning them on to further learning, and instill in them the great importance and responsibility of being the future guardians of our planet.

Student Digitization Assistant displaying a TTI workstation

Evan Williamson, Student Digitization Assistant, works with a TTI workstation during a Digitization Centre tour.

About 40 Library staff were treated to behind-the-scenes tours of the Digitization Centre last week, where they learned about fascinating projects such as epigraphic squeezes and watched specialized photographic equipment in action.

Robert Stibravy began the tours with an introduction to the Centre, pointing out a myriad of images from different projects covering the walls – a small sample of the team’s digitization efforts. He noted that digitization work represents a significant UBC Library priority in terms of developing community partnerships and providing excellent learning opportunities for students. “It’s a unique experience that they’re unlikely to find elsewhere,” said Stibravy.

Tour attendees were able to see students at work with various technologies, such as a TTI photographic workstation, which contains a vacuum to flatten materials; several Atiz book-scanning machines; and a Contex sheet-fed scanner – a “gentle machine,” as Stibravy put it – that was recently used for historical land use maps.

Mimi Lam illustrated the digitization process underway for the Uno Langmann Collection, noting that this is the Library’s first project to go through the complete Archivematica lifecycle for digital preservation and archival storage. The project is one of many examples of Digitization Centre staff working in conjunction with Rare Books and Special Collections. RBSC processes and describes the physical materials, while the Digitization Centre preserves and provides public access to the digitized material.

Larissa Ringham discussed the intriguing techniques used in developing epigraphic squeezes (paper cast impressions of ancient Greek stone inscriptions) and the benefits of digitizing such items. The TLEF-funded project is a partnership with the UBC Classics Department, whose students are working on translations. “Scholars of ancient Greek used to have to learn to read these characters backwards, because the impressions created by squeezes are, of course, in reverse,” Ringham says. “Once they’re digitized, we flip the image and it’s a lot easier to study.”

Paper cast impression of ancient Greek stone impressions

Detail of an epigraphic squeeze.

 In addition to large-scale projects such as B.C. Historical Newspapers and the Chung Collection, Digitization Centre staff support efforts that may only take a few weeks – such as digitizing Faculty of Education theses to deposit in cIRcle. They are also occasionally called upon to perform digitization on demand – similar to special requests submitted for interlibrary loans.

Thank you to the Digitization Centre team for providing these informative, entertaining and excellent tours! 

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