Discoverer of the exceptional visits campus

Ella Morton
Ella Morton

World explorer, New Zealand native and Atlas Obscura writer Ella Morton added to her list of adventures when she visited Radford University for a talk sponsored by the Honors Academy on Feb. 1.

Atlas Obscura, a collection of all things interesting about the world, fully embodies Morton’s personality and her quest to find the unique and bizarre. Morton’s intrigue for the exceptional began when she was a child and was handed a video game – none other than “Where In Time Is Carmen Sandiego?”

Inside that box was a paperback encyclopedia. Although small in size, that encyclopedia opened the door to a much larger world for Morton – a world that she uncovers daily.

Morton gave a glimpse at the exceptional to those in attendance. From self-mummifying monks to vine bridges, she shared locations from around the world. But Morton also showed the audience something close to home.

The Great Stalacpipe Organ in the Luray Caverns, created and designed over a three-year period by Leland Sprinkle, is an organ utilizing the natural formations of stalactites to create audible frequencies resembling that of an actual organ.

“These are the kinds of things around us – either in our state or in our neighborhood – that other people think are really cool,” Morton said. “You may have been there, you may have forgotten about it or always wanted to go and never had the chance. I talked to a few people last night at the Roanoke Pinball Museum that said I never knew this was here.”

Jason Davis, associate director of the Honors Academy and associate professor of biology, said that Morton “epitomizes the honors ideal of curiosity and enthusiasm and professionalism” while striving to make the world a better place.

While arranging for Morton’s appearance, Honors Academy Director and Psychology Professor Niels Christensen asked Morton how she knows what she knows.

“I started thinking about in my life, my childhood experiences, my professional experiences, and my self-directed studies and experiences,” she said. “I’ve gone from a combination of information learning and experiential learning. I was thinking about how these two kinds of learning interact and which one is more important – and which type of learning has given me a better sense of the world."

As Morton wrapped up her talk, she encouraged the audience to expand their horizons.

“Get out there and see what is around you,” Morton said. “I think one of our missions is to not only show people a bunch of places, but also to encourage them to experience things for themselves.”

Feb 6, 2018
Max Esterhuizen