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Photo gallery: ‘Ocean Awareness Day’ honors late La Jolla marine scientist Walter Munk

In what is becoming an annual celebration, the Walter Munk Foundation for the Oceans honored its namesake with an event at Kellogg Park in La Jolla Shores on Oct. 15.

This year’s “Ocean Awareness Day” featured an “ocean alley” of local educational organizations and San Diego city departments, along with speakers and the unveiling of a traveling model that shows La Jolla’s topography from the top of Mount Soledad to the depths of the underwater canyons offshore. The model soon will be on view at the La Jolla/Riford Library and will travel to locations that request it.

The event was held a few days before Munk’s Oct. 19 birthday. The famed oceanographer died in February 2019 at age 101.

“This is a celebration of Walter’s legacy of daring exploration and discovery through scientific research, education and ocean observation,” said foundation founder Mary Coakley Munk, Walter’s widow. “He was a globally renowned oceanographer that spent his 80-year career at Scripps Institution of Oceanography [in La Jolla], dealing with a different issue every decade.”

U.S. Rep. Scott Peters (D-La Jolla) credited Walter Munk with launching “the world-class science that we have right here that is studying the ocean, how it works and what it needs from us.” He added that Munk was one of the early advocates for raising awareness about the effects of climate change.

Praising Munk’s “very, very good and important work,” San Diego City Councilman Joe LaCava, whose District 1 includes La Jolla, compared the Ocean Awareness Day to other environmentally based observances. “We have Earth Day in the spring and now we’re going to have Ocean Awareness Day in the fall,” LaCava said.

In October 2020, the long-awaited Map of the Grand Canyons of La Jolla — a 2,200-square-foot LithoMosaic containing more than 100 life-size mosaics of marine creatures — was unveiled, with speakers from the scientific, educational, oceanographic, scuba diving, surfing, swimming and cultural communities addressing how The Map would contribute to their missions and Munk’s legacy.

In October last year, a similar event brought out speakers to discuss Munk’s importance to various ocean-related causes. Coakley Munk unveiled Walter the Ray, an animated ray that she said would be used in the foundation’s education programs and social media campaigns, including introducing species on The Map to those who use its QR code and app.

Coakley Munk said the foundation, in addition to presenting events, supports scientific endeavors such as those of a Ph.D. student working in Mexico and a team of scientists who discovered a cluster of underwater trees. The foundation also plans to fund beach field trips for underserved schools and start a docent program at The Map.

A bronze sculpture similar to the traveling topographical model is being created to be at The Map permanently.

To learn more about the Munk Foundation, visit waltermunkfoundation.org. ◆