Annual ‘Walter Munk Day: Honoring the late oceanographer’s legacy in La Jolla

photo of the late oceanographer Walter munk, he wears a blue sweater and the scripps pier is behind him

Bringing in the next wave of local marine education, the Walter Munk Foundation for the Oceans will host the “Walter Munk Day: Celebrate Our Oceans” event from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Oct 14, at Kellogg Park in La Jolla Shores.

The third such event to honor late oceanographer Walter Munk, whose work as a geophysicist at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego led to groundbreaking observations of waves, ocean temperature, tidal energy and more.

Munk, who died in 2019, would have been 106 on Oct 19 this year.

This year’s “Walter Munk Day” – which is free to attend – will feature 48 exhibitors with interactive, ocean-related activities, food trucks and face painting.

“I’m really looking forward to the opportunity to honor Walter’s legacy,” said Mary Coakley Munk, Munk’s widow and president of the foundation.

Several activities will honor the Kumeyaay Native Americans, La Jolla’s first occupants. The day will begin with a Kumeyaay smudge ceremony and Bird Singers; tribal representative Stanley Rodriquez will give the keynote address at 12:30 p.m.; and there will be a launch of Kumeyaay tule boats at 2:45 p.m.

“It’s awfully important for us, as community members who live on the land that was theirs many years ago, to learn about [Kumeyaay] culture and to get to know their wonderful people and their traditions and their crafts,” Coakley Munk said.

There will also be tours of “The Map,” a lithomosaic depicting the underwater La Jolla Canyon and its marine species. 

The afternoon will also include the unveiling of a large, 4,000-pound bronze sculpture at the heart of The Map, the culmination of years of work commissioned by the foundation and completed by sculptor Carl Glowienke.

The sculpture reveals the topography and bathymetry (or underwater depth) map from Mount Soledad through one mile off the coast, showing in three dimensions the underwater canyons off The Shores.

The sculpture sprang from “something that Walter really wanted to have for the community and all of our [millions of] visitors,” Coakley Munk said, “because most people don’t have any idea what’s under the water there and what it looks like.”

Glowienke, who started Lakeside Sculpture 17 years ago and has worked on pieces in private spaces and public monuments globally, shaped the map of silicon bronze and stainless steel after receiving information from SIO and the San Diego Natural History Museum.

The sculpture is three feet by 10 feet by four feet, and took Glowienke about 2,000 hours of work in three years to finish.

“I would anticipate this very dense piece of bronze would have a lifetime of 500-plus years,” Glowienke said, adding, “one of the reasons that I wanted to take on the project is I’m interested in environmental education and bronze sculpture is one of the best ways to do that.”

With “truly, scientifically accurate bronzes of marine mammals” that are extinct or endangered, people can learn about the animals’ importance for centuries beyond, he said.

This is the best way “to convey the urgency or the plight of so many endangered animals … to future generations, Glowienke said.

With such a robust schedule of activities, Coakley Munk hopes “Walter Munk Day … inspires stewardship for the ocean.”

“I really want those who have worked so hard to make this come together to know how much I appreciate it,” she said.

Picture of Elisabeth Frausto

Elisabeth Frausto

Elisabeth Frausto has been reporting on and writing about La Jolla since 2019. With dozens of local and state journalism awards to her name, Elisabeth knows the industry as well as she knows her community. When she’s not covering all things 92037, you’ll find her with coffee in hand staring at the sea.
Picture of Elisabeth Frausto

Elisabeth Frausto

Elisabeth Frausto has been reporting on and writing about La Jolla since 2019. With dozens of local and state journalism awards to her name, Elisabeth knows the industry as well as she knows her community. When she’s not covering all things 92037, you’ll find her with coffee in hand staring at the sea.

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