Birch aquarium offers rare chance to walk the pier
by Kendra Hartmann
Published - 07/14/11 - 11:30 AM | 4118 views | 0 0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Birch Aquarium is offering Full Moon Walks on Scripps Pier through October. The events will reveal to the public the history and activities of the pier, normally closed to the public for research. Courtesy photo, illustration by Claire Harlin
Birch Aquarium is offering Full Moon Walks on Scripps Pier through October. The events will reveal to the public the history and activities of the pier, normally closed to the public for research. Courtesy photo, illustration by Claire Harlin
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Scripps Pier has long been a thing of mystery. Barricaded from the public for scientific research for most of its existence, the 1,090-foot long concrete structure has rarely been seen up close by those not involved in some aspect of oceanic research.

Now, Scripps Institution of Oceanography and Birch Aquarium are giving the rest of us the chance to observe what happens on one of the world’s largest research piers. For two days every month through October — including today and tomorrow — the public is invited to take a walk on the pier under the glow of the full moon and experience the Scripps campus in a whole new way.

“This is the public’s chance to go out and see the pier up close,” said Audrey Evans, an education specialist at Birch Aquarium. “It’s a great family activity. We have a lot of families and couples, and really anyone who wants to learn more about Scripps.”

For $25 ($22 for aquarium members), visitors get more than just a moonlit walk. Evans said groups will get a tour of Scripps’ campus, and then at dusk as the full moon rises, they will experience a sample of the work done on the pier, including a squid dissection, plankton collection and observation of marine life. Led by educators from the aquarium, they will learn about the history of the pier, the research conducted there and will be provided with a wealth of information about the organisms studied.

The original pier was built in 1915 and was used for research immediately after completion. It was open to the public prior to World War II, but during the war, a gate was put in place and the pier has been closed to the public ever since (the pier was torn down and replaced with the existing pier in 1988).

In addition to being ground zero for a variety of research projects for students, scientists and aquarium staff, the pier is also the home of the Coastal Data Information Program (CDIP), the hub of all coastal weather-related activity.

Funded by a cooperative agreement between the Army Corps of Engineers and the California Department of Boating and Waterways, CDIP collects data from about 50 wave instrumentations located throughout the coast. The data is then provided to the National Weather Service and is available on CDIP’s website (www.cdip.ucsd.edu).

Information like coastal conditions, real-time wave information and forecasts is collected, and they get used by anyone from commercial and recreational fishermen to surfers and coastal engineers.

If the chance to step out onto the pier gets missed, the public can also take a virtual tour of the landmark. The Scripps Pier Cam, an HD web camera, provides live, streaming video of the surf both to the north and south of the pier. After a seven-month hiatus, the camera was brought back due to popular demand. It provides real-time coastal forecasting information from CDIP and weather and atmosphere data from Earth Networks’ monitoring stations located on the pier.

Whether experienced virtually or physically, the pier is unveiling a sliver of its mystery and the curious public can now gain a small glimpse into an otherwise impenetrable monument.

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