The Map of the Grand Canyons of La Jolla, a lasting memorial to the late La Jolla oceanographer Walter Munk, was unveiled at the educational plaza at Kellogg Park in La Jolla Shores on Oct. 16.
It is a fitting tribute that the man who discovered the grand canyons off the coast of La Jolla Shores should have an educational plaza honoring him and his 80-year career at Scripps Institution of Oceanography.
The Map features a 2,400-square-foot tile mosaic displaying all the various types of sea life in the La Jolla Canyon. It illustrates 123 life-sized species, from a tiny Spanish Shawl to a 31-foot image of J.J., the Orphaned Baby Gray Whale. The Map includes dive sites and features, surf sites, Marine Protected Areas, the bathymetry (depths) of the La Jolla and Scripps Canyons, and many other wonders found in the ocean just oﬀ shore.
Thousands of small ceramic tiles create an unparalleled aquatic scene. The largest LithoMosaic in the world, The Map is now open free to the public 365 days a year at Kellogg Park in La Jolla Shores near the playground and restrooms.
A LithoMosaic system is an innovative approach allowing artists and architects to design vast mosaics that are no longer limited by scale. Unlike traditional mosaics that require insets, mortar, and grout, Lithomosaic combines the beauty of mosaics with the durability of Lithocrete. It allows LithoMosaic to be installed in any climate, in either flatwork or vertical applications.
Mary Coakley Munk, head of the Walter Munk Foundation for the Oceans, said the one-of-a-kind aquatic exhibit can be turned into a “virtual field trip” teaching science classes.
“There are codes on the educational panels that, when you hold your phone up to them, it brings up information about each one of the 128 species that are on The Map,” she said. “You can go to waltermunkway.com which has dive sites, features, and other things. We’re also creating an app that, if you take your phone over one of the species on The Map, it brings up a page about that species.”
Coakley Munk said The Map had a long gestation period.
“Sixteen years ago it all started in 2004 with the Kellogg Park South Comfort Station,” she noted. “Someone there doing the landscaping made the comment that “it was their dream to put the underwater park and ecological reserve into the (Kellogg) park, and work with Scripps and Birch Aquarium to teach kids.”
Added Coakley Munk: “It sounded fantastic to me. A few days later, walking into a dive shop on Avendida De La Playa (Shores business district) I saw one of their laminated maps showing the canyons offshore. And at that time the area (educational plaza), was a mud pit, literally. I just thought, ‘Wow, wouldn’t it be awesome to put this image in that space?’”
That kick-started the development of the mosaic and Walter Munk agreed to be the honorary chair for the project.
Of the finished project, which compliments Walter Munk Way, the Shores boardwalk named for the oceanographer, Coakley Munk concluded, “It cements his legacy and allows it to continue. And because we get so many wonderful tourists from all over the world, we hope that the project will have international, as well as local interest, in educating children of all ages about the ocean.”
Coakley Munk described the potential for other educational projects playing off the map as “pretty much limitless.”
“We want to have citizen science programs and speakers come and tide pool tours working with Birch Aquarium and using the Marine Protected Areas areas that they use for taking their (scuba) classes down there,” she said. “And hopefully, dive instructors will use it extensively for training their students, helping them understand the relationship of the dive sites relative to the canyons, giving them a visual before they even go out.”
Munk's distinguished list of accomplishments includes: Being the first person to show why one side of the moon always faces the Earth; pioneering research on the relationship between winds and ocean circulation; investigating irregularities in the Earth's rotation and their impacts on the planet; description of ocean wave behavior while investigating ocean tides; and furthering the study of global warming via the relation between changes in ocean temperature, sea level, and the transfer of mass between continental ice and the ocean. Munk's research into tides helped guide the Allies in selecting where and when to land in Normandy on D-Day.
For more information, visit waltermunkfoundation.org.