La Jolla Shores Association: Walter Munk celebrates 101st birthday
Published - 10/20/18 - 12:49 PM | 1740 views | 1 1 comments | 47 47 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Councilmember Barbara Bry, Walter Munk and Janie Emerson, chair of La Jolla Shores Association. DAVE SCHWAB/VILLAGE NEWS
Councilmember Barbara Bry, Walter Munk and Janie Emerson, chair of La Jolla Shores Association. DAVE SCHWAB/VILLAGE NEWS
In October, La Jolla Shores Association celebrated Scripps oceanographer Walter Munk’s 101st birthday and heard from a local resident about the dangers of buried, smoldering beach coals.

Council president pro-tem Barbara Bry was present to honor Munk, who has been called the “Einstein of the oceans.”

Munk is world renowned for Showing why one side of the moon always faces the Earth; for pioneering research on the relationship between winds and ocean circulation; for investigating irregularities in the Earth's rotation and their impacts on the planet; and for describing ocean-wave behavior and furthering the study of global warming. 

Munk's research into tides helped guide the Allies in selecting where and when to land in Normandy on D-Day. On Oct. 18, 2017, a day before his centennial birthday, La Jolla Shores boardwalk was renamed Walter Munk Way.

Munk blew out the candles on his birthday cake in a pre-meeting reception. Gail Forbes won a lottery drawing held for him.

La Jolla Shores resident Joe Gatto gave a slideshow presentation at the Oct. 10 LJSA board meeting, detailing the simmering problem of live coals at La Jolla Shores.

Asked about his motivation after the meeting, Gatto said, “We have long suffered the noxious smoke, especially on weekend nights…

“Even with windows closed, the toxic fine particles seep in. The straw that broke the camel’s back and started me working for change, was this summer when our 7-year-old son started coughing from all the smoke in the house.”

Added Gatto, “I learned that this is not only a nasty toxic-air issue but also a serious burn issue.”

Using his thermal-imaging camera, Gatto went out on an August Sunday morning. “I found six fires still burning, buried hidden in the sand,” he said. “Now I’m afraid to let my kids walk on the beach in the morning.”

Gatto pointed out burning buried coals come mostly from portable fire pits. “No jurisdiction north of San Diego allows portable wood-burning devices on a beach,” he said.

Gatto’s message is simple: Don’t end beach barbecues, just change the fuel they use.

“We are not trying to ban fires or ruin anyone’s fun,” he said.

“We are requesting that the City follow the example of the State Parks which have banned wood fires except in rings they have already provided. State Parks banned portable wood-burning pits and now allow portable propane fire pits instead. The result is that people still enjoy fires, but now they burn safe, clean propane instead of dirty, dangerous wood.”

Pointing out pallets with noxious chemicals are illegal to burn on the beach, LJSA board member Mary Coakley-Munk described eradicating wood-burning beach fires as “an uphill battle.” She added, “It’s clearly a health issue that should be addressed by the City.”

“Do you have a model statute you want passed?” inquired board member Joe Dicks of Gatto adding, “If you do that, it will be a lot easier. I’m in favor of doing something about this.”

“I suggest you get the information out to the public,” said board member John Shannon. “This is very valuable information that needs to be passed along to the city council.”

Those interested in learning more about burning beach coals can send an email to

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Karen Scanlon
October 21, 2018
Happy birthday, Walter Munk. My father-in-law, Thomas S. Scanlon, worked with you at Scripps many years ago. My in-laws, Thomas and Dorothy, and my husband, Tom, and I attended several Christmas celebrations at your home in La Jolla over the years. What a nice surprise to see SD News this morning. Be blessed in your long life.

Karen Scanlon
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