First section of Walter Munk Foundation’s ‘The Map’ to be started on Valentine’s Day
02.10.20 – 01:00 pm
Alex Salazar, a 12-year-old from the Bay Area gets up close and personal with the life-sized seal. COURTESY PHOTO

Hurdles have been cleared and The Walter Munk Foundation has received final approval for the oceans project, The Map, to be installed soon at La Jolla Shores.

The educational project is a 2,400-square-foot tile mosaic displaying all the various types of sea life in the La Jolla Canyon. It was launched prior to late La Jolla oceanographer Walter Munk’s death at age 101 on Feb. 8, 2019.

“The Map of the ‘Grand Canyons of La Jolla’ is back, a fitting tribute to the enduring legacy of Walter Munk, who spent his 80-year career as an oceanographer at Scripps Institution of Oceanography,” said Mary Munk, noting a fence has gone up at the south end of Kellogg Park between the children’s playground and the comfort station, adjacent to Walter Munk Way, where The Map will be reconstructed.

Added Munk, “Rough grading has begun as workers are preparing the site for the long-awaited Lithomosaic educational tool, which is sure to delight ocean enthusiasts of every age.”

Weather permitting, Munk said the first section containing the Mobula munkiana, Munk’s devil ray, of The Map will be poured on Feb. 14 by Shaw & Sons.

“This is a very big deal,” exclaimed Mayor Kevin Faulconer, when he recently visited The Map, which is temporarily being housed in UC San Diego’s Old Southwest Fisheries Building.

The Map will be relocated in an educational plaza and is multidisciplinary in nature. It features 119 life-sized species found just offshore, an illustration from a paper written by Walter Munk in 1947 demonstrating wave refraction patterns through the “Grand Canyons of La Jolla.” It will be important to local surfers, with dive flags denoting favorite dive sites for scuba divers, as well as depicting the bathymetry (water depth) of the La Jolla and Scripps canyons.

The cultural history of the Kumeyaay is also being honored with the existing bronze plaque, and the remains of a now-submerged Kumeyaay Village, which give it a sense of space and historical significance.

Visitors to The Map have been stunned by the grandeur of the project.

“It is truly beautiful,” said La Jollan Trace Wilson, who added she was “totally blown away. What was particularly impressive to me was, not only the scope of the effort, but the breadth of the detail — sea life/sea creatures, geography in the ocean and on land, wave action, and so much more.”

Landscape architect Jennifer Phelps noted, “I love the intention of The Map to be used as an educational tool for all levels, especially with the focus on how climate change is affecting our own backyard. When locals (and visitors) learn about the devastating impacts climate change is having on land and sea creatures right here in San Diego, they will be more likely to take action to mitigate the worst effects.”

Since each animal on The Map is so unique, it functions as a QR code. “The idea of being able to scan any and all of the beautiful, sea life mosaic creations — and pull up on your own smartphone — is brilliant,” said Wilson. “This will add an incredible connection between the art of the human, and the understanding of the ocean.”

Corresponding multidisciplinary curricula are being created by teams of local educators so The Map can be enjoyed at deeper levels by students grades K-16. Birch Aquarium will feature The Map in its Coast-to-Canyon Program, and the foundation is working closely with Ocean Discovery Institute to make sure their students have the opportunity to visit the ocean.

“It would have never happened without the countless hours donated by Don Goertz, AIA; Tom Grunow and Paula Selby; and the capable work of Leslie Ryan, landscape architect; and Grunow Construction, to name a few,” concluded Munk.

The fabrication of The Map was funded by Walter and Mary Munk as a generous gift to the La Jolla Shores community and its millions of visitors. The installation will cost upwards of $500,000 and community support is welcomed through donations to the Munk Foundation website, or by reaching out to managing director Cynthia Matzke at [email protected]. Donors will be appropriately recognized for their contributions.