The La Jolla Shores boardwalk was renamed “Walter Munk Way” on Wednesday to honor a researcher whose work helped make UC San Diego’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography a mecca for science.
“I am very pleased about this because it connects the community to Scripps, where I’ve been since 1939,” said Munk, who will turn 100 years old on Thursday.
Munk first came to La Jolla to spend time with a girlfriend whose family vacationed there.
“That summer was so wonderful,” Munk said. “We ate abalone for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I haven’t eaten abalone since!”
Munk stayed in La Jolla, earning his doctorate at Scripps, then joined the faculty. He started to become well-known before he did either of those things. Munk greatly advanced wave forecasting, which helped Allied forces to more safely make amphibious landings during World War II. His research was essential to planning the D-Day attack at Normandy.
In the following years, Munk roamed the planet, making major discoveries about everything from how water circulates in the ocean to the aftereffects of nuclear bomb explosions. He also played a key role in some of Scripps’ grand oceanographic expeditions in the 1950s and ‘60s.
In honor of his work, Munk was later awarded the National Medal of Science, and was elected to the National Academy of Sciences.
UC San Diego has held, or scheduled, a variety of events to celebrate his life. On October 26, Prince Albert II of Monaco will visit Scripps to have a public conversation with Munk about the state and nature of the world’s oceans.
When asked on Wednesday what it feels like to turn 100, Munk said, “I’m not much of a philosopher. I just feel fortunate to be here.”
Munk will be glad when the celebrations are over. He told the Union-Tribune, “I’ve been working on a problem about how the wind affects the oceans, and I would like to focus on that.”