The long Ellen Browning Scripps Memorial Pier, jutting into the Pacific Ocean north of La Jolla Shores, is operated by the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. The research pier is utilized by scientists and students who strive to learn more about our environment and the diverse life within it.
The public is usually restricted from going onto Scripps Pier, but those who register for a once-a-month tour get the opportunity to walk out to its very end. And that’s what I did today!
The tour–every second Saturday of the month (register here)–begins in front of the historic Scripps Building, then circles around several additional campus buildings until it reaches the foot of the pier. As our group walked along, the knowledgeable tour guide told us about the origin and history of the world-renowned Scripps Institution of Oceanography, and how its environmental and biological research benefits us all.
Then we came to the amazing pier and our sense of wonder grew…
The original wooden pier, built in 1916 with funding from Ellen Browning Scripps, was destroyed in 1983 by an El Niño powered storm. The current modern pier was built in 1988. Today it’s considered one of the world’s largest research piers.
Looking back at the foot of the pier we could see these tank-like water filters.
At the end of Scripps Pier is a pump station. The pier slopes slightly upward as you walk to its end. The reason? So that the freshly pumped seawater, propelled by gravity, will run down a covered trough that stretches along one side of the long pier.
The water, carefully filtered, is then used in the Scripps research labs on shore.
Walking out on the pier high over the beach, looking south toward La Jolla Shores. That’s the Village of La Jolla and La Jolla Cove jutting in the distance.
Now we’re gazing north toward the distant sandstone cliffs of Torrey Pines State Beach.
Many surfers were out today! A sunny San Diego day in December.
Looking back toward a portion of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography campus. (Scripps is a part of UC San Diego.)
We observed lots of guitarfish in the water below. When you’re swimming or surfing, you don’t necessarily see all that marine life beneath you!
Amazing views can be enjoyed from Scripps Pier. Looking down, we saw numerous surfers waiting for that perfect wave on either side of the pier.
We followed our tour guide to a group of container-like structures that were recently placed on Scripps Pier. Together they constitute a mobile facility that will be used for a one year atmospheric study by the U.S. Department of Energy.
A wide variety of scientific instruments, including radar, lidar, sky imagers and radiometers will measure cloud formation, reflectivity and other atmospheric phenomena.
We are approaching the end of Scripps Pier, where that prominent gray structure houses a seawater pump.
All sorts of small boats are kept near the end of the pier, where they can be lowered into the ocean to carry out research.
Notice something shaped like a Christmas tree atop the pump structure ahead? It lights up during the Holiday Season! (As do swags of lights along the length of the pier.)
Lifting a lid from that long trough that channels the pumped seawater gravitationally down the pier’s length. We saw barnacles, mussels and a live crab skittering around! (You can understand why those filters are necessary at the foot of the pier.)
There’s additional filtration near the pump!
I believe this device filters out the larger objects from the pumped seawater, before the water heads down the long trough. You can see some slimy seaweed stuck in it.
From this crane boats can be lowered to the ocean surface. On the left you can see the cage-like entrance to a descending ladder.
Our tour group came upon several people in wetsuits, just back from a dive!
A super friendly graduate student explained how they had dived at an artificial reef off Black’s Beach, to the north, near the Torrey Pines Gliderport. They photographed abundant sea life.
The wet spot is from their boat that was recently lifted!
That’s one long ladder down to the water!
I noticed many instruments on the roof of the pump structure, including antennas and wind gages.
And to one side is the Scripps Osprey Platform! (You can see it near the center of this photograph.)
A plaque on the pump structure. The Scripps Osprey Platform is dedicated to Art Cooley, a scientist who helped save the Osprey, Bald Eagle and Brown Pelican.
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