Tributes to Walter Munk


This is a tribute page for Walter Munk, world-renowned oceanographer and revered scientist, who passed away Feb. 8, 2019, at his home in La Jolla, Calif. He was 101. You can read his full obituary here.

Those wishing to express condolences are invited to submit messages for web posting to

Tributes to Walter Munk

"Walter Munk’s contributions to science and society were vast. Perhaps the greatest of these was the inspiration he provided to scientists, citizens, and leaders at every level in academia, the government, and the military. I first met Walter when I began my career in the U.S. Navy at Scripps three decades ago. The role model he was for me guided every action I took in pursuit of science and public service. Most prominently, it was Walter who set the standard for scientific and personal integrity that I followed in positions of national leadership, including my service as the Oceanographer of the Navy and now as the acting Administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Scripps, the U.S. Navy, and our great nation are global leaders because of this remarkable man. We will miss him dearly."

Tim Gallaudet, Ph.D.,  Rear Admiral, U.S. Navy (Ret.)
Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere / Deputy NOAA Administrator,
Acting Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere / NOAA Administrator


"Walter was a true hero and a legend in Science. I had the privilege of knowing him during the last five years. I was seated next to him inside the Vatican in 2014 at a climate change meeting. During dinner we were talking about climate change and ways to solve it. In his characteristic style, Walter declared presciently: It is going to take a miracle to solve the climate change problem. Few years later, Walter and I met His Holiness the Dalai Lama during His Holiness’ 80th birthday behind the podium. His Holiness laughingly hugged Walter and told him, 'I am an old man, 80 years old'; Walter laughed and replied, 'You are just a baby compared to me.' What a privilege to have worked with him and known him."

Veerabhadran Ramanathan, Distinguished Professor of Climate Sciences, University of California San Diego

“In recent days, the world has lost two true giants in the field of environmental science and research: Wally Broecker and Walter Munk. Broecker, who in 1975 authoritatively predicted that rising levels of carbon dioxide would cause the dangerous warming we are experiencing today, was a visionary well ahead of his time.

Munk’s countless contributions to oceanography changed how we understand our oceans, and his remarkable curiosity for science was an inspiration to me. A refugee from Hitler’s evil in Europe as a young man, he played an invaluable role as an ocean expert in helping plan the timing of D-Day.

Put simply, Wally and Walter were true pioneers, who established the foundation for the global movement to solve the climate crisis. These two will be greatly missed and we will all forever be indebted to them and their work.”

– Former Vice President Al Gore

"I got to know Walter and Judy over the years and was fortunate to serve as a Navy advisor with him as we were both Secretary of the Navy Chairs. The obituary is well done. However, it seemed to underplay what I liked most about Walter. Despite his prominence, he was one of the kindest and gentlest people I have ever met. When Judy was bound to a wheel chair at their advanced ages, I often observed Walter with a big smile wheeling her onto airplanes and away they went all around the world. They were amazing spirits serving as examples to people of all ages. Walter will be greatly missed.  It was a great honor to know him."

Tommy Dickey

"After marveling at Walter's research during my studies in oceanography at the Naval Postgraduate School, I met him in 1996, when he expressed interest in my dissertation on internal tides in Monterey Submarine Canyon. It was around this time that he had been collaborating with Carl Wunsch to estimate global dissipation rates of internal tide energy. I was starstruck when I met him in his lab to discuss my research, but his warmth and kindness immediately put me at ease. He invited me to join him and Judy for dinner at his beautiful home, and we enjoyed a perfect Pacific sunset as Walter shared some amusing tales, including one about his trip in a Land Rover from Finland to Odessa to meet with a Soviet scientist during the Cuban Missile Crisis (he was accompanied by 3 guards, with rifles drawn, during a stop to relieve himself in the woods). During my 12 years as a military professor of oceanography at the U. S. Naval Academy, I ensured that the students in my Waves and Tides course were aware of Walter's support to the Navy and his contributions to wave forecasting and our understanding of ocean tides and internal wave mixing. I have attached an original work of digital art, "Internal Waves #8", created as a tribute to Walter. His endless curiosity, interdisciplinary brilliance, intellectual humility, and visionary leadership have left a very broad wake indeed."

Emil Petruncio, Ph.D., Captain, USN (Retired)

"Walter was without question one of the most amazing men I have ever known. He was kind, he was brilliant, he was funny, he was a true gentleman, and he made our world a better place. I adored him from the first day I met him…when I first arrived at Scripps in 1980, I ran into him my first few days there. I was shy and unsure starting a new job but his smile and his welcoming attitude made me feel great.  He was like that to everyone! 

Over the years I had the honor to do all the events at his house for Judith and Walter, all the events that were held at IGPP, and Judith’s touching memorial service. He made a concerted effort to lovingly dry my tears after I’d been laid off in the 2008 recession declaring that I’d do just fine and “even better” the next chapter of my life. We formed a wonderful friendship and bond, and every time he would see me after I had left Scripps he would greet me with a warm hug and a huge loud happy “Hello, Jill! How are you?”

We came to know and love Mary for her gentle care of him.  When I went to visit a few years ago I took him a golf shirt from the USS Midway Museum where I now work. He was so comfortable in those shirts that Mary ordered one for every day of the week in different colors! He loved them! In fact he has one on in the documentary about the Munk rays!  

Walter was my dear dear friend and I am so glad we got to visit just a few months ago at his glorious house where so many memories and happy times with wonderful people took place. Rest in peace you dear dear man…And if there are oceans in Heaven, I am sure Walter is making plans, wondering about this phenomenon or that, and bringing together other heavenly brilliant souls to solve the questions of the Universe..."

Jill Hammons, USS Midway, Director of Membership

"I would like to express my condolences and appreciation for the many years that I have personally known and worked with Walter as his ONR Program Officer. He remained dedicated, insightful, and very pleasant to deal with for the entire duration. He will be greatly missed."

Robert H. Headrick, Ocean Acoustics, Office of Naval Research


"Walter’s scientific brilliance will always pervade oceanography and his friendly kindness and understanding will be remembered by all who knew him."

John F. Dewey, Distinguished Emeritus Professor University of California, Emeritus Professor and Supernumerary Fellow, University College Oxford


"I am truly sorry to learn that Walter has passed away.  He was an intellectual giant and a wonderful person all rolled up into one. Those of us who were lucky enough to consider Walter a friend and to work with him even a little bit over the years will now have to be content with pleasant memories, topped by many years of Independence Day parties at his home in La Jolla and many important discussions on topics of national interest wherever they were held. Walter will be sorely missed by all of us who had the opportunity to know him."

David Hammer, Cornell University

"I’m grateful to have known Walter through a number of channels including Medea and as one of the SECNAV/CNO Chairs, but also as early as the 1970s when he visited Dalhousie University where I was a graduate student. Yes, he was a remarkable oceanographer throughout his entire life. But he was also a gentleman, extremely loyal, a great and patient mentor and a generous host. He taught me many things through discussions but mostly by example. And I loved his stories of the early days, of atom bomb tests and working out data problems while developing the wave prediction methods. These are our roots, spoken by the grandfather of much of oceanography. We are all better people for having known Walter. He will be missed."

Rob Holman, SECNAV/CNO Chair in Oceanography, Oregon State University 

"The world has lost one of its best. Walter was an explorer, a scientist, a family man, a husband, a great American and yes, he was a world-renowned oceanographer...but he was also my friend...and a true friend to many, many people. His love for the unknown, love for exploration, love for country and love for his fellow man was unquestionable. His accomplishments are to numerous to list but each of them, in their own way, changed the world, literally. I had the distinct privilege to meet Walter when I was the Chief of Naval Research. He was a spry 95 years old and still moving to the music and making positive waves for his Scripps colleagues, everyday. He made me wonder deeper, he made me think more critically, he made me extend beyond my perceived limits.....he made me a better Naval Officer, better leader and a better man. Walter, I thank God that I had the unique opportunity to meet and get to know you over these short five years. Thank you for all you have done to make our world a more knowledgeable, exploratory and scientifically relevant place. May you glide with the sea life you so adamantly loved and when able, soar with the eagles on God's golden wings. Rest In Peace, my friend."

– VADM Mat Winter, US Navy

"To all the family of Walter, I send my true heartfelt condolences. I could never imagine the loss you feel of such a dear man. With all his achievements and huge legacy, which we must all vow to help preserve, I met a man a few years ago who brought such joy and kindness to my life. He loved nothing more than a good conversation. His quality as a friend was huge. Loyalty expressed itself through boundless generosity, in spirit and in kind. I will always remember him through his love of country, both Austria and America which adopted him, and his passion for his work. he never stopped, ever, and the endless dinners that he loved to throw for his friends when we came to visit him. His spontaneous nature kept him young at heart. As my daughter Gloria just said a day before he passed away, "it felt like he was a young man trapped in an old body!" Nothing more true could have been said about Walter. His external curiosity, desire to challenge traditional knowledge systems, and his love of humanity, especially his friends, was tangible. He was always very clear and concise until the very end, affectionate, and was never the first to leave a party! We miss you already Walter. Thank you for the call yesterday. It was so wonderful to hear your voice! It resonated in my soul and in that you planted a seed of ocean in my heart that will forever grow. I love you my dear friend. I hope your journey was smooth, on the crest of wave of peace and love."

Much love,

"Late in 1955, when the Fall Semester at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography (SIO) was already half-over, the U.S. Navy released me from active duty on a ship based in Long Beach, CA. What was I to do before going on for a doctorate in the History of Science? My college classmate Bob Rex, a student at SIO, encouraged me to enroll, and the rules were so flexible that I could jump in to the required first-year courses for an M.S. in Oceanography and finish them the following year. That would give me more of the science whose history I intended to reveal. That's how I came to meet Walter Munk. Though I never took a course he taught, he became one of my teachers and a lifelong friend.

His introduction of me to Carl Eckart, to help with Carl's current project and maybe be diverted to science itself, did not lead anywhere. So I left La Jolla in June 1957 with my M.S. in Oceanography from UCLA and became a historian, including being the Historian of the U.S. Geological Survey. (When that position was abolished, I became a patent and trademark attorney. Now that I've retired from the law, I'm back doing the history of science.)

I returned to La Jolla a few times into the 1980s, saw Walter in Woods Hole occasionally (mostly with Judy and once with their daughter Kendall), and tried to keep up with his ever-growing achievements in science. I shall always treasure his capacity for friendship and encouragement beyond the subjects that engaged his formidable intellect."

Harold L. Burstyn, Ph.D., J.D.

"Very sad to hear that Walter has passed away. I met Walter at a NATO summer school in London in 1963, when I was a student, and was taken under his wings, not because it was me, but because I was Norwegian. It was a pay back to his mentor, the famous Norwegian Oceanographer Harald Ulrik Sverdrup. Walter has inspired me my whole scientific life, he was very helpful to get the huge international Marginal Ice Zone Experiments started in the early 1980s. He visited us in Bergen many, many times before and after we started the Nansen Center in 1987, giving talks and always inspired us. The last time he was in Norway was in August last year, when the Polar ship Maud, where Sverdrup was the Chief Scientist, was brought back to Oslo from the Canadian Arctic. Walter was in the center of this celebration giving a talk about Sverdrup. Last time I talked with Walter on the phone was few days before he passed away, his brain was clear, but his voice was weak. We talked about science so he was still active. Walter, you will be missed. PEACE OVER YOUR MEMORY."

Ola M. Johannessen, Nansen Scientific Society

"Below is a short story of how I was touched by Dr. Munk as a student at Scripps. When I arrived in La Jolla in August 13, 1997, in my second day at the UCSD International Center I met this distinguished older gentleman. I started talking about how excited I was to begin my studies in oceanography and even tried to explain to him things about the ocean—he was so kind, warm and inclusive—only later I discovered that it was the Walter Munk! That was the first of many encounters that I will continue to cherish in my life together with my love for the ocean. Thank you Walter for all the dreams you have inspired in so many generations."

Emanuele Di Lorenzo, Professor, Director, Program in Ocean Science & Engineering, Georgia Institute of Technology

"The Munks have always been open, gracious people, not only to colleagues and leaders from various walks of life, but also to children of those who were part of the Scripps community. Shortly after the new year, my son, Armand Barilotti, and I were at Seiche enjoying Walter and Mary’s hospitality.  Armand recalled the times when as a boy he had come to parties hosted by Walter and Judith, and Walter had showed him how to use the “Admiral’s” binoculars. Walter asked what he was doing now, and was glad that Armand became a marine biologist and is part of a group that is helping to restore nearshore habitats and species harmed by pollution. Walter enjoyed meeting children and always had time to talk to them and encourage them in their future pursuits. Walter will be sorely missed by all!"

Camilla Ingram

"When we, the postdocs at IGPP, decided to pursue a research career at IGPP, we took this decision based on the high reputation and research history of the institute. And Prof. Walter Munk is without doubt one of the key contributors to the institute’s success. Most of us did not have the opportunity to meet Prof. Munk personally, but his outstanding career in Geophysics and Oceanography serves as an inspiration and motivation for our present and future scientific endeavors. His vision in shaping the culture at SIO and particularly IGPP has had a profound influence on all of us. As young scientists, we take on the responsibility of continuing Walter Munk’s work - to steer science in new and exciting directions over the next few decades.

We would like to send to the family and friends our deepest condolences for the loss of our distinguished Professor. At the same time, though, we are proud to be the recipients of the extraordinary Walter Munk’s legacy here at IGPP."

The postdocs of the Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego

"The Historical Oceanography Society, President Emeritus Federico De Strobel and Chaiman Giuseppe Manzella express their heartfelt condolences for the loss of Walter Munk. We have a vivid memory of his visit to Lucca, Italy, as part of the International Conference on Data Management. Words can never express our sadness at the disappearance of a person we have admired as a man and as a scientist. We can simply express our pain for our loss."

Giuseppe M.R. Manzella, ETT SpA, The Historical Oceanography Society Chair, ESSD Topical Editor

"During Walter’s 100th birthday science symposium in 2017, he spoke very generously about his life and accomplishments. As he talked about his many experiences, one thing became exceedingly clear to me: Walter pursued joy and happiness alongside all of his accomplishments. He lived life to its fullest. I saved a quote he made about his time on the ski team at Cal Tech. It encapsulated his humor, mirth, mischievousness, and vibrant spirit: 

I was the president of the ski club. Mother was very disappointed. We had a wonderful time.

Walter’s sense of adventure has already influenced my career as an oceanographer and inspired me to find the joy in my scientific pursuits. I will miss him and send love to his family during this sad time."

Marion Alberty

"To the original Wave Hero—Your contributions have inspired the way we understand our oceans, the way we learn about oceanography, and the way we talk about ocean science to the global audience. You have touched many generations of students around the world. Thank you."
Oregon State University Coastal and Ocean Faculty and Students

"I would like to express our most sincere condolences for the death of Prof. Walter Munk. His love for science in general, and oceanography in particular, was a true inspiration for all of us."

Edgar Pavia, Director of the Oceanology Division of CICESE

"Walter Munk, a true giant who defined the field of physical oceanography. His insatiable scientific curiosity and unwavering optimism have inspired generations of oceanographers. May his memory continue to inspire discoveries in science and smiles on our faces."

Raffaele Ferrari

"Yesterday we received the very sad news of Professor Walter Munk passing on February 8, 2019. He was a true legend in oceanography for many years and was so instrumental in carrying our subject from a descriptive endeavor to a true explanatory and fundamental science. His contributions are hardly measurable. His publications on tides, acoustics, internal waves, ocean gyres, surface waves, and the other fields defined physical oceanography for many years to come and notably advanced our understanding of the ocean.

Walter Munk was a very good friend indeed of the Shirshov Institute of Oceanology in Moscow. He visited the Institute many times. The lectures he presented here on tides and internal waves were attended by so many scientists that there was not enough room in the conference hall to keep them from spilling out. These talks left a huge imprint that lasted long after he left and meant a great deal to all of us. His death is a loss to oceanography and global science. Words seem inadequate to express our sadness that such a brilliant scientist passed away. We may say that he led a truly inspirational and long life.

On behalf of all colleagues from the Shirshov Institute of Oceanology, RAS, we express our deepest condolences to Professor Munk's widow Mary and his daughters Edie and Kendall and to all colleagues at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography and all American oceanographers."

Dr. Alexey Sokov, Acting Director, Shirshov Institute of Oceanology

"It is with great sadness that the IAPSO community learned of Walter’s passing on 8th February, 2019. Not only was he an eminent scientist, but also a friend and colleague to many of us and a great supporter of IAPSO. Over more than 70 years he pioneered physical oceanography, giving us new understanding of the oceans across a wide field of oceanographic themes including waves, acoustics, internal waves and mixing, to name just a few.

In 2001, during the joint IAPSO/IABO assembly in Mar del Plata, Argentina, IAPSO awarded Walter its inaugural Prince Albert I medal. There was little doubt that Walter was one of the ‘fathers of oceanography’ and nobody was more deserving than him to receive the award. Many of us well remember the occasion when he gave a wonderful lecture entitled ‘The evolution of physical oceanography in the last hundred years’, which not only covered the science, but also many anecdotes from his scientific career. For many of us in IAPSO this was the first time that we were able to meet and talk to the ‘great man’, and throughout the Assembly he was often seen exuberantly chatting away to younger scientists and more mature colleagues.

Despite his advancing years, he continued to support IAPSO and in 2015, at the age of 98, he was invited to give two talks, one on acoustics and the other on internal waves, at the IUGG/IAPSO Assembly in Prague. It is a mark of the esteem in which he was held, that Walter attracted a large audience, many from the other disciplines of the IUGG family.

We were proud to listen to his presentations and delighted when he cited our works or mentioned them in his talks. His breadth of knowledge of colleague’s work was outstanding and we are sad that we will no longer be able to listen to his brilliant talks except through historical recordings. His passing is a great loss to oceanography, but he was and will continue to be an inspiration to young and old. We feel blessed that as members of the IAPSO community we were able to meet and interact with this ‘Einstein of the oceans’; scientific discussions with Walter were always of great value. The IAPSO community extend their deepest condolences to his widow Mary and daughters Edie and Kendall."

Denise Smythe-Wright, President of the International Association for the Physical Sciences of the Oceans


"On behalf of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, I’d like to express how saddened we are to hear of Walter’s passing and send our sincere condolences to his family, friends, and colleagues.

Walter’s association with WHOI and his commitment to understanding the ocean has been long and distinguished and will not be matched anytime soon. From his research on wind-driven circulation that built on work by Hank Stommel (who in turn had extended work by Harald Sverdrup), to Walter’s studies with Bill von Arx on circulation and mixing after the nuclear tests at Bikini Atoll, and to Mary Sears’ use of his surf prediction model to help direct amphibious landings during WW II, Walter’s work has quite literally shaped modern understanding of our planet.
And Walter’s influence shows every sign of reaching well into the future. WHOI scientists Ken Buesseler and Matt Charette recently visited Bikini and Enewetak to study the flows of radioactive contaminants there with the hope of better understanding the fate of radionuclides from the reactors at Fukushima. Henry Dick is making progress towards drilling into the Moho, an effort first proposed by Walter in 1957. Today, the Walter Munk Award for Distinguished Research in Oceanography Related to Sound and the Sea is the most prized in the field and has been given to two WHOI oceanographers, Jim Lynch and Andone Lavery, and his pioneering research on ocean acoustics continues to inspire scientists young and old. Work on Abyssal Recipes and the Garrett and Munk internal wave spectrum have propelled many WHOI oceanographers, including John Toole, Ray Schmitt, Kurt Polzin, and Jim Ledwell, to seek out Nature’s “secret sauce” for ocean mixing.

Walter’s work with the U.S. Navy, as a scientist, and as a Secretary of the Navy Chair in Oceanography, not only helped the Navy achieve its mission, but he also tirelessly advocated for the continued engagement between the Navy and the academic community. This long partnership has revolutionized both the science and the technology of oceanography.

Walter’s curiosity about ocean phenomena has long driven us. When we were both members of MEDEA, I recall his persistence and excitement about the “spiral eddies” that had been observed in the glint patterns of photographs from the Space Shuttle. A series of complex (and expensive) experiments were proposed, and although the federal agencies did not follow through, Walter authored a comprehensive analysis and model development that appeared in the Proceedings of the Royal Society. Throughout several MEDEA meetings, his mottos of “Keep it simple” and “Make it fun” kept us on course.

Walter once characterized the first century of modern oceanography as a “century of undersampling.” Walter’s life overlaps with that century, but all the science he stimulated and the oceanographers he has inspired would suggest that the first century would be more aptly known as “the century of Walter Munk.”

From the strength of that legacy, we can look forward to another century, one that will be as marked by Walter’s ideas and his drive for knowledge as our work is today. While there will almost certainly never be another like Walter, his example will be one that will continue to drive generations of scientists to ask difficult questions, devise elegant experiments, and always look for excitement and fun in the work we do."

With deepest sympathy,

Mark R. Abbott, President and Director, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

Tributes and Remembrances from WHOI Researchers

“Walter's creativity, generosity, and enthusiasm for life have been an example to us all. I shall miss him but remember him and try in my feeble way to follow his example. I extend my sympathy to Mary and his family, his colleagues at Scripps, and to the people of La Jolla. You have lost a great man, but not the memory of his life and example.”
Jim Ledwell, WHOI Emeritus Research Scholar

"I had the opportunity to interview Walter this past December. He was very frail but overflowing with the vim of life. It is hard to think of him as gone. He was generous with his time even as that time was limited.

Walter's many contributions to oceanography are well known. Henry Stommel once told me that his own theory of the oceanic western intensification was not widely accepted because of its simplified representations of friction, and it was only when Walter's theory with its conventional friction showed the same result that the theory was fully embraced. Whether that was really the case is unclear to me, but it is certainly true that Walter, in his paper, gave full credit to Stommel whom he called “a most singular man” and considered him a superior scientist. That generosity of spirit was one of Walter's most inspiring legacies.

I also like to recall his advice to younger scientists, an encouragement to choose a hard and interesting problem because it interests you, not because someone else thinks it's important and, above all, don't be afraid to fail! He was a giant intellectually and ethically and will be missed for both those virtues."

Joe Pedlosky, WHOI Scientist Emeritus

"Walter was on my thesis committee when I was a graduate student at Scripps. One part of my thesis was a negative result. I had applied a new (at the time) technique and found no signal. Some on the committee felt this was a setback. Walter did not. With his amazing ability to look at nature with continual curiosity, he was fascinated by the negative result, and felt it was just as important as a positive one. His combination of curiosity and kindness was a great help to me in persevering through a challenging time in my thesis work."

Albert Plueddemann, WHOI Senior Scientist

"I have known Walter professionally and personally since the early 80s. In 1986, when I was CNO’s ASW Officer (Director of OP 951), Walter was prominent as a member of mensa group called the JASONs.  They looked at issues at the intersection of science and national defense. At that time, the Navy’s ASW programs were seriously hurt by Soviet espionage. Walter helped us dig our way out.  

Later, when I was the Oceanographer of the Navy (OON), Walter came to me with several recommendations and a request. He was distressed that the Oceanographer was not more deeply involved with science. I responded and actively engaged with science through very active participation with UNOLS and the Ocean studies Board and more. My successors, including: Dick West, Jon White, and David Titley, continued that involvement and have then held important positions in the Oceanography/research community.  

Walter had grand ideas.  He had been behind the deep drilling project, which later morphed into the Ocean Drilling Program. As OON, I had to deal with the high-level policy issue of whether to admit Russia into ODP. The decision was not to admit them.  

He fathered the grand idea of using acoustics to sense the ocean at basin and larger scales to obtain, quasi-real-time, three dimensional, synoptic views of the ocean-a potentially game changer for ocean current forecasting and ASW and also a means to sense ocean temperatures in order track climate change. He came to me asked me to help him use a Navy resource to test his idea from a place called Heard Island. It was very successful with sounds transmitted over 10,000 kilometers. Walter and his collaborators called it “The shot heard round the World.”  NRDC read this and the huge sonar-whale flap ensued. The book “War of the Whales” by Joshua Horwitz (who I introduced to Walter) recounts the story in detail.  

When I was looking at retirement jobs after the Navy, Walter set me up with a meeting with David Packard to be the President of MBARI. I met with Mr. Packard but pulled my name out of consideration; and was then hired by another JASON, Craig Dorman.   

Walter, who had great stature in the Navy, played a key role in keeping the acquisition of ships to replace the aging KNORR and MELVILLE global ships. He argued the case at several levels of the Navy and briefed the NRAC, which was doing a study on why the Navy should buy them. The result is AGOR 27 and AGOR 28 RVs Armstrong and Ride."

Rear Adm. (Ret.) Richard F. Pittenger, former head of WHOI Marine Operations

"On Monday March 15, 1999, I encountered Walter and Judy prior to the 10 AM opening ceremony of the Joint Meeting of the Acoustical Society of America and the European Acoustics Association. We needed to go east a few km in a taxi to the Berliner Philharmonic, and we agreed to share a cab. After successfully jamming the wheel chair into the trunk we were off from the meeting site at the university. At the ceremony we went to the accessible section of the modern concert hall, which was very close to the stage on the left side. The music was grand, and it was a nice way to start a week-long science meeting, spending the morning with such friendly and relaxed people. At times like that one wondered how Dr. Munk could be so productive technically, being so gracious, taking in everything in life, and being so multidimensional. I had the same experience at the Landfall Restaurant in Woods Hole a few years later, the group being about a dozen in size, with the same relaxed Dr. Munk listening as well as entertaining, as he could do so well. Of the dozens of times that I shared a conference room or a meal with Walter, those two stand out as the most relaxing and memorable."

Timothy Duda, WHOI Senior Scientist

"Walter was on the MBARI board for many years, and during my Director of Engineering days I was fortunate to see both the brilliant scientist and the gentle and generous human being behind the legend. I will never forget him telling the story of instrumenting a nuclear test against the danger of submarine landslides - the fear was creating a tsunami that would wipe clean a low-lying but heavily populated island nearby. It was quite the story - for the actual test he ended up on a wooden plywood platform in the ocean watching a chart recorder connected to a tide gauge under a looming mushroom cloud. The high-altitude winds had been predicted incorrectly, and the fallout was carried towards him and a radioactive rain began to fall. A destroyer took him off the platform early so they could be decontaminated. He ended the story by talking about how because he was not on the platform, he didn't see the pressure signal jump due to slippage of the instrument on the mooring, therefore he did not incorrectly send the signal to evacuate the island, and consequently got to keep his job and met his wife. He was one of the only people I ever met who was glad he got caught in radioactive fallout."

James Bellingam, Director, WHOI Center for Marine Robotics

"Others will amplify on Walter’s many tremendous, enduring scientific achievements. I can add little there. The overwhelming recollection I have of Walter is of his gracious, joyous presence. Both as a scientist and as a person, it was always inspiring and reaffirming to be with him."

Kenneth H. Brink, WHOI Scientist Emeritus

Attached file: Munk - illustration

"We at the Provisional Technical Secretariat (PTS) of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) would like to express our sincerest condolences to the family and loved ones of Prof. Munk.

Walter Munk has been a teacher and an inspiration to generations of scientists, including our Hydroacoustics staff, monitoring the world’s oceans for signs of nuclear explosions.  In 2015, we had the pleasure and the privilege of having Prof. Munk visit the CTBTO’s Vienna headquarters for very interesting and stimulating discussions on the partnership between natural and social sciences in support of a sustainable environment. It has been an honor to get to know Prof. Munk – he will be missed."

CTBTO - PTS staff


"On behalf of John Muir College, I express our deepest admiration for Walter Munk as a model of engagement with the world, and of engaging education within and without the classroom. We will miss this likeable centenarian in the community and legendary centurion for oceanography."

K. Wayne Yang, Provost, John Muir College, Associate Professor of Ethnic Studies, UC San Diego


"Walter will forever be an inspiration for us. He never stopped. Last June on a 40-day road trip in Europe, he came to a meeting at Davos to discuss smart cables to support ocean and earth observations in the Arctic. Then in Paris, after receiving the Legion of Honor, he gave the Roger Revelle Memorial Lecture at the IOC Executive Council meeting - characteristically precise and to the point, concluding optimistically (using WWII as precedent) that we, all of us, are up to confronting and dealing with the climate challenge. As we all know, Walter understood the need to connect and bind people together socially, whether with gala events or just Mary, Walter and a few gathering for a quiet dinner under the Hau Tree by Kaimana Beach. On a very personal level, the wedding reception at Seiche way back in 1984 was a wonderful way for us to begin our marriage. Mary, our thoughts are with you."

Fair sailing,
Bruce and Fawn Howe

"My experience of meeting Prof. Walter Munk at San Diego on Memorial Day May 1988 are described in the attached article as a tribute to his greatness. Million parting salutes to the world's most renowned scientist oceanographer...the entire scientific community would miss his innovative research. I recall my visit to his wonderful house where young researchers coming to UCSD were given the opportunity to interact with him. Both Walter Munk and Judith Munk welcomed and provided warmest hospitality. This was in May 1998. May his soul rest in eternal peace."

Dr. Satyendra Bhandari

"The community of CICESE sends its most sincere condolences for the loss of Dr. Walter Munk, to his family, friends and the entire Scripps community."

Guido Marinone

"Having volunteered on the Host Committee of the Kyoto Prize Symposium since 2004, it was a real honor and a privilege to get to know Walter over the past 2 decades. Such a brilliant and fascinating gentleman with a great joy for life. I will treasure the times and the memories. Also, I remember the Shakespeare Festival in their amphitheater. My heartfelt condolences, thoughts and prayers for the entire Munk family."

Edward Mracek

"Please accept our deepest condolences for the loss. Doug Webb and I remember Walter as a very bright scientist and acoustician. We remember our collaboration at the ocean acoustic instruments, it was a great time. We will keep memories about Walter as a treasure."

Doug Webb and Andrey Morozov

"I feel so lost when I heard the news. Mr. Walter Munk was the nicest person I ever met. He was so kind, generous, modest and humble. He was a real gentleman. When he came to my shop, some time he closed his eyes to rest. But as soon as I asked a question or talked to him, he opened his eyes & gave me a big smile first. His face showed the eager listening to whatever I wanted to share. He showed me how kind a person could be to another through all the time I took care of him. It seemed like he had no enemies through all his life. We love you, Walter! We will miss your kindness and generosity of spirit, your good humor, your love of life, and your brilliant mind."

Ha Nguyen

"To the Munk Family, We are deeply saddened by the news of Walter's passing.  Please accept our sincere condolences."

Thinking of you,
Helen and Louisa Diana Brunner


"We all thought he was immortal, because Walter had done so many astonishing things, well, why not? He also was hospitable, genuinely interested, kind, loving, and told great true stories. And he listened, though none of our stories had the other-worldly drama of his. And so many close friends, many of him dying before he did. He was loving and loved. Walter, thank you for existing."

Laura Nathanson


"Please accept my condolences about the loss of Mr. Walter Munk. With caring thoughts at this moment my heart goes to Mrs. Munk and their Family. Mr. Munk was was a very inspiring and charismatic scientific who meant so much for my late husband Jean-François Fels who worked at the IGPP from 1985-2004 under the Direction of Jon Berger team. During our stay in San Diego we shared joyful happy family moments during potlucks at his beautiful garden and at the IGPP family gatherings. We met personally Mr. Munk. His memory, legacy and wisdom will be always alive with us. With all my respect and admiration to a wonderful man who inspired generations to a scientific community."

Cristina Egas-Fels

"I send my condolences to Walter's family and colleagues. And my gratitude to an inspirational extraordinary altruist human being. An encounter we cannot forget, he came to the 5th Coastal Altimetry Workshop in San Diego in 2011 at age 94. A Legend!"

Dr. Jérôme Benveniste, Senior Advisor - European Space Agency (ESA-ESRIN), Directorate of Earth Observation Programmes

"I got to know Walter best when he accepted my invitation to give a seminar at the University of British Columbia in the early 1980s. When he and Judy left they were rushing through the older Vancouver airport and Walter hit a bump and Judy fell on the floor. Judy was in the hospital a couple of days before she could head home and Walter was a very gracious guest at our house. As a former student of Klaus Wyrtki I and Walter had a number of acquaintances in common and it was great to just visit with this very kind and friendly person. It was an experience I will never forget."

Bill Emery, Emeritus Professor, University of Colorado at Boulder

"I am so privileged to have had a chance to share a meal with Walter Munk in his last year. In his 101st year, his charisma, warmth, intelligence and sense of humor were in full display and made the evening memorable. Walter gave me a renewed sense of meaning for the work that we do at UC San Diego. I am very grateful to Mary for hosting that night and I hold her in my thoughts."

Pierre Ouillet, Vice-Chancellor and Chief Financial Officer, UC San Diego


"Going to college as a freshman, where people like Walter Munk taught, would make me feel proud and honored every single day. Science has lost one of its fathers. My sincerest condolences to the people who were loved him the most."

Keshav Mittal


"Walter and Judy were good friends with my mom Josie since the 60s. My brother was good friends with Kendall, their youngest. OK, Rick might say they "dated" but things like that are ill-defined at Muirlands Jr. High. Anyways, the Munks' place is perched on a canyon rim between Scripps Pier and our surfing mecca, Black's Beach. I think Black's powerful surf is generated by a gnarly submarine canyon Walter could monitor from most rooms in the house. As a kid and even much later, the feel of the Munks' place was like a majestic, seaside cottage straight out of J.R.R. Tolkien. There were gatherings at the Munks' place and I can still hear Sam Hinton strumming Apples & Banay-nays in the living room. Walter and Judy fed off the joy they created.

A few years ago, my wife met Walter and still can't get over his kindness, grace and those baby blues. His boyishness and curiosity never faded. I never knew his humor could turn delightfully dark until a tsunami (of questionable size) was scheduled to wash up on La Jolla beaches a decade or two ago. I knew that Walter knew something about it and I emailed him some question or another. In the exchange he said if the wave was large enough, it might wipe out the curious and the bold who brave the shoreline while sparing the lives of the timid who run to higher ground! A Darwinian quandary to be sure.

Rightfully, people will speak of Walter's giant list of professional distinctions. He wore one of his "award jackets" to our wedding and the man has his name on a building for crying' out loud. But I hope people also remember Walter died at 101 with a boyish curiosity and a twinkle in his eyes."

Michael Foulks

"I am personally grateful to Walter for allowing me and my husband to get married in the garden at IGPP (UCSD) in 1970. Although we only saw him a dozen times since, he always remembered us and asked us what we were currently doing. His generosity of hosting multiple charitable organizations and political discussions over the years at his beautiful home (which he designed) should not be ignored. He cared deeply about the welfare of the environment and about people. He was a brilliant scientist and mentor of many graduate and post graduate students. I will remember him for his support of humanitarian, educational, environmental and support for politicians who shared those values."

Carolyn Byrnes Woodbury, Lifelong Environmental Activist


"Walter was an outstanding scientist, a continuous creative force and a gentleman, who opened his home to the UCSD Community for many events. He was warm-hearted and was interested in the views, the work and the ideas of those he met with. We are inspired by him to continue UCSD’s wide contributions. He will be sorely missed."

Julian Schroeder and Marion Spors


"It was with a great sense of loss when we heard about the death of Dr. Walter Munk. Words can never express our sadness when someone who was admired as a scientist has passed away. Dr. Walter Munk was one of the most celebrated oceanographers of his era — a visionary scientist who devoted nearly eight decades to unraveling numerous questions asked over time in different branches of oceanography. I would like to express on behalf of the Chilean Navy Hydrographic and Oceanographic Service and the National Oceanographic Committee of Chile, our deepest and heartfelt condolences."

Pedro Figueroa, Captain, Deputy Director, Chilean Navy Hydrographic and Oceanographic Service

"My name is Peisen Tan, an undergraduate student from Ocean University of China whose major is Physical Oceanography. I am also an applicant for PhD program in SIO, UCSD for Fall 2019. The reason I chose SIO is that, Dr. Munk has always been my idol and I wanted to follow his footsteps. He is a great Oceanographer, a life-lover and also a freedom fighter in the WW2. His theory of Ocean Circulation, Garrett-Munk Spectrum etc. have been and will forever be a great treasure for mankind. And his spirit toward life and family is another that keeps encouraging me. Thank you, Dr. Munk, for guiding me even if I haven't met you in person. I will try to be someone like you in my life. God bless you, Dr. Munk."

Peisen Tan, College of Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences, Ocean University of China

"Our heartfelt condolences. End of an era. It was great occasion to meet renowned oceanographer, who did path-breaking research on waves, tidal energy etc. Still remember my maiden visit to Prof. Munk's home, with my family, on Memorial Day in 2001, during my tenure as Visiting Scientist at Scripps Institution of Oceanography.  If I recall correctly, it was a yearly affair, he used to call all young scientists and scholars of SIO to visit his house for pot-luck lunch. He and his wife Judith warmly welcomed all of us and had introduction with all assembled there. It was a memorable day meeting with one of the great oceanographers, whose well cited papers we read earlier in our career and still referred. RIP."

Dr. Raj Kumar


"My condolences to Munk's familiy. Here the Brazilian oceanographers felt so much his passage."
Wellington Ceccopieri


"Walter Munk's was a truly inspirational life in pursuit of scientific understanding and education. Thank you for sharing some of his story."
Mario DiAntonio


"Walter Munk was a prince of a man. Got to know him a little when I worked one summer at Scripps Oceanography. My condolences to his family."
Michael Nova MD PhD


"I express the most sincere condolences to Walter's pass. He was a great personality and a great scientist."
Vladimir Kamenkovich


"RIP Dr. Munk."
John Kermond


"To one of the very finest and respectful scientists."
Antonia Howarth-Wass


"I met him only once or twice, but he made a huge impression on me. He was so influential to ocean science. May he rest in peace."
Hal Batchelder, North Pacific Marine Science Organization (PICES)


"A huge loss for all of science. The Rotation of the Earth (Munk & MacDonald) was inspirational for me."
Peter Olson


"A great and unique oceanographer who pursued his research even after completing his 100th birthday!"
MM Ali


“Fair winds and following seas.”
Jim Teague

"Walter touched the lives of many people. Some high-profile and some, like I, minor characters in the cast of life.

What made me think of Walter as a personal hero is that he was involved and passionate about science up to his end. I remember a conversation where a very animated Walter Munk expounded upon the importance of taking data to validate models as opposed to creating models from whole cloth.

At a summer meeting ~2014, an elder Walter urged me to walk ahead because he walked too slow as he used a walker. There was no hurry and we walked together. We had a general conversation about technical issues when we reached a flight of stairs. He looked at me and asked if I would take his walker. I said, 'Of course.' He pulled himself up the stairs using a handrail despite an elevator being a short distance away. He took the walker from me at the top of the stairs and we continued the conversation. He may have lost mobility but not the desire to do things himself.

During the lunch he described how he was going to Tasmania to present at a conference asking for resources to perform an experiment and describing the beauty of the country.

The following year at the same time we sat down and I asked him if he got all the resources he needed. 'No, but I received a pledge for the most important part.' 'What is that?' I ask. He replies he had a pledge for use of an icebreaker and described the need to take data at the interface where glaciers lift from the sea floor in order to understand glacial melt. Remember it is all about data for validation.

I will remember Walter not only for his exuberance for his work but for life itself. He was always approachable and would readily engage anyone who would take the time to do so.

Anyone who knows me may have heard me say 'I want to be like Walter.' No chance for the recognition, but perhaps for the desire and ability to contribute to the betterment of the world up to the time when we no longer walk this earth. We don't have a full say in the outcome but we can have a goal."

Bill Semancik, MIT Lincoln Laboratory


"Let me just add my voice to those others who have benefited from Dr. Munk's work. I used the Cox - Munk sea-surface tilt distribution in my research. I realized when I read those papers that there were a couple very smart and creative guys involved. Thanks and respect for Walter Munk and Charles Cox."

Dr. David Bates, Assistant Scientist, NOAA/AOML


"As a mechanical engineer in Ireland working on underwater noise I had to read many publications to develop the knowledge of physics and oceanography required. Practically everything I read made reference to Walter’s work. He was a true pioneer. For me he was a mystical figure, a scientific genius and I never imagined I would meet him. Then I got the opportunity when he visited Europe for a conference organised by TNO. I got to sit with him for about half an hour on the Sunday evening before the conference and found him thoroughly engaging. His intellect and ambition for future research at such an advanced age was awe inspiring. I can honestly say that of all the people I’ve met, as a scientist and as a human being, he left the greatest impression on me."

Ar dheis Dé go raibh a hanam uasal - 'May his noble soul be at the right hand of God'

Eugene McKeown


"My heartfelt condolences to Mary, Professor Munk's family, many colleagues and friends who loved him. I feel fortunate to have met him and will continue to learn from him. Professor Munk was and continues to be a great inspiration to many including myself. We celebrate his life by continuing to ride in his wake by unlocking the many secrets of the Ocean to better understand our World."

Captain John Clutter, m/v ALEUTIAN EXPRESS


"To a world renowned Geophysicist and Oceanographer, Walter Munk,You have given young researchers like myself a part to follow. You're indeed an Icon. Your legacy lives on! Rest in peace great one."

Faith Osasogie Obasuyi, Graduate Assistant in the Department of Physics, University of Jos, Nigeria


"For decades, Walter and Judith (and later Mary) Munk graciously invited Oceanids UCSD Newcomers (postdocs, visiting scholars and new faculty) to their home for a potluck lunch on Memorial Day! Many of the international visitors told us that this was the first American home that they had been invited to during their stay at UCSD. (Tongue in check, we would tell the Newcomers that, of course, all Americans live in homes like this.) Walter would sit at the nametag table and welcome the guests, asking them where they came from and what they were working on here at UCSD. The guests were “blown away” that such a brilliant and world-renowned professor would be genuinely interested in them! And that Walter would open his home and garden to them and their families! We were very lucky to have known him, and glad that so many visitors to our campus were able to take away such treasured memories!

Georgina Sham and Liz Fong Wills of the Oceanids UCSD Newcomers Committee


"The end of a legend. But the legacy of Walter will be remembered forever. Walter was my hero and he changed my life, and -most of all- my attitude to life. It was an honor (and always very impressive) to have discussions with Walter.

As a student working on internal tides and waves, I met Walter in 1995 during a summer school in Cambridge UK and I was thrilled when almost 20 years later he accepted the invitation to open our conference on Effects of Sound in the Ocean on Marine Mammals (ESOMM) in Amsterdam in 2014. There, he gave a memorable lecture on acoustic tomography, by then “only” at 96 years old.

After that time we could stay in touch and I was invited a couple of times to the home of Walter and Mary. Last year I had the privilege to attend the ceremony in Paris where Walter received the Legion d’Honeur and last December we had another wonderful 1-on-1 conversation in La Jolla, while overlooking the ocean. Walter kept amazing me with stories from history, bringing so close the science of almost a century ago, with people like Nansen, Amundsen and H.U.Sverdrup, just to name a few.

I feel very grateful to have known this great and remarkable man. I was always feeling very welcome at the home of Walter and Mary and all conversations were extremely inspiring, motivating me too to stay curious and keep meeting new people until the very end."

Frans-Peter Lam, Senior Scientist, Acoustics & Sonar, Netherlands Institute for Applied Scientific Research TNO

"Dear Prof. Walter Munk, It was deeply shocking for me when I read your obituary article during my onboard D/V Chikyu on 08 Feb. It was also D/V Chikyu to meet you at the first time on 03 Nov. in 2012 during Exp. 338 Nankai Trough expedition. You are the oldest record who have ever visited onboard. We spent a pleasant time to introduce our research activities, drilling operation, individual majors and onboard lives. In commemoration of your visiting to D/V Chikyu at that time, our research library is renewed and named as 'Walter Munk Library.' And Yes! it becomes a really inspired floating space for all shipboard participants to do daring research!"

Yukari Kido, Center for Deep Earth Exploration (CDEX), Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology


"We have been far away the past month and just heard the somehow shocking news of Walter not being here to have yet one more full of life moment.

His full of life-ness added not only knowledge but joy, beauty, curiosity... energy to the universe. And that wonderful, up to something smile.

Forever with us. All our sympathy to wonderful Mary."

With love and deep sadness,
Susan Kleinberg and Les Guthman


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