The Journal of San Diego History
Winter 1995, Volume 41, Number 1
Richard W. Crawford, Editor

Book Review

The San Diego-La Jolla Underwater Park Ecological Reserve: A Field Guide, Vol. 1.

By Judith Lea Garfield. San Diego: Picaro Publishing, 1994. Photographs. Bibliography. Index. 64 pages. $19.95. Buy this book.

Reviewed by Patricia A. Schaelchlin, author of research reports and articles about San Diego historic preservation; author of The Little Clubhouse on Steamship Wharf: The San Diego Rowing Club and La Jolla: The Story of a Community, 1887-1987.

For thousands of years, back to the time of the Indian nomads, man has walked along the shores of La Jolla. He has gathered from the sea, played in the surf, fished from the shore and watched the sun set in the far west. Surrounded by the brooding “Alligator Head” (a rock arch formation), the ocean and the sandy terraces pockmarked with tidepools, the La Jolla Cove is the area’s most historic spot. The land around the Cove was protected by being identified as a park in the 1887 first subdivision of La Jolla and was appropriately called “La Jolla Park.” On October 18, 1927, it was dedicated as the Ellen Browning Scripps Park in recognition of Miss Scripps’ 91st birthday and for her many contributions to La Jolla. It does not make any difference what that 5.6 acre parcel is called, it is a regional treasure enjoyed by everyone.

The Cove is a general meeting place and is the site of constant activity. The trees are old, stunted, and gnarled. Few of us, the strollers along the shoreline, know what lies just below the water level, but after thumbing through Judith Lea Garfield’s San Diego-La Jolla Underwater Ecological Reserve, I now know. It is filled with feathery strands of kelp, grasses, and anemones. There are octopi and lobster and powder blue starfish, eels, and bat rays. Brilliantly colored garibaldi, sheephead, and schools of blacksmith swim around down there too. It is another world, timeless, quiet, fragile, and beautiful.

The San Diego City Council recognized this significant natural resource in 1970 when six thousand submerged acres were declared an underwater park. A year later, 514 of these acres were included in a “look but don’t touch” ecological reserve. It is this reserve, with emphasis on the Cove area, that Ms. Garfield explores.

The book is very well organized. Intended as a field guide, it uniformly identifies forty-nine underwater and shoreline flora and fauna by appearance, size, where found, and what they feed upon. There are forty-nine primary colored photographs, an index, a history of the area, and even hints as to how to “maximize your sightings.” The introduction is written by Dr. Bert Kobayashi (a marine biologist and one of the most prominent advocates for the protection of ocean resources) who emphasizes the value of this book as a learning tool, a “must-have” companion for divers and snorkelers. It is, additionally, a very important lesson to those of us who will never see the braided hair algae or the surf grass and the leopard sharks who are supposedly not dangerous. We can, however, through this book, appreciate what a unique ocean habitat we have. Judith Lea Garfield is well qualified to present this information. As a biologist, she has sixteen years of scuba diving experience and has logged many hours photographing and observing our underwater park. I do recommend this book for anyone interested in our ocean life. It is succinct but complete, beautifully illustrated and research well.

Since all reviews should be critiques, I will add mine. This is not meant to be a criticism, perhaps more of a request. I know there are other living things in the San Diego-La Jolla Underwater Park Ecological Reserve. I suspect that there are many man-made things deposited on the ocean floor over these many years. Just in case I should put on a wet suit and venture into the deep some day, I would like to know everything about what I would encounter in that other world. Since this book is subtitled “Vol. I,” I hope this means that a second volume is in progress.

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