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Point 1 - Welcome to the Santa Cruz Municipal Wharf and Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary

Move your mouse over the numbers on the map for a brief description and click to go there.

Point 1Welcome to the Santa Cruz Wharf. You have just left land behind and now stand over the sea that covers three quarters of the globe. It might be more accurate to call our world the earth/sea. Life began in the oceans and the oceans continue to shape terrestrial life everyday. We'll discuss this as we go along.

You also stand on the most recent of five wharves since 1850. This is the longest public wharf on the West Coast: a half mile long. With about 4,500 wood pilings, it makes a bend at the last third to accommodate the oncoming wave action. It was also designed like this to accommodate the loading of ships.

The Wharf was originally built for commerce but has become primarily recreational over the years. It is now an open marine park. The very first wharf was built to provide access for carts to carry loads of potatoes to rowboats, which carried these out to anchored schooners. From here, they sailed to San Francisco and from there to the Gold Rush country and lots of hungry 49ers. Succeeding commercial shipments over the years were lime and gunpowder. One of the historic five Wharves was called the Powder Wharf for exactly this reason.

Wharves generally don't last long without constant maintenance because of the strength of the sea. The Pacific is not as peaceful as its name implies. Our coast is very active and wild in character. Brine and surf wears everything down; even the continent. The sand you see on the beach results from wearing down of the coastline and river sediments from the mountains.

Entrance to the half-mile long Wharf and first kiosk with the Sanctuary map.


It's easy to think we are looking west as we look out to sea, but actually as you walk down the wharf, you are walking directly south or even southeast, not west. We are gazing from the northern end of Monterey Bay directly south. "West" is actually to your right. What seems to be an "an island" in the distance is the Santa Lucia Mountains above the city and point of Monterey.

Here you can see on the map of the Marine Sanctuary where we are in comparison to the rest of the coastline. The map also shows you that we are in the middle of a very special place, which is why our region was designated a National Marine Sanctuary.

Just as on land, some parts of the ocean and coastal environment are more unique than others. We have Yosemite in the Sierra, Big Basin Redwoods State Park in the Coastal Ranges, and the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary here. The Marine Sanctuary was designated 6 years ago after 17 years of study and negotiation. It is largest of the nation's 12 marine sanctuaries. It is contiguous with two other marine sanctuaries off San Francisco: the Gulf of the Farollones and Cordell Bank. All of central coastal California is biologically rich as well as geographically varied. It has a number of undersea mountains and canyons.

On the Sanctuary chart in the kiosk, you can see depicted the Monterey Submarine Canyon, deepest in the continental United States. In the middle of Monterey Bay, if you take a big breath and dive straight down, you will go two miles before you hit bottom. The canyon is about 10,000 feet deep. In fact, the average depth of all the oceans is about 10,000 feet. Monterey Canyon attracts deep ocean marine life very close to shore, such as whales and life forms only found far offshore. We'll see some pictures of these as we go. And we'll visit the new Marine Sanctuary office.

But before we go, let's take one more look around us. Here we can most plainly appreciate the transition from a terrestrial to marine environment.

But let's walk on. We have half a mile to go.

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Last updated: 6/30/2009 4:47:55 PM