Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Caltech Marine Lab – China Cove

My childhood buddy and best friend, Mollie, pointed out to me that when I posted my Corona del Mar prequel that I failed to make any comments about the Caltech Marine Lab (aka Kerckhoff Marine Lab) which is the one landmark structure still remaining in China Cove today. I don't know how I could have forgotten to share some of the really great times that involved the Marine Lab in one form or another.

It was on the rocks surrounding the site that we filled our days with activity, climbing on the rocks, that stood taller in those days, not only because of our relative size at the time, but also because it was before a variety of construction projects occurred and caused the sand to shift and fill-in the area. In those childhood summer days we could dive from the rocks at high tide in complete confidence that we would not break our little necks. Today the rocks that protrude above the sand are probably no higher than three feet.

Sometimes I would get a "job" when Professor George McGinnity would allow me to wash the test tubes. I remember the importance that each test tube needed to be rinsed thoroughly in distilled water before it was ready to set aside for the next experiments. The main level of the Marine Lab housed the lab areas, tanks full of all type of sea creatures, and a small kitchen where the students could cook their meals. Upstairs was the class room and sleeping quarters. Later when the class size increased, a canvass awning was placed on the roof to increase the available bunk space.

I was never in sync age-wise with the students that would come and go each summer, always treated like the little sister, and forever hanging around. Mom and Dad would invite the boys over each summer for barbeque and even an occasional bridge game. They were a smart group of guys that I found totally fascinating.

Mollie wondered what ever happened to those guys, making a comment that by now they are probably all dead. I wish I could remember their names it would be fun to know what career path they followed. I did come across one of the summer guys, Charles Brokaw, on the Cal Tech website. He received his B.S., Caltech 1955; Ph.D., University of Cambridge, 1958, Visiting Assistant Professor, Caltech, 1960; Assistant Professor, 1961-63; Associate Professor, 1962-68, Professor, 1968-2000, and is currenty Professor of Biology Emeritus.

Here is a little blurb that I found on the Caltech web-site that I thought was interesting:

The Kerckhoff Marine Lab is located at 101 Dahlia Avenue in Corona del Mar, CA (tel.949-675-2159). The lab is equipped with an excellent running sea water system, and a number of wet labs as well as laboratory spaces for molecular biology or other research operations requiring instrumentation. Caltech's research boat is moored there. This is a 24-foot Monterey Explorer 230 fiberglass vessel with excellent working space, that is suitable for research diving and specified collection. The Marine Lab has what may be the world's best egg-to-egg culture system for Strongylocentrotus purpuratus, the California purple sea urchin which is the major workhorse of the laboratory of embryonic gene expression. The laboratory was acquired by T.H.Morgan soon after the founding of the Division of Biology in 1928. Among the eminent Caltech scientists who have worked there, in addition to Morgan himself, have been G.E.McGinnity, Heinz Lowenstam, Charles Brokaw, and Roy Britten who is in residence there at present.

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