If they gave mud to Gore, what’ll be fit for a prince?

That is the question haunting Tony Haymet, the director of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Prince Albert II of Monaco will visit San Diego Oct. 23, his first official visit here, to accept Scripps’ Roger Revelle Prize for his environmental advocacy.

Former Vice President Al Gore received the first Revelle prize named for the late former director of Scripps, in March.

Gore was presented a jar of mud. But it wasn’t just any mud. It was part of Scripps’ research collection. The sediment was removed from the floor of the mid-Pacific Ocean during a 1950s expedition run by Revelle himself. When Revelle taught at Harvard, he mentored Gore, a student there, and stimulated Gore’s passion for the environment.

It is becoming tradition that the Revelle Prize shouldn’t be a another plaque or glass sculpture to put in an honoree’s trophy warehouse, Haymet says, but a meaningful item from Scripps’ research.

When Haymet met with the prince 18 months ago in Monaco, he gave him a small rock. Like the mud, it was a specimen from Scripps’ collection that holds a place in history. The rock came from the Tonga Trench, one of the deepest holes in the ocean floor. An oceanographer’s “smoking gun,” the rock helped validate the theory of plate tectonics, or movement of the Earth’s crust.

A piece of this rock also was carried into space by Scripps graduate-turned-astronaut Megan McArthur on a recent mission. Her piece now has the distinction of having journeyed from more than 35,000 feet below the ocean surface to about 387 miles above it.

While Haymet hasn’t yet decided what the prize will be in October, he hints that it may relate to rising ocean acidity, a topic of special concern to the prince, a staunch promoter of the Monaco Declaration, an ocean acidification warning to the world signed in January by marine scientists from 26 countries.

Meanwhile, Scripps is forging a long-term relationship with the prince on climate change issues and hopes to jointly develop exhibits.

Diane Bell, SignOnSanDiego.com, 11 July 2009. Full article.

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