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Fall 2002

Back to the Sea of Cortez:
Sailing with the spirits of John Steinbeck and Ed Ricketts
on a new journey of discovery around Baja California


L.A. Cicero photo, Stanford News Service

On March 11, a team of scientists led by Dr. William F. Gilly from Hopkins Marine Station in Monterey, California, will embark on a 73-foot fishing boat to retrace the historic expedition that John Steinbeck and Edward F. "Doc" Ricketts made to explore the Sea of Cortez in 1940. Their journey was immortalized in a book they wrote together, The Log from the Sea of Cortez, still a popular and accessible paperback.

Jon Christensen, a science writer and Steinbeck Fellow at San Jose State University, will travel with the current expedition and post a daily log of the journey online. The educational website and log of the scientific and literary expedition beginning March 11 is online at www.seaofcortez.org and www.mardecortes.org.

Teachers and students everywhere are
invited to join the expedition online.

At various sites along the way, students and teachers in Baja California will join the expedition for a day of studying life in the tide pools. Teachers and students everywhere are invited to join the expedition online, to communicate with the crew by e-mail, and to explore the connections between science, literature, history, the environment, conservation, and our oceans online. For more information, e-mail jonchristensen@nasw.org or call (650) 320-9504.

The Sea of Cortez Expedition and Education Project is sponsored by the Hopkins Marine Station of Stanford University, the San Diego Natural History Museum's binational education program PROBEA (Proyecto Bio-regional de Educación Ambiental), the Steinbeck Fellows Program and the Martha Heasley Cox Center for Steinbeck Studies at San Jose State University, the California Center for Ocean Science Education Excellence, the International Community Foundation, the Ocean Foundation, and The Nature Conservancy.

From The Log from the Sea of Cortez:

In rubber boots we moved over the flat uncovered by the dropping tide; a silty sand made the water obscure when a rock or  a piece of coral was turned over. And as always when one is collecting, we were soon joined by a number of small boys. The very posture of search, the slow movement with the head down, seems to draw people. "What did you lose?" they ask.

"Nothing."

"Then what do you search for?" And this is an embarrassing question. We search for something that will seem like truth to us;  we search for understanding; we search for that principle which keys us deeply into the pattern of all life; we search for the relations of things, one to another, as this young man searches for a warm light in his wife's eyes and that one for the hot warmth of fighting. These little boys and young men on the tide flat do not even know that they search for such things too. We say to them, "We are looking for curios, for certain small animals."

Then the little boys help us to search ...  Once they know you are generally curious, they bring amazing things. Perhaps we only practice an extension of their urge. It is easy to remember when we were small and lay on our stomachs beside a tide pool and our minds and eyes went so deeply into it that size and identity were lost, and the creeping hermit crab was our size and the tiny octopus a monster. Then the waving algae covered us and we hid under a rock at the bottom and leaped out at fish. It is very possible that we, and even those who probe space with equations, simply extend this wonder.

                               - John Steinbeck & Edward F. Ricketts

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