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.


"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*


In the spring of 2004, we retraced the research voyage that John Steinbeck and Ed Ricketts made to the Sea of Cortez in 1940. On this page and through the links to the right you can read more about our journey and compare what we found in the tide pools along the coast of Baja to the environment and communities there today.

We posted a daily log of our voyage via satellite hookup during our expedition. In Baja, we invited local school kids to join us on some of our surveys, much like the kids who joined Steinbeck and Ricketts at El Mogote in La Paz, in one of the most memorable incidents on their trip. We worked with the San Diego Natural History Museum's binational environmental education program, PROBEA, to make this possible.

We hope you enjoy the journey.

Jon Christensen, Steinbeck Fellow
San Jose State University

William F. Gilly, Biologist
Hopkins Marine Station of Stanford University


* From THE LOG FROM THE SEA OF CORTEZ by John Steinbeck, copyright 1941 by John Steinbeck and Edward F. Ricketts. Copyright renewed (c) 1969 by John Steinbeck and Edward F. Ricketts, Jr. Used by permission of Viking Penguin, a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

photo by L.A. Cicero
Stanford News Service