The Log from the Sea of Cortez

By John Steinbeck,

Book cover of The Log from the Sea of Cortez

Book description

In 1940 Steinbeck sailed in a sardine boat with his great friend the marine biologist, Ed Ricketts, to collect marine invertebrates from the beaches of the Gulf of California. The expedition was described by the two men in SEA OF CORTEZ, published in 1941. The day-to-day story of the trip…

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Why read it?

5 authors picked The Log from the Sea of Cortez as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

I’d always thought of Steinbeck as an elegant moralist, but this book reveals him as a poet of pure joy, offering the fun of escapist fantasy without the guilty aftertaste.

A journal of an expedition through the Gulf of California with the biologist Ed Ricketts, the model for Cannery Row’s “Doc,” the book is a love letter to a vanished world and time that captures the manic pleasures of traveling with people who love nothing more than the sweaty, sunburned work of studying the astonishing life of the sea (and, once in a while, of the shore). 

I first read this book long before I ever set foot south of Ensenada, and was immediately captivated by it—I loved how Steinbeck would wax deeply philosophical at times, but never lost the thread of the story of their journey.

This book is funny too! When Russel and I were sailing in the Sea of Cortez, we would pick it up and read the sections about the temperamental outboard engine Steinbeck dubbed the “Sea Cow,” and laugh out loud at his anecdotes. I am also fascinated by science and the ocean, and reading the book was like an overview class…

In this nonfiction book, American author John Steinbeck narrates the boat research expedition to collect marine specimens that he made with his friend, marine biologist Ed Ricketts in the Gulf of California. As a marine biologist, I loved this book, but be careful because this extended travelogue blending adventure, science, and philosophy is not for everyone! 

From Maddalena's list on the ocean and its inhabitants.

Although best known for his extraordinary works of fiction, John Steinbeck’s sensitivity to place is most profoundly exposed in this daily account of his expedition to the Gulf of California with his good friend and marine biologist, Ed Ricketts. Their research on this remote body of water carried them into a world of deep insights about life, philosophy, and the nature of being that Steinbeck’s exquisite prose allows the reader to experience. Repeatedly, the important consequences of living in isolation from the rest of the world is beautifully conveyed. A lyrical unity of science, reflection, solitude, and the value of…

From William's list on fieldwork in wild places.

In 1940, author John Steinbeck accompanied marine biologist, Ed Rickets (the inspiration for the character Doc in his book Cannery Row), on a six-week research expedition to the Gulf of California, also known as the Sea of Cortez, onboard the converted sardine fishing boat, The Western Flyer. This book is based on notes written by Rickets, edited by Steinbeck, and gives fascinating insights into the animals they were finding and collecting as well as the two men’s philosophical outlook on marine ecology. A quote I especially like is:

It is advisable to look from the tide pool to the…

From Helen's list on the ocean and seas.

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