Return to the Sea of Cortez

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In 1940, author John Steinbeck and scientist Ed Ricketts made a momentous voyage down the peninsula of Baja California and around the Sea of Cortez (the Gulf of California).  In 2004, a group of scientists set out to revisit the sites explored by the earlier expedition.  Return to the Sea of Cortez is the story, in English and Spanish, of these adventures.


Steinbeck and Ricketts set out in their boat, the Western Flyer, to discover all they could of the marine biology in the tidewater areas of the gulf.  The expedition of 2004, 64 years later in the vessel Gus D, revisited the original field sites and compared the results to those observed by Steinbeck and Ricketts in 1940.


You will meet the scientists and crews of both expeditions, learn the scientific techniques of marine biological survey, share the adventure of costal exploration, and learn of the efforts to preserve the region’s faunas and ecosystems.


Discover fireworms, argonauts, brittle stars, sun stars, urchins, anemones, snails, limpets and sally lightfoot crabs aplenty!



Then and Now:  discover how the gulf’s ecosystems have changed over time.  Numbers of large fish, sharks, and sea turtles are way down, as are some invertebrates, such as echinoderms like brittle stars, urchins, cucumbers and sea stars.  Numbers of jumbo squid and vermetids, tube dwelling snails that attach to rocks, are way up.


Learn of the communities of La Paz, Cabo San Lucas, Punta Lobos, and Cayo, remote areas such as Marcial, and the islands of Isla Rasa, Tiburon and Isla Angel de la Guarda.  See how local kids learn to care about the ocean.


Fun for all ages!



Return to the Sea of Cortez was organized by Nancy Burnett with support from Chuck Baxter, William Gilly and Exequiel Ezcurra.  Visit for logs of the journey, teacher’s guides and much more.