Expedition will retrace legendary Steinbeck-Ricketts voyage to the Sea of Cortez

March 11 will mark the 64th anniversary of one of the most celebrated expeditions in the history of American letters. On that day in 1940, a boat carrying novelist John Steinbeck; his wife, Carol; and marine biologist Ed ''Doc'' Ricketts left the chilly waters of Monterey, Calif., and headed south to explore the relatively isolated coast of Mexico's Gulf of California, also known as the Sea of Cortez. The trip, which lasted six weeks and covered 4,000 miles, was part scientific fieldwork and part adventure - an unforgettable journey that Steinbeck and Ricketts documented in their 1941 book, Sea of Cortez: A Leisurely Journal of Travel and Research.

Now, more than six decades later, a team of scientists and scholars is planning to retrace that legendary voyage.

The Sea of Cortez Expedition and Education Project, led by researchers from Stanford University's Hopkins Marine Station, will embark from Monterey on March 11, 2004, in the Gus D, a 73-foot wooden commercial fishing boat that bears a striking resemblance to the 76-foot sardine boat, Western Flyer, chartered by Ricketts and Steinbeck. When the Gus D returns to Monterey in the first week of May, it will have stopped at many of the same villages, beaches and remote intertidal habitats that the Western Flyer visited in 1940.

''The purpose of the new trip is to see how things have changed,'' says William F. Gilly, a professor of biological sciences at Hopkins Marine Station and director of the Sea of Cortez project. He says that a major goal of the 2004 expedition will be to raise international awareness about the impact of tourism, commercial fishing and farming on a region that Ricketts and Steinbeck said was ''fairly untouched'' and ''ferocious with life'' in 1940.

''I spend a lot of time down there, and I've seen only one or two places that I suspect haven't changed at all - places where there are no roads and that you can only get to by boat,'' Gilly explains. ''I'd really like

Contact: Mark Shwartz
Stanford University

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