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

nd his wife, Carol, moved to the Monterey Peninsula. Ricketts was living and working in a small commercial laboratory that he owned and operated on Monterey's Cannery Row, just a few blocks from Hopkins Marine Station. Born in Chicago in 1897, Ricketts came to California in 1923 after dropping out of the University of Chicago. His lab served as his principal business from 1923 until his death in 1948, at age 50.

"We have concluded that all collecting trips to fairly unknown regions should be made twice; once to make mistakes and once to correct them."--FROM "SEA OF CORTEZ"

During their expedition, Ricketts and Steinbeck, with the help of Carol and the crew of the Western Flyer, collected several hundred marine species - including approximately 50 previously unidentified invertebrates - from 21 collecting sites along both shores of the southern half of the Gulf of California and on several islands. ''We wanted a picture as nearly whole of the Gulf as possible,'' the authors wrote, so they collected as many invertebrate species as they could find, including snails, sea stars, sea cucumbers, crabs, urchins and sponges.

However, no attempt was made to conduct an accurate census of these creatures or collect much physical data, such as water temperature, wind speed or salinity. As a result, it will be difficult to make quantitative comparisons between the gulf in 1940 and today, cautions Chuck Baxter, an authority on intertidal ecology who taught at Hopkins Marine Station from 1974 to 1993.

''It will be hard to convince anyone what the differences are in the intertidal fauna, because there weren't any real ecological studies done in 1940 - no counts in specified quadrates, no sampling or anything like that,'' he says. ''But if there are species that they mentioned as being very abundant and now you don't see them, you have a pretty good idea that the reason is because the fauna has changed.''


Contact: Mark Shwartz
Stanford University

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