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The Log from the Sea of Cortez

3.84  ·  Rating details ·  4,545 ratings  ·  424 reviews
An alternate edition can be found here.

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 is told here in the Log, which combines scienc
Paperback, Penguin Modern Classics, 288 pages
Published January 18th 2001 by Penguin Books Ltd (first published 1951)
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Henry Avila
Apr 14, 2019 rated it liked it
On the Sea of Cortez, a much more exotic name (also known as the Gulf of California) seemingly the ideal place for an expedition in marine specimen- gatherings, both John Steinbeck and Ed Ricketts need to escape modern life the 1940 version, women trouble. Mr. Ricketts a renowned marine biologist without a degree is the expert, Mr. Steinbeck the famous writer the money man, they hire a sardine boat at Monterey in the Golden State, the 77 -foot Western Flyer, with a colorful crew of four, keep th ...more
Joe Valdez
Oct 29, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoirs

On March 11, 1940, John Steinbeck and his good friend, the marine biologist Ed Ricketts (who served as Steinbeck's inspiration for the character of "Doc" in Cannery Row and Sweet Thursday) cast off from Monterey Bay with a chartered crew of four aboard a 75-foot purse seiner christened the Western Flyer. Their makeshift expedition made way for the Gulf of California. Or, as the narration goes, "Once it was called the Sea of Cortez, and that is a better-sounding and a more exciting name. We stopp
Do you ever catch yourself smiling like an idiot when you're reading something pleasurable? Well, my smile muscles hurt.

The log begins with an introduction Steinbeck wrote, "About Ed Ricketts," after his travel companion from the journey chronicled here died. It's gorgeous! What an fascinating man he was!! I had just read Cannery Row, and Ricketts inspired the character of Doc, so I was happy to learn about him, or at least what could be related to me in 50 pages or so. Steinbeck mentions that
I'm not sure I've ever read another book that was so full of life, in every sense of the word. Steinbeck and Ricketts portray an existence and a philosophy that seem impossibly engaged, impossibly full, and it isn't long before you're there on the boat beside them, a can of beer in one hand and a dip net in the other, peering into blue shallows in search of strange and beautiful creatures.

It's bohemian (two guys charter a boat to go tidepooling around the Gulf of California, mostly for the hell
Late, late in the night we recalled that Horace says fried shrimps and African snails will cure a hangover. Neither was available.

I called a stop to this @ 63%. I skim read to the end to see if the log ever changes into something that has a structure - or a point.

It may be that I am not in the right mood for this book, but from everything I have read, I get the impression that to be in the right frame of mind to read this book I would have to be on that boat, with a beer (not the first of the d
Sep 20, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book and there isn't any review that I could write that could do it justice. I enjoyed getting to know John Steinbeck and his friends. I enjoyed his philosophical dissertations about life. (Although, I will admit, there was one chapter that I did doze through.) Yes, it is interesting that we spend so much money on health care and so much money on war to kill us. Yes, I agree we spend so much on STUFF so that one neurotic generation raises another neurotic generation. It is also inte ...more
May 01, 2011 rated it really liked it
I love Steinbeck. Pure and simple. He seems incapable of lapses in writing and has an uncanny ability to captivate his readers. Okay, he taps into an innate geographical bias. California born and bred, I relish visiting those locales around Monterey and the San Joaquin Valley that Steinbeck describes in his novels. Plus he attended Stanford (a decade or so after my grandparents and sixty years before moi), although he did not finish. For years I have devoured whatever I could find from Steinbeck ...more
M. Sarki
Jan 27, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was especially taken with the last section found in the appendix that honored the life and death of Steinbeck's great friend Ed Ricketts. What a wonderful tribute to a person who meant so much to so many in that part of the country. The entire book was certainly an enjoyable and satisfying read. It was good to hear this voice again. ...more
Jerome Peterson
Nov 09, 2012 rated it really liked it
‘In 1940 John Steinbeck sailed in a sardine boat, Western Flyer, with his great friend the biologist Edward F. Ricketts to collect marine invertebrates from the beaches of the Gulf of California. This expedition was described by the two men in The Sea of Cortez, published in 1941. The day-to-day story of the trip is given in the Log, which combines science, philosophy, and high spirited adventure. This edition includes Steinbeck’s profile of his collaborator, “About Ed Ricketts.”’

The best of Ste
Aug 03, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Yes, it meanders some, and yes, I felt as if I was ODing on testosterone from time to time (he edited his wife out of the text, though she was supposedly actually there on the trip), but there is so much gorgeous writing, I didn't care.

We felt rather as God would feel when, after all the preparation of Paradise, all the plannings for eternities of joy, all the making and tuning of harps, the street-paving with gold, and the writing of hosannas, at last He let in the bleacher customers and they l
May 07, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Anyone with even a minor interest in marine biology, or the more likely interest in Ed Ricketts (see "Cannery Row" and "Sweet Thursday"),or a personal weakness for tooling around in boats with friends (see "The Wind In the Willows" Kenneth Grahame - Ratty to Mole: "Believe me, my friend, there is nothing - absolutely nothing - half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.")will like this book. It's not "Grapes of Wrath" mind you, it's soaking wet and as different as you can get. It' ...more
Jul 25, 2011 rated it did not like it
This book was so boring. I was not going to sit and read how they collected sea specimens along the coast of baja, so i skipped over those parts, which were boring anyway. Also Ed's life at the beginning of the book was boring, but I also didn't like his collecting cats to kill. About all I got out of it was enjoying his speaking with the natives when on shore, but those tales were not enough to keep me interested. I wanted a sea adventure like Paddle to the Amazon, which I could not put down. A ...more
Aug 13, 2009 rated it it was ok
A well written book on a terribly boring subject. Why Steinbeck thought this was a good use of his skills is beyond me. The prologue ("About Ed Ricketts") is at least somewhat amusing, though hardly compelling. If Ed were a friend of mine, it would have been fascinating. But Ed is (was) not a friend mine, nor are the lobsters and starfish which Steinbeck describes with inexplicable fascination. The book contains some philosophy, which might be interesting and challenging for someone whose intell ...more
Jun 06, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
I thank the streets of Brooklyn for my discarded copy of "The Log of the Sea of Cortez" which enthralled me with John Steinbeck's homespun wisdom, his deep love of humanity, and his trust in the balance of things, even as he sees so much of what's wrong with the world. Not quite memoir, not quite scientific journal, Steinbeck's recounting of an expedition to collect samples of sea life in Mexico is rich with philosophy while the appendix must be one of the most bromantic eulogies in American let ...more
Feb 23, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mexico, travel, 1940s
Steinbeck drew me into his worlds. Only vaguely remember appreciating this trip, wanting to experience that component of Mexico.
How is the Sea different now from Steinbeck's time there?
What would have Mexico's NW been like for the first explorers coming south from Beringia, perhaps 15,000 years ago, paddling around Cabo, heading north for the mouth of the Colorado ...
Jan 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Excellent ecology/scientific exploration/adventure book. I love Steinbeck and really enjoyed spending time upon the ship, The Western Flyer, with him and the crew. The humorous and intelligent tone reminds me of Bill Bryson, who I am sure has read this book... Every short chapter is engaging, beautiful, and brilliant.
Aug 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: classics
3.5 stars.

Travels with Charley at sea.

Not my favorite Steinbeck, but he had some deep thoughts here and his prose was on point. It's also interesting because we learn a lot about Steinbeck's best friend Ed Ricketts.
Kelly_Hunsaker_reads ...
Apr 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book is full of science about aquatic life. It is filled with information that only sailors might understand, and it is more of a journal than a book. It doesn't feel polished. And yet it is wonderful! And I think it is wonderful because it is told with so much love and respect. For the reader it feels like a journey that John is thrilled to be on and equally happy to share. It feels a bit like a love letter to his friend Ed Ricketts. Cannery Row just moved higher up my TBR list!

I have beco
Russ Lyon
Had to read this for an ecology course on the Sea of Cortez. In the class we talked a lot about observational science and used Rickett's and Steinbeck's descriptions of the marine life they encountered on this trip as examples. Now-a-days scientists often quaff at the idea of including observational data in their research, but I feel that these descriptions help the reader get a good sense of how things appeared to the writer at the time. Science shouldn't be just all data and numbers. Plus it m ...more
Dec 04, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy, favauthor
Appendix about Ricketts is an essential bonus of the book. I'm unsure who (between Steinbeck and Ricketts) contribute more to this book. I'm with them both without reservation. I enjoy the lengthy details (well, I was a marine biologist student) to tackle my memory and loosely narrated mystic tales to feed my imagination. But enlightening the mind (without losing humor) is what I treasure the most that make this book unique. ...more
Aug 14, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: evedryone!
I dont know why, but this book captivates me. Maybe because I long to be on a vessel wandering the the past, right before the huge explosion that has so populated and devastated the western seaboard. Seeing Monteray before the big hotels went up must of been a real hoot too...Especially after reafding Cannery Row..Steinbeck just nails it.
Claire Couch
Dec 21, 2015 rated it it was amazing
An effortless read if you have any interest in marine biology. Steinbeck's nimble prose weaves between social commentary, biological observations, and rollicking adventure. If you enjoy this book, try Durrell's "My Family and Other Animals." ...more
Jody Hultman
Nov 29, 2010 rated it it was amazing
The true philosophy of Steinbeck. You love Steinbeck? You want to know him? Read The Log from the Sea of Cortez.

Christine Boyer
Apr 06, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Biologists, boaters, marine researchers, explorers
Recommended to Christine by: Dr. Stan Gregory
Ugh, having a hard time rating this. Was just reading some of the 2-star reviews. Someone said, "a well-written book on a terribly boring subject". There were paragraphs in there that warranted 5 stars. But there were also moments where if it wasn't Steinbeck I would have thrown 1 star at it!

Let's put this in a nutshell - or maybe I should say "seashell" - ha ha. In all fairness, the forward in this 1995 addition says that the book really was a combination of ideas and daily records from both St
Jul 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dan Hogan
Sep 06, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I am quickly becoming just as in love with Steinbeck as a creative nonfiction writer as I am with him as a fiction writer. The Sea of Cortez initially sounds like a boring book. After all, it consists mainly of Steinbeck and a small crew including Ed Ricketts (the basis for Doc from Cannery Row) wading through tide pools and collecting and documenting animal specimens. But that's not Steinbeck's style. He infuses the narrative with heart, humor, and philosophy, so much that I found the tide pool ...more
Jul 28, 2014 rated it really liked it
I loved Cannery Row, and wanted to read this book for a long time, and finally was motivated to do so when I read that the Western Flyer, the charter boat for this expedition, was this year in dry dock in Port Townsend, WA. I went to see the barnacle-covered boat, and picked up a copy of the book.

A few things surprised me about this: Steinbeck makes almost no reference at all to himself, his wife, or the biologist Ricketts, in the log. The characters in the story are the crew, Tiny, Sparky, and
Jul 16, 2007 rated it it was ok
i would say i "didn't like it" if i could remember anything besides a possible sea and maybe a log of some sort. what i do remember is writing a horrible paper about it for my one and only biology class and using the made up phrase "evolutionary continuum" in said paper, which my brother rightly pointed out, is the most ridiculous and redundant pairing of two words to ever be put down on paper.

however, i did get a B in the class and i think those people who have enough of a scientific backgroun
Evan Humphreys
Jun 10, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Because I listen to biologists Bret Weinstein & Heather Heying a lot, this book had more pop to it. I enjoyed the speculative metaphysics and Steinbeck’s biographic fanboying of Ricketts.
It's been a couple of years since I read any Steinbeck. This was a great reminder of how much I like his writing. I think it would be so cool to be on a trip like that! ...more
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John Steinbeck III was an American writer. He wrote the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Grapes of Wrath, published in 1939 and the novella Of Mice and Men, published in 1937. In all, he wrote twenty-five books, including sixteen novels, six non-fiction books and several collections of short stories.

In 1962 Steinbeck received the Nobel Prize for Literature.

Steinbeck grew up in the Salinas Valley

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