In March 1940, the author John Steinbeck and his friend, marine biologist Ed Ricketts, sailed down the coast of California and Mexico to the Sea of Cortez. "The abundance of life here gives one an exuberance," they wrote, "a feeling of fullness and richness."
Their stated purpose was to document the creatures that inhabit shallow waters and tide pools on the margins of the Sea of Cortez. But it became much more.
In these mysterious, phosphorescent waters they sought an understanding of mankind's relationship to the natural world, and a wellspring of hope for a world headed toward war. Looking beyond the events of the day, the two friends foresaw our rising impact on the oceans, and the devastating impact that over fishing would have on this rich sea.
From Video Librarian, Sept-Oct 2013, rated 3.5/4 stars:
“Thomas Lucas’s documentary tells the story of an historic partnership between novelist John Steinbeck and marine biologist Ed Ricketts to study the Sea of Cortez in 1940. A year after the publication of Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath—which in part concerned Dust Bowl conditions on American prairies in the 1930s (the result of shortsighted farming practices and La Niña weather conditions)—the writer and Ricketts sailed down the thriving coastal environment of California and Mexico. In the Sea of Cortez, the pair brought the new science of ecosystem study to a remarkably diverse natural world, navigating a difficult course past islands and outcroppings to find and document a melting pot of marine life. Their aim was to explain the roles of individual life forms in the broad, interdependent system, but the book they produced—The Log from the Sea of Cortez—ultimately turned out to be less scientific and more thrillingly mystical, offering a holistic vision of life. Set against this sense of wonder is a bleak account of present-day conditions in the Sea of Cortez and similar locales, where overfishing, tourism, and other types of callous exploitation have decimated many natural habitats and species, creating an enormous and destructive imbalance. Glimmers of hope exist, but the climb towards restoration is uphill. Combining voiceover narration with archival and contemporary footage, this intriguing documentary—a melding of literary, historical, and environmental topics—is highly recommended.”