Penn State

Todd LaJeunesse - Associate Professor of Biology, Penn State University Park

Book Title: Log from the Sea of Cortez

Author: John Steinbeck

Book Description:

The Log from the Sea of Cortez chronicles the scientific voyage of two friends, Ed Ricketts and John Steinbeck (the author), to study the natural diversity of marine invertebrates in the Gulf of California. The story shares with the reader the mundane activities, day-to-day challenges, and notable encounters that the friends face during their six-week expedition. Through his retelling of this adventure, Steinbeck reflects upon the diverse ideas that humans have about the world around them. The need to appreciate that we are a small part of a greater whole (i.e. nature) frequently emerges in the narrative. Through my own explorations with different collaborators in destinations around the world, I identify with many of Steinbeck’s experiences and philosophical conclusions. As biologists, we are enlighted to the reality that while the life of any one individual is fragile and ephemeral, populations comprising many are paradoxically tenacious and may persist under extreme hardship. For humans, this persistence also involves the legacy of a person’s ideas and conributions long after they are gone.

This book contains a number of poignant phrases, but there is one to which those who are committed to the goals of scientific inquiry can most relate:

“We search for something that will seem like truth to us; we search for understanding; we search for that principle which keys us deeply into the pattern of all life.”

- John Steinbeck


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