Sea of Cortez
In October 2004 I got my first opportunity to dive in the Sea of Cortez. Also known as the Gulf of California, the Sea of Cortez is that lovely warm body of water between the Baja peninsula and mainland Mexico. The area is probably best known for having been the stomping grounds of Ed Ricketts and John Steinbeck when they went on their famous expedition to the Sea of Cortez in 1940. Steinbeck later wrote the "Log From the Sea of Cortez" about their adventure. While Steinbeck may have had Ed Ricketts to help him identify and appreciate the local flora and fauna, we were especially lucky to have Dan Gotshall, marine biologist and the author of "Sea of Cortez Marine Animals," along on the boat with us.
Starting out in Los Cabos, at the tip of the Baja peninsula, we boarded the famously comfortable Nautilus Explorer. The last time I was on the Nautilus it was in the icy waters of Alaska. This was quite a different experience from Alaska - not only was this the warmest water I've ever dived in, but obviously the marine life is almost completely different. We made our way north up the gulf to La Paz, diving along the way. We encountered friendly sea lions, the ubiquitous Panamic Green Morays as well as finespot and jewel morays, and lots of balloonfish, which we called "Pugs of the Sea" because of their bulging eyes and adorable smiles. There were lots of members of the hawkfish family in residence; the standard coral or pixie hawkfish, plus the longnose hawkfish and giant hawkfish were all numerous. Large schools of fish such as scads and jacks were also plentiful -- swimming inside the school was an amazing experience -- like being in a room with walls made of fish circling around you.