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Nov 9 - Dec 31, 2023

Western Flyer Foundation


To stir curiosity by connecting art and science in the spirit of John Steinbeck, Ed Ricketts, and their journey on the Western Flyer.

The Big Idea

In 1940, writer John Steinbeck and biologist Ed Ricketts chartered the fishing vessel Western Flyer for a six-week exploration of Mexico's Gulf of California, chronicled in their landmark work, Sea of Cortez: A Leisurely Journal of Travel and Research (1941). The boat returned to fishing for decades, sank, and was in severe disrepair when marine geologist John Gregg purchased it in 2015.

Inspired by childhood memories of the book, Gregg launched the Western Flyer Foundation to restore the iconic boat and continue Steinbeck and Ricketts’s legacy of research and education. Today, after seven years of award-winning labor by the shipwrights and craftspeople in Port Townsend, Washington, the Flyer is poised to return to Monterey Bay as a floating classroom and lab equipped with state-of-the-art technology. Once in Monterey, it will embark on its next exciting chapter, taking students and scientists on the water to observe, learn, reflect, and create.

I am very drawn to the Western Flyer Foundation as an organization because they work hard to merge science and art to get students interested in the field of science. That’s a very unique approach, and as a science educator, it’s really important to me. They focus a lot on the importance of deep observation, which is inspired by John Steinbeck and Ed Ricketts. I’m now studying science illustration at CSUMB, and I see so much value in passing these important lessons on to students to inspire an appreciation and love of science in a way that is timeless and holistic.

- Emily Fries