cover image Telling Our Way to the Sea: 
A Voyage of Discovery in the Sea of Cortez

Telling Our Way to the Sea: A Voyage of Discovery in the Sea of Cortez

Aaron Hirsh. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $30 (432p) ISBN 978-0-374-27284-5

“We go in search of wilderness, and so it is wilderness we find,” biologist Hirsh writes in his wondrous nonfiction debut— a journey through the inlets and islands of Mexico’s Sea of Cortez. Accompanied by his wife, Veronica Volny (a biologist), and his friend Graham Burnett (a science historian), Hirsh guides a group of students through encounters with schools of damselfish, devil rays, fin whales, and other creatures. Lessons in ecology and natural history are woven seamlessly into descriptions of each discovery, as are Hirsh’s reflections on the nature of his students and the art of teaching. Among the wide-ranging topics covered in the book are the original letters by Cortes (who discovered the region), as well as local fishermen’s stories. Hirsh uses these studies to show that today’s Sea of Cortez is not as wild as it once was, stripped of its abundant pearl oysters and manta rays. After the group endures a category-four hurricane, it discovers a rare and startling abundance of sea life that retreated into the gulf, reminding its members of what the sea must have looked like “before humanity exacted its toll.” In prose that marries lush scientific details and poetic language (complete with transfixing descriptions of sea cucumber regeneration), Hirsh delivers an important work about the power of place and the power of stories—scientific, historical, and personal—to shape our understanding of our world. Agent: Tina Bennett, WME. (Aug.)