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"The Unforgettable Sea of Cortez"


Carla Laemmle Photo 1

Ray Cannon's lifetime companion, Carla Laemmle, as a dancer for Universal Studios in the 1920s.


By Gene Kira, January 12, 2004, as published in Western Outdoor News:

Except for a few copies possibly still on store shelves in the U.S. and Baja California, my book about the history of sportfishing in Baja California, Mexico, The Unforgettable Sea of Cortez: Baja California's Golden Age 1947 to 1977; The Life and Writings of Ray Cannon, is now out of print. Researching it was just plain fun; writing it was life-changing.

To begin with, I was given access to Ray Cannon's personal files, his thousands of photos and negatives, letters, manuscripts, and most importantly of all, to the razor-sharp memories of nonagenarian Ms. Carla Laemmle, Ray's lifetime companion, who had preserved this precious trove of Baja history for a quarter century at their home in Los Angeles.

For many months, I read and reread Ray's more than 1,000 weekly Baja fishing columns written for Western Outdoor News between 1953 and 1977 (my daughter spent several weeks photocopying every page of Ray's original manuscripts, so my reading wouldn't damage the brittle, yellowing sheets of paper).

Then, I began studying box after box of photos and Baja memorabilia, prints, snapshots, telegrams, slides, old brochures, letterhead, long strips of black-and-white negatives from Ray's old Rolleiflex twin lens reflex camera.

Slowly, very, very slowly--with the help of a computer index of every item--it all started to come into focus, and, probably like no other person except Carla Laemmle herself, I began to feel that I was actually a part of Ray Cannon's Baja California. I could feel the wonderment that Ray felt when he first saw San Felipe, or La Paz, or Ed Tabor's Flying Sportsmen Lodge in Loreto.

There were many great moments of discovery during the years it took to produce this pictorial history of Baja's Golden Age.

When we were only a few weeks from sending it to the printer, I almost gave up on including the famous but anecdotal Baja legend that Herb Tansey, founder of East Cape's Rancho Buena Vista, had lost his right leg when a TWA Super Constellation airliner he was piloting crashed in Ireland right after World War II. I had eyewitness accounts of an old newspaper on the RBV hotel bar that Tansey would show people in the early 1950s, but little more than that.

Then just before we went to press, I decided to try a new-fangled research tool that was just being been developed, the internet search engine, precursor to today's ubiquitous Google. To my amazement, I found an obscure reference to a previously unknown "Air Safety Office" somewhere in Dublin, Ireland, and I sent off an email asking if anyone had ever heard of Herb Tansey and his crash in the Super Connie.

Within half an hour, a clerk in Ireland sent an electrifying reply: "You won't believe it, but there was somebody in here this morning, asking about that same plane crash!"

As it turned out, another researcher, in England, was writing a book on European plane crashes, and was desperately looking for an important piece of missing information: "What ever happened to Herb Tansey after he lost his leg?"

Well, I gave him all he needed to finish that chapter of his book, and he in turn gave me enough information to track the story down in the 1946 archives of the New York Times and London Times.

One of the greatest of all Baja legends confirmed!

But alas, Herb Tansey was killed in another plane crash, south of La Paz, thirteen years later, and like him, my book The Unforgettable Sea of Cortez now becomes another thread in the tapestry of natural beauty, incredible fishing, and fascinating people and events that forms the never-ending story of Baja.

Thanks Ray Cannon and Carla Laemmle. You gave us some wonderful memories.

(Related Baja California, Mexico, articles and reports may be found at Mexfish.com's main Baja California information page. See weekly fishing news, photos, and reports from the major sportfishing vacation areas of Mexico including the Baja California area in "Mexico Fishing News.")