- San Nicolas Island
San Nicolas Island is the most remote of
California's Channel Islands. It is part of Ventura County. The 14,562 acre (58.93 km² or 22.753 sq mi) island is currently controlled by the United States Navyand is used as a weapons testing and training facility. The uninhabited island is defined by the United States Census Bureauas Block Group 9, Census Tract 36.04 of Ventura County, California. [ [http://factfinder.census.gov/servlet/DTTable?_bm=y&-show_geoid=Y&-tree_id=4001&-_caller=geoselect&-context=dt&-errMsg=&-all_geo_types=N&-mt_name=DEC_2000_SF1_U_P001&-redoLog=false&-transpose=N&-search_map_config=|b=50|l=en|t=4001|zf=0.0|ms=sel_00dec|dw=0.12136367503897609|dh=0.07581531832683142|dt=gov.census.aff.domain.map.EnglishMapExtent|if=gif|cx=-119.39570882338684|cy=34.005713566102685|zl=4|pz=4|bo=318:317:316:314:313:323:319|bl=362:393:358:357:356:355:354|ft=350:349:335:389:388:332:331|fl=381:403:204:380:369:379:368|g=01000US&-PANEL_ID=p_dt_geo_map&-_lang=en&-geo_id=15000US061110036049&-CONTEXT=dt&-format=&-search_results=01000US&-ds_name=DEC_2000_SF1_U Block Group 9, Census Tract 36.04, Ventura County] United States Census Bureau ] Although the island is officially uninhabited as of 2000 U.S. Census, it is estimated that the number of military and civilian personnel on the island numbers at least 200 at any given time. The island has a small airport and several buildings.
San Nicolas was originally the home of the
Nicoleñopeople, who were probably related to the Tongvaof the mainland and Santa Catalina Island. It was named for Saint Nicholasby Spanish explorer Sebastián Vizcaínoafter he sighted the island on the saint's feast day( December 6) in 1602. The Nicoleños were evacuated in the early 19th century by the padres of the California mission system after a series of conflicts with Russian-led Aleutian fur trappers decimated their population. Within a few years of their removal from the island, the Nicoleño people and their unique language became extinct.
Lone Woman of San Nicolas Island
The most famous resident of San Nicolas Island was the "Lone Woman of San Nicolas Island", called
Juana Maria; her real name was never known to anyone on the mainland. She was left behind (explanations for this vary) when the rest of the Nicoleños were moved to the mainland. She resided on the island alone for 18 years before she was found by Captain George Nideverand his crew in 1853 and brought back to Santa Barbara. She died seven weeks later, her system unprepared for the different nutritional and environmental conditions in central California. Her story was the basis for Scott O'Dell's Newbery Medal-winning 1961 novel " Island of the Blue Dolphins".
1957and 1973, and in 2004, U.S. military research rockets were launched from San Nicolas Island. The launchpad was situated at coord|33|15|N|119|30|W |region:US_type:isle |display=title,inline. It remains part of the Pacific Missile Range.
Composed primarily of
Eocene sandstoneand shale, [Meighan, Clement W. and Hal Eberhart. 1953. Archaeological Resources of San Nicolas Island, California. "American Antiquity" vol. 19 no. 2, pp. 109.] much of the island also has marine terracedeposits of Pleistoceneage, indicating that it was probably completely submerged at that time. [Thorne, Robert F. 1996. The California Islands. "Annals of the Missouri Botanical Garden" vol. 56 no. 3, pp. 394.] The entire western part of the island is covered with reddish-brown eoliandune deposits laid down during the early Holocene. In some places these deposits are more than 10 meters deep. [Vedder, J. G., and Robert M. Norris. 1963. "Geology of San Nicolas Island, California" Geological Survey Professional Paper 369. United States Government Printing Office, Washington D.C., pp. 31.] Small quantities of volcanicrocks (primarily andesite) exist on the southeast end of the island. [Vedder, J. G., and Robert M. Norris. 1963. "Geology of San Nicolas Island, California" Geological Survey Professional Paper 369. United States Government Printing Office, Washington D.C., pp. 27-29.]
Stone available to natives for tool making on San Nicolas Island was largely limited to
metavolcanic(including porphyritic metavolcanic) and metasedimentary(mainly quartzite) rock. [Rosenthal, E. Jane. 1996. San Nicolas Island Bifaces: A Distinctive Stone Tool Manufacturing Technique. "Journal of California and Great Basin Anthropology" vol. 18 no. 2, pp. 304.] The metavolcanics are found in the form of cobbles within conglomerates and cobble-bearing mudstones. [Vedder, J. G., and Robert M. Norris. 1963. "Geology of San Nicolas Island, California" Geological Survey Professional Paper 369. United States Government Printing Office, Washington D.C., pp. 27-29.] This material is dense and not easily workable. [Rosenthal, E. Jane. 1996. San Nicolas Island Bifaces: A Distinctive Stone Tool Manufacturing Technique. "Journal of California and Great Basin Anthropology" vol. 18 no. 2, pp. 304.]
There is little ecological diversity on San Nicolas Island. The island was heavily grazed by sheep until they were removed in 1943.
Overgrazingand erosionhave removed much of the topsoilfrom the island. Despite the degradation, three endemic plants are found on the island: " Astragalus traskiae", " Eriogonum grande" subspecies "tamorum", and " Lomatium insulare".
The dominant plant community on the island is coastal bluff
scrubland, with giant coreopsis, " Coreopsis gigantea" and coyote brush, " Baccharis pilularis" the most visible components. The few trees present today, including California fan palms, " Washingtonia filifera", were introduced in modern times. However, early written accounts and the remains of ancient plants in the form of calcareousroot casts indicate that, prior to 1860, brush covered a portion of the island. [Schoenherr, Allan A., C. Robert Feldmeth, and Michael J. Emerson. 2003. "Natural History of the Islands of California" (paperback), University of California Press, Berkeley. pp. 339-340.]
There are only three species of endemic land
vertebrateson the island; the island night lizard, "Xantusia riversiana", deer mouse, "Peromyscus maniculatus exterus", and island fox, "Urocyon littoralis dickeyi". Two other reptiles, the common side-blotched lizard, "Uta stansburiana", and the southern alligator lizard"Elgaria multicarinatus", were at one time thought to be endemic, but an analysis of mitochondrial DNAindicates that both species were most likely introduced in recent times. [Schoenherr, Allan A., C. Robert Feldmeth, and Michael J. Emerson. 2003. "Natural History of the Islands of California" (paperback), University of California Press, Berkeley. pp. 342-345.]
Large numbers of birds can be found on San Nicolas Island. Two species are of particular ecological concern: the
western gull, "Larus occidentalis", and Brandt's cormorant, "Phalacrocorax penicillatus", both of which are threatened by feral cats and island foxes. The Navy is attempting to remove the cats in order to protect the birds' nesting areas. [ [http://www.darrp.noaa.gov/pacific/montrose/pdf/msrp_rp_appendixd3.pdf Restoration Activities - Montrose Settlements Restoration Program - Pacific Region - DAARP] National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration]
References in popular culture
San Nicolas appears as the titular isle in
Scott O'Dell's " Island of the Blue Dolphins", as well as that novel's sequel, "Zia". It is also the setting for the computer video game " Rise of the Triad".
* [http://www.astronautix.com/sites/sancolas.htm Rocket launches at San Nicolas Island]
* [http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/facility/san-nicolas-island.htm GlobalSecurity.org: San Nicolas Island]
* [http://www.militarymuseum.org/NAASSanNicolasIsland.html Naval Auxiliary Air Station, San Nicolas Island]
* [http://www.nhm.org/research/anthropology/Pages/chislands/pgsnichsurveyphoto.html Photo of Juana Maria's Whalebone Hut]
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