© Wikimedia Commons
A photo of the Lone Woman of San Nicolas Island.
Archaeologists might have finally found the cave of the Lone Woman of San Nicolas Island, whose solitary 18-year stay on a tiny island off the California coast inspired the children's classic Island of the Blue Dolphins.
"The cave had been completely buried under several meters of sand. It is quite large and would have made a very comfortable home, especially in inclement weather," Navy archaeologist Steven Schwartz said at the California Islands Symposium last week in Ventura.
One of the most famous people associated with the Channel Islands, the Lone Woman belonged to the Nicoleno, a Native American tribe who lived on the remote wind-blasted island of San Nicolas off the Southern California coast.
The tribe was decimated in 1814 by sea otter hunters from Alaska. By 1835, less than a dozen Nicolenos lived on the island. At that time, the Santa Barbara Mission arranged a rescue operation which brought to the mainland all Nicoleños but the Lone Woman.
The most likely explanation for the abandonment is that a panicked crew, caught by a storm, turned the rescue schooner, named Peor es Nada ("Better Than nothing"), toward the mainland without much head counting.
The woman lived alone on the island until a fisherman and sea otter hunter found her in 1853 and brought her to the Santa Barbara Mission.
"She was found in a brush enclosure on the west end of the island, but she is believed to have lived in a cave during most of her 18 years of isolation," Schwartz, who has been investigating the island for more than 20 years, said.
Since there is no known habitation cave on the tiny island -- which is now a Navy base -- the archaeologist concluded that the cavern must have collapsed and been buried.