From Islapedia

COUFFER, Jack C. (1924-2021), teen-aged member of the last Los Angeles County Museum Biological Survey expedition (#13) to the California Channel Islands in 1941. Coffer visited Santa Rosa Island from November 8-December 14, 1941. Other team members included:

The expedition was aborted when news of the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 reached Santa Rosa Island, and expedition members had to hurriedly pack up and leave the island. Couffer said they had just plastered for transport a mammoth skull which was left behind. What happened to it is a mystery.

Not So Lonely Lighthouse Keeper, 1967

Not So Lonely Lighthouse Keeper

In 1967, Couffer wrote and directed a film for Walt Disney studios, which aired on television on September 17, 1967. The Not So Lonely Lighthouse Keeper is a fictional account of a lighthouse keeper, his wife, and a pet billy goat at Anacapa Island. Filming takes place at Anacapa, Santa Rosa, and San Miguel Islands, and includes scenes of the wreck of the Chickasaw. According to Couffer, some scenes with the goat were filed in Refugio Canyon.

It is the story of an old US Coast Guard Lighthouse keeper on Anacapa Island, and his adventures with his pet goat. The peg-legged keeper and his wife live alone on the island with sea gulls, sea lions (the narrator calls them seals), pelicans and other creatures. His adventures include watching his pet goat's antics, playing with his (trained) sea lion, his pet pelican, rescuing fishermen from a ship that crashes onto the island, fishing, and visiting his other animal friends. There is scenery of Anacapa Island and nearby ocean, including underwater photography of sea lions playing. Also shown are San Miguel Island and Santa Rosa Island, though in the story, he never leaves Anacapa Island. The story includes funny sequences of a sea lion playing with a ball, the pet goat getting into trouble, and a pelican losing an egg to a tern. The Disney music enhances each scene. Near the end of the film, the Coast Guard installs a mechanical light tower that requires no human operator, retiring both the lighthouse and the lighthouse keeper. He and his wife move to the mainland, leading a miserable life, until the US government calls on him to become a National Park Ranger at the "new" Channel Islands National Monument.

Not So Lonely Lighthouse Keeper

Couffer is known to have visited Anacapa and San Miguel Islands, in addition to having collected on:

San Clemente Island Jack C. Couffer LACM July 17, 1949 LACM-20536 Diomedea nigripes Birds


12/12, 15/1942 LACM herps


12/12/1941 LACM herps

Santa Rosa Island Jack C. Couffer LACM December 5, 1941 LACM-031162 Spilogale putoris Mammals

1941 SANTA ROSA ISLAND—unattributed: "The Archaeological section of the Museum Survey consisted of Mr. Arthur Woodward, Miss Marion Hollenback and Miss Barbara Loomis. Mr. Woodward, however, remained only for the first three days. They reached Santa Rosa Island via the Fish & Game Commission boat Yellowtail on November 25th, 1941 after a few days delay in getting away from the mainland due to high winds. Already on the island were Mr. and Mrs. Kenneth Stager who were studying mammals, and Mr. Bill Fletcher, Mr. Jack Couffer, and Mr. Victor Case, who were concerned with fossil elephants. Mr. and Mrs. Willett of the Zoological division arrived on the 29th via the Scoffield and Mr. Woodward and the Stagers left.

The site chose for a test excavation — designated "5 E" by a previous survey — was on a bluff above the sea about three miles east of the ranch on Beechers Bay. Measurements were taken and work begun on November 26th by Mr. Woodward, Miss Hollenbach and Mr. Fletcher. It proved to consist of loose earth, very black with sifted charcoal, containing burned shells, particularly mussels and barnicles and the bones of sea mammals, fish and birds. Cultural material was not very abundant, but a few items were found, such as a bone barb for a harpoon, bone awls, bone beads, and tarred pebbles for waterproofing baskets. About 4 feet below the surface a whale scapula and big pieces of whale ribs were unearthed. These were probably the remains of a whale bone house.

A number of other sites on the north side of the island were "surfaced." One series of ten sites west and south of Skunk Point yielded large numbers of chipped stone scrapers, choppers, blades, points and drills and also bone awls and barbs for harpoons. In contrast to the other Channel Islands, shell and bone fish hooks do not appear on Santa Rosa. Only one broken bone hook was found. One of these sites ("14E") was covered with innumerable tiny stone drills and olivella shell beads in all stages of manufacture. 230 little stone drills were picked up in a few minutes.

Another site at the mouth of Lobos Canyon west of Carrington Point had been exposed by rains since the previous survey. Burials, some bone implements and many beautiful flint, blades and points were washing down on the beach. We also explored Old Ranch Canyon and Water Canyon finding two sites near the head of the latter.

On December 7 Pearl Harbor was bombed and shortly afterwards the Fish & Game boats were taken over for patrol duty and the use of the radio telephone forbidden so that there was some uncertainty as to how and when the party would leave, especially as the Santa Rosa Ranch's own boat was out of commission. However arrangements were made for the motor schooner Santa Cruz to arrive and take the remaining members of the museum staff to the mainland.

In the News~

November 27-December 14, 1941: [n.d.; n.p.] “Scientists 7 marooned by war on Santa Rosa Isle. Santa Rosa Isle. Marooned today by the wartime shipping restrictions were a party of scientists, comprised of four men and three women, on Santa Rosa Island of the Santa Barbara Channel group. The party, headed by George Willett, curator of birds at the Los Angeles County Museum, includes Mrs. Willett, Miss Marion Hollenbach, Miss Barbara Loomis, Harry Fletcher, Jack Couffer and Richard W. Case. They were sent out to excavate kitchen middens of a prehistoric village, made the important discovery of the skeleton of a dwarf elephant and now can't get back to the mainland.”