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Pelagophycus pora, Santa Cruz Island Photo by Brett Seymour
Macrocystis, Santa Cruz Island
Photo by Cindy Shaw

Kelp Beds of the Santa Barbara Channel Islands are some of the richest in the world. In the late 19th century, channel kelp was harvested primarily by the Chinese as a dried food source. With the onset of World War I and the need for a supply of potassium chloride found in kelp, and used in explosives manufacture, the local kelp harvesting industry experienced a short-lived boom from about 1912 to the early 1920s. In 1912 the first kelp processing plant opened on the first block of State Street in Santa Barbara, with kelp (Macrocystis sp.) being dried, burned and sold as fertilizer. In December 1916, the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors granted kelp-harvesting licenses to private companies, and a processing plant was built in Summerland by Lorned Company. Reapers cut the kelp in rows 20 foot wide and six foot deep, and the kelp’s fast growth rate quickly refilled the rows. After the war the kelp industry closed down.

In later commercial kelp harvesting, the kelp in the surface 4 feet of water is cut from the plant below by a large set of mower-like blades, of special harvesting vessels, drained of excess water, and loaded by means of conveyer belts into a storage area for transportation elsewhere.

In the News~

June 23, 1879 [SBDP]: “The kelp is losing its grip in the channel and rapidly washing ashore this week.”

September 7, 1881 [SBDP]: “The discovery that there are quantities of edible seaweed in the Santa Barbara Channel, may be of vast importance to this region..”

October 18, 1893 [SBDI]: “The schooner Santa Rosa, Captain Thompson, is in with a cargo of 321 sacks of abalone shells, 69 sacks of abalone, and five sacks of seaweed from the Chinese camp on Santa Rosa Island. The abalone and seaweed are for shipment to China, where they are cooked and served in oriental style and considered great delicacies.”

May 9, 1898 [LAT/SB]: “A jewfish over eight feet long was caught in one of the Larco’s nets near the kelp yesterday.”

July 22, 1901 [SBDI]: “Colice Vasquez came over from the island this morning with a load of seaweed for local Chinamen. The Chinese use the prepared seaweed in their food.”

August 6, 1904 [SBMP]: “Cargo of Sea Grass. The sloop Big Loafer came over from Santa Cruz Island yesterday with a cargo of 95 sacks of sea grass, a species of kelp gathered by the Chinese on the west end of the island where they maintain a camp. This particular kind of kelp is considered a great delicacy by the Chinese and it is shipped to China where it brings a good price.”

August 6, 1904 [SBMP]: “Cargo of Sea Grass. The sloop Big Loafer came over from Santa Cruz Island yesterday with a cargo of 95 sacks of sea grass, a species of kelp gathered by the Chinese on the west end of the island where they maintain a camp. This particular kind of kelp is considered a great delicacy by the Chinese and it is shipped to China where it brings a good price.”

August 12, 1904 [SBMP]: “The sloop Big Loafer brought in a cargo of sea weed and other merchandise from Santa Cruz Island yesterday which was turned over to the Sun Lung Company of this city.”

August 18, 1904 [SBMP]: “Men have been engaged in cutting kelp about [Pelican] bay, and today great bunches of it can be seen floating out with sea birds riding on it.”

August 29, 1904 [SBMP]: “Captain Rosaline Vasquez was unloading a cargo of abalone shells in front of the Peerless yesterday. The boat also carried sea grass and other products of San Miguel Island. The Peerless leaves again today for San Miguel Island for another load of the same commodities.”

September 6, 1904 [SBMP]: “The launch Peerless returned last night from Forney's Cove, Santa Cruz Island, with a number of Chinese and a cargo of sea grass. The Peerless made the trip in four hours.”

September 14, 1904 [SBMP]: “The power yacht Peerless sailed yesterday for the islands where it will be loaded with abalone shells, sea grass and other products gathered there by the Japanese. These goods are unloaded here and shipped again to San Francisco.”

April 18, 1905 [SBMP]: “Tons of kelp. The storm and rough seas have washed in tons of kelp that has been thrown high on the beach from Stearn’s Wharf to Castle Rock. These masses of sea weed and other refuse from the ocean’s depth are not the most attractive and pleasing part of Santa Barbara’s waterfront, and it has been suggested that some means should be made for its improvement…”

April 22, 1905 [SBMP]: “The fishing sloop Peerless left for the islands yesterday with a number of fishermen and a load of supplies, for the purpose of establishing abalone camps on Santa Rosa and San Miguel islands. Besides gathering abalone shells, meat and pearls, they will also collect sea grass, which commands a good price in Chinese markets.”

June 23, 1906 [SBMP]: “Boatmen report that large numbers of jellyfish of different sizes, colors and varieties have come to the surface of the water in the channel just outside of the kelp line. For a distance of several miles the water is dotted with them.”

May 11, 1907 [SBI]: “Captain Colice Vasquez left yesterday for the east end of San Miguel Island with a boatload of men who will gather abalone and moss.”

August 31, 1908 [SBI]: “Four Santa Barbara Chinamen returned from Santa Cruz Island this morning on the large cattle schooner, Santa Rosa, which they had chartered to carry to this city one of the largest shipments of abalone shells and cured abalone meat ever taken from the Santa Barbara Islands in a single season. The party has been in camp on the south side of Santa Cruz Island for three months. The cargo which is being unloaded today consists of 12 tons of shells, worth $50 per ton, six tons of cured abalone meat valued at $160 per ton, and two tons of sea grass, which Chinese people use in manufacture of a condiment that is exceedingly popular with the Celestials. The four Chinamen will earn nearly $2000 as the result of their three months’ work. The party was managed by Ah Poy and financed by You Kee, a merchant on Canon Perdido Street…”

March 7, 1909 [SFCall]: “The novel products made from California kelp… In the waters surrounding [the islands] are great fields of the brown seaweed known as ‘eklhorn kelp.’ The root of this kelp is firmly attached to the bed of the ocean, while just above it is a large, smooth, round bulb that serves to float the streamer-like leaves, which are from 20 to 30 feet long. The kelp is collected and dried in the sun by hanging it on wooden bars with the bulbs downward. The kelp drying ground presents a remarkable sight, the great bulbs looking like the round heads of south sea islanders’ clubs. Formerly, when found dry on the shore, the kelp was too stiff to be manufactured, but a method has been found of extracting the potash and iodine from it and rendering it pliable enough to work with. Many articles, from napkin rings to waste paper baskets are now made from the dried kelp.”

July 27, 1909 [SDET]: “Products of Californian Islands novel. Weed known as kelp washed up from the sea, collected and dried for use. At varying distances from the main land of Southern California lie nine or ten islands, forming two groups. The northern group, to the south of Santa Barbara county and to the west of Ventura county, consists of San Miguel Island, Prince Island, Santa Rosa Island, Santa Cruz Island and the Anacapa Islands, the Santa Barbara channel being between them and the mainland. The southern group, lying to the south of Los Angeles county and to the west of Orange and San Diego counties, consists of Santa Barbara Island, San Nicolas Island, Santa Catalina Island and San Clemente Island. All are wild, rugged and extremely picturesque. In the waters surrounding them are the great fields of the brown seaweed known as “elk horn kelp.” The root of this kelp is firmly attached to the bed of the ocean, while just above is a large, smooth round bulb that serves to float the streamer-like leaves, which are from 20 to 30 feet long. The kelp is collected and dried in the sun by hanging it on wooden bars, with the bulbs downward. The kelp drying grounds presents a remarkable sight, the great bulbs resembling the round heads of the South Sea islanders' club. Formerly, when found dry on the shore, the kelp was too stiff to be manufactured, but a method has been found of extracting the potash and iodine from it and rendering it pliable enough to work with. Many articles, from napkin rings to waste paper baskets, are now made from dried kelp...”

September 2, 1913 [SBDN]: “Sea moss sacked and piled in a miniature mountain was brought from the islands this morning by Captain Ira Eaton. His staunch vessel was loaded to its capacity with the weed that is dear to the heart of the Mongolian. With the vessel and cargo came six Chinese, whose labors for weeks are represented by the sacks of moss. They were sent to the island by local and San Francisco interests to harvest the moss, now in a state of perfection. This is said to be one of the largest moss consignments ever brought to this port. When gathering moss one of the Celestials last week had an encounter with a wild boar, but managed to escape the creature’s sharp tusks by leaping into the ocean and swimming around a rock. The hogs relish the moss when dried, and had caused the Chinese no end of trouble by attempting to raid their drying camp. The trip from the island was made without incident. The arrival here was witnessed by a throng of local Chinese, who had gone to the wharf before daybreak in expectation of the return of the moss gatherers.”

March 14, 1915 [SBMP]: “After Irish Moss. Captain Ira K. Eaton left for Forney's Cove, Santa Cruz Island yesterday morning with a crew of Chinamen who will make camp there for the purpose of gathering Irish moss, which they will export to China, where this sea product is regarded a great food delicacy.”

June 29, 1915 [TI/Avalon]: “Dr. C. F. Holder, president of Wild Life Protective League, is trying to induce the supervisors to pass a law protecting the kelp beds of Santa Catalina Island from destruction. The kelp produces potash, and there is great demand for it…”

August 5, 1915 [SBMP]: “Yesterday Frank Nidever returned from Santa Rosa Island in his power sloop Marguerite with a load of Irish moss for export to Japan where natives consider it one of the finest seafood delicacies.”

November 6, 1915 [SBMP]: “During the present week two separate expeditions have been in the Santa Barbara Channel investigating the kelp beds with a view to their exploitation for commercial purposes. One party was from San Diego and the other from Los Angeles. The government has recently mapped these marine gardens, and found that the growth off the Santa Barbara coast was more luxuriant than anywhere else; probably because of the protection offered by the Channel Islands.”

April 3, 1916 [SBDN]: “The first formal move to protect the kelp beds of Santa Barbara was made today, when Secretary C. H. McIsaac of the Chamber of Commerce appeared before the board of supervisors with the suggestion that the county prepare an ordinance for the regulation of industries engaged in cutting the kelp. He presented the ordinance, which Los Angeles County has adopted, and explained at length the activities of potash industries in other sections, which have resulted in the destruction of the kelp beds. He stated that the companies harvesting the kelp have heretofore adopted measures that pulled the kelp up by the roots. His idea is to have the county license the gathering of kelp, making possibly a nominal license of $5. It is proposed to so regulate the cutting of kelp that it will not be harvested at a greater depth than six feet below the surface. It is believed that with such a restriction a factory located within 10 miles of Santa Barbara would not be objectionable from any standpoint. The supervisors are willing to protect the kelp and to allow its being harvested if it can be shown that by cutting it no injury will result either to the beds of kelp or to the shoreline by high seas. In this regard they propose to gather information.”

April 14, 1916 [SBMP]: “Kelp groves show in fine new maps. Yesterday the Chamber of Commerce received from the national capitol a bound volume entitled Potash from Kelp, with a dissertation on the kelp groves of the Pacific coast and the islands of the United States and lower California... The map shows that off the Santa Barbara shore the beds carry heavy kelp growth from Goleta to the Rincon, mostly of medium thickness of leaf, a quality desirable to the kelp gatherers...”

April 29, 1916 [LAT]: “The largest kelp harvester ever built in Southern California was launched tonight at high tide from the boat-building pant of C. E. Fulton on Mormon Island, in the presence of a large crowd of citizens of the harbor district, including representatives of the San Pedro and Wilmington chambers of commerce. The construction of the big harvester marks the beginning of what promises to become an important industry in Southern California. The V-shaped barge launched tonight is 150 feet long and 50 feet wide. It will be equipped with cutters and, unlike the kelp harvesters now in use in these waters, will carry its own power…”

May 6, 1916 [SBMP]: “The supervisors yesterday passed an ordinance for the protection of kelp deposits in the Santa Barbara channel. The ordinance provides that no person, company, or corporation shall remove, cut, destroy or damage any seaweed growing in the Pacific Ocean within the county of Santa Barbara, either adjacent to or bordering on the mainland, or the islands of Santa Rosa, Santa Cruz, Anacapa or San Miguel. The restriction does not apply to the removal, cutting or destruction of seaweed when done in navigation or fishing in these waters, or when done for the purpose of carrying on or in the aid of navigation. The ordinance provides for a $500 fine, or imprisonment for not more than six months, or both such fine and imprisonment, as penalty for violation.”

May 6, 1916 [SBDN]: “The kelp beds along the Santa Barbara county coast line and along the islands area now protected as far as a county ordinance can protect them. Before adjourning yesterday morning, the board of supervisors passed an ordinance providing a fine of $500 or six months’ imprisonment, or both, for those caught cutting kelp without permission of the county officials. Kelp has become a valuable crop, through the rise in price of nitrates and the removal of the kelp from along this coast would expose the shore to rough water now checked by the floating beds. It is, however, thought doubtful that the county ordinance will stand in the courts if attacked.”

October 13, 1916 [SBMP]: “Kelp cutting ordinance ready… The supervisors will hold a special meeting today, and among other business outlined for their consideration, the kelp ordinances will be taken up and probably passed. This will define the county’s powers of regulation over the kelp beds, and will make it possible for the county to lease certain sections of the channel within the three-mile limit to companies desiring to utilize this marine growth…”

October 26, 1916 [SBMP]: “It is announced that at the next meeting of the board of supervisors of Ventura County representatives will be made looking toward the protection of kelp beds in that vicinity…”

November 8, 1916 [SBMP]: “Kelp franchise sought by company. Leslie H. Thompson, Vice President and manager of the American Products Company operating out of Long beach a big plant for the handling of kelp and the manufacture of by-products, has been in the city for several days looking into the proposition for establishing the same kind of plant at Summerland…”

December 1, 1916 [SBMP]: “Summerland due to become kelp center… Material is already being shipped into Summerland for this purpose…”

December 3, 1916 [SBMP]: “Kelp cutting by government supervision… The Department of Agriculture has petitioned the board for the right to harvest kelp along the Santa Barbara county…”

December 5, 1916 [SBMP]: “Kelp district considerably reduced… will be permitted to cut kelp along the Santa Barbara channel coast, excepting beds directly opposite Santa Barbara, Montecito and Miramar…”

December 6, 1916 [SBMP]: “Kelp industry buildings going up. Plans progressing for great development at Summerland. Preparations for the development of Summerland as the seat of the kelp products industry go on apace, and before the end of the month building will be underway, and machinery will be installed… From the 200 tons of kelp used daily, about five tons of muriate of potash will be manufactured…”

December 8, 1916 [SBMP]: “Break ground for first kelp plant. California Chemical Company starts operations at Summerland. Workmen were engaged yesterday at Summerland in excavation for the foundation of the new plant…”

December 16, 1916 [SBMP]: “Supervisors grant kelp franchise… The Board of Supervisors will meet in special session this morning to grant applications… for the privilege of harvesting kelp in the Santa Barbara Channel… The county will receive a royalty of 2-1/2 cents for every ton of kelp taken, this being described as a license fee.”

December 17, 1916 [SBMP]: “Kelp cutting authorized against new opposition. Supervisors grant four licenses for the harvesting of kelp in the Santa Barbara channel… the board unanimously passed a motion granting the applications of the Bureau of Soils Agriculture Department, United States Government; of the Lorned Manufacturing Company; of the California Chemical Company; and of the United States Potash and Fertilizer Company…”

December 23, 1916 [SBMP]: “The first license to be actually issued by County Collector H. C. Sweetser under the new county kelp ordinance was taken out yesterday by the United States Potash and Fertilizer Company, whose plant is to be located near Alcatraz. The license runs for ten years, subject to revocation by the supervisors for violation of the rules specified.”

December 29, 1916 [SBMP]: “Official probe of kelp cutting. As the result of action taken in Washington by representative H. Stanley Benedict, Commissioner Smith of the Bureau of Fisheries will visit the California coast within a few days in an effort to ascertain whether the kelp cutting is injuring the spawning beds of the fish. The investigation will be thorough. However, what ever federal relief may be given will be at points beyond the three mile limit.”

January 3, 1917 [SBMP]: “Work commenced yesterday in the construction of a large building at Summerland for the Lorned Manufacturing company of Long Beach, maker of kelp products in large variety. The construction will be under the supervision of Mr. Harris of Los Angeles, and it is expected that it will cover a period of about two months. This building calls for 60,000 feet of lumber, which is furnished by the Santa Barbara Lumber company, and a large amount of corrugated iron.”

January 4, 1917 [SBMP]: “The California Chemical Company yesterday procured its formal license for harvesting of kelp in the Santa Barbara channel, the permit being issued by County Tax Collector H. C. Sweetser under previous orders from the Board of Supervisors.”

January 6, 1917 [SBMP]: “All doubt as to the intention of the United States government and the Lorned Manufacturing Company, its associate in the kelp venture, to locate at Summerland and harvest the channel crop of seaweed, was removed yesterday when the representative of the Lorned Company and of the agriculture department applied for and received the license authorized some weeks ago…”

March 20, 1917 [SBMP]: “The Mayflower, a kelp-harvesting boat, arrived at the local wharf yesterday from San Francisco with a lot of steel and other building material for the Lorned Manufacturing company of Summerland.”

April 20, 1917 [LAT]: “Long Beach. Kelp beds must have long rest. Submarine forest stripped around Long Beach… Officials of a number of the local potash companies stated that the heretofore untouched Santa Cruz Island beds may be invaded, if no nearer fields are discovered on the scouting cruise next week. About 1200 tons per day is considered an average cutting by Long Beach kelp companies when the entire fleet is working.”

July 13, 1917 [SBMP]: “Kelp plant delay. Dr. J. W. Turrentine, in charge of the federal government’s kelp plant in Summerland, yesterday stated that he still hoped to be able to begin operations by August 1, but there have been some discouraging delays in securing materials and supplies.”

July 31, 1917 [TI/Avalon]: “En route to Santa Barbara Island the three kelp cutters, Joplin, Bacchus, and Kenbil of the Hercules Powder Company, arrived in this port Saturday morning. It is expected that the cutting operations will commence at Santa Barbara Island about Wednesday.”

September 6, 1917 [SBDN]: “The big kelp cutter from Summerland today put in here for oil, and then struck out for the channel, where kelp harvesting is now in progress. The harvester has been cutting kelp north of Castle Rock, and right down through the channel. It will be taken to the islands this month to harvest the great fields of kelp now ready for cutting in that locality. The manager states that kelp beds cut over near Summerland are now growing rapidly, and within a few weeks they will be as heavy and long as before they were cut. It is believed that the cutting will eliminate the piling of rotting kelp on the beach. Off the islands are the largest beds of kelp on the coast, and it is expected several weeks will be devoted to the harvest there. The kelp is of specially fine quality, containing an unusually large amount of nitrate to secure which is the object of the harvest.”

September 16, 1917 [OT]: “Those engaged in cutting kelp for the Hercules Powder Company off San Nicolas Island, 120 miles west of Point Loma, are reporting as much success in the gathering of Indian curios and relics as in the collection of seaweed. San Nicolas Island is covered with Indian graves, each one of which contains the skeleton of an Indian. Each skeleton is in a sitting position and holds in its bony arms the skeleton of a dog. In addition each grave is filled with trinkets and articles of household and warlike use. Measurements of the bones and comparison with the limbs of living men show that the buried aborigines were of a large and sturdy race. Besides the graves, the cutter crews are in the midst of perhaps the best fishing on the coast.—San Diego Union.

September 19, 1917 [SBDN]: “The Lorned Manufacturing Company, producers of potash from kelp, has completed the removal of all its plant from Long Beach to Summerland in Santa Barbara County, and is now harvesting an average of 200 tons of wet kelp a day. The plant at Summerland, which is under the management of L. H. Thompson, vice-president of the Lorned Company, is now working 45 men. The harvesters are making trips to Gaviota every day in order to keep the plant going, and both are working night and day. This company has already harvested some kelp in the fields off the coast of Santa Rosa Island. The government plant at Summerland is purely experimental in its work, and has the assistance of the State in its experiments. In fact, the State is assisting in the work of all of the plants on the California coast. The product of the plant at Summerland goes to the East, where all of the mixers are at the present time, and is made into fertilizer. Later some of it is shipped back to California in the shape of a perfect fertilizer, other parts having been added to the potash as shipped from Summerland.”

September 24, 1917 [SBDN]: “Kelp beds are proving veritable gold mines on Santa Cruz Island for a number of young men, according to news brought from the island by members of a big Sunday excursion, who returned last night. It was explained to the excursionists that six young fellows have discovered the potash values in kelp, and are burning the kelp on the island beach, gathering up the ashes, and extracting 45 percent potash, which it is stated, is netting them an average of $45 a day. They harvest the kelp from rowboats, dry it on the sands, and set the dry kelp heaps afire. Their activities, it is reported, have attracted interests which are now seeking to curtail their work, as an effort will be made to drive them from the island. It is stated that the kelp beds are close in shore, and more densely matted than the beds of kelp that line the channel just off Santa Barbara. As the kelp belongs to the government, and the boys are said not to have a license to harvest it, the excursionists do not believe their activities will be long continued. Among the excursionists who made the trip in the Sea Wolf with Captain Ira Eaton were Mr. and Mrs. Knapp, Mrs. O. R. Sayar, Mrs. Harry Watkins, Mr. and Mrs. Reed, Miss Yates, Sidney Lingham, Dr. H. C. Sexton, two sons of Dr. Goodrich, and several friends with Mr. De Ponce. Three whales were sighted, spouting vigorously. The excursionists made Pelican Bay, where a son of the late Senator Bard is entertaining friends.”

October 30, 1917 [TI/Avalon]: “A new kelp harvester has been constructed for the Pacific Products Company of Long Beach. The harvester can carry 350 tons, and has a working radius of 300 miles. It can cut a swath nearly fourteen feet wide.”

December 5, 1917 [SBDN]: “The big kelp cutter is busy today harvesting the kelp beds off the coast of Santa Barbara, westerly from the wharf. This kelp was cut over several months ago, and its rapid growth since then has produced another big crop. The cutters today were straight out in the channel from Castle Rock…”

December 15, 1917 [SBDN]: “The Hercules Powder Company of San Diego made a sudden raid on the kelp beds off Carpinteria this morning, there being three big harvesters and as many barges appearing when morning broke, and for a time there was serious consternation among the Summerland kelp plants, the Lorned interests and the California Chemical Company discovering the enemy at daybreak slashing into the kelp. Officials hurriedly called in Dr. A. W. Turrentine, who is in charge of the government chemical plant at Summerland, and who represents the Department of Agriculture, and he, with Dr. C. W. Crandall of the marine experiment station at La Jolla, who happened to be at the Summerland plant, went scudding out to the invading fleet in a power launch for a conference… The result was an amicable compromise, Dr. Turrentine suggested that the Hercules fleet leave the immediate coast beds to the Summerland companies, and this the visitors agreed to do…”

February 5, 1918 [SBMP]: “The local kelp bed will hereafter be cut twice annually, at times when the cutting will not interfere with the bed’s protection against storms, according to a letter received by the supervisors from W. C. Crandall, state kelp investigation of the Scripps Institute for Biological Research of the University of California at La Jolla. Mr. Crandall writes that unless a better method is suggested, the local beds will be opened to harvest in the spring months of April and May and the fall months of September and October…”

February 5, 1918 [SBMP]: “Local kelp situation by Dr. J. W. Turrentine. The giant kelp beds off the coast of Southern California are furnishing, among other things, potash and iodine, two commodities of the greatest importance in times of peace; in time of war, practically necessary to national defense; at all times contributing to national independence. The local kelp industry, locally established on the shore at Summerland, came into Santa Barbara County with the permission of the board of supervisors. Opposition was expressed by certain interests on the grounds mainly that the kelp beds would be destroyed and their breakwater action could not longer serve to protect the wharves and other beach property of the community. This objection was met squarely the petitioners for license by the voluntary agreement to exclude all kelp harvesters from the, at that time, immense kelp bed extending from the Santa Barbara pier to a point beyond Miramar…”

March 12, 1918 [TI/Avalon]: “Santa Catalina Island… Among the marine specimens which may be viewed through the clear crystalline waters on the lava-like sea-floor are: Iodine kelp, Sea Grape kelp, Giant Bulb Kelp, Ribbon kelp…”

March 20, 1918 [LAT]: “Kelp boat missing. Officials of the Sea Productions Company, a local kelp concern, today expressed anxiety for the safety of Captain Dick Lowman and a crew of ten men, who left Long Beach Saturday with a kelp harvester and two boats belonging to the company for a cruise up the coast to the Santa Barbara seaweed fields. A severe storm was reported upcoast yesterday and the officers of the kelp company are endeavoring to get in touch with the crew of the harvester. Captain Lowman, an apt weather forecaster, may have sought shelter at the Santa Barbara islands, in the opinion of Howard Judson of the Sea Products Company.”

April 17, 1917 [TI/Avalon]: “Three boats of the Hercules Kelp Cutting Company anchored in the bay Monday morning and remained in port until the wind had moderated.”

August 1, 1917 [SBMP]: “Roast kelp has baked apple odor says Judge Snow. While the government's kelp plant at Summerland will not be ready today for full operation as expected, experiments on a rather large scale have been underway for several days, and harvesters are working regularly. That kelp fields have been invaded be some mysterious disease which has greatly thinned them since plans were first made to utilize them for potash and other chemicals, it is an assertion by Dr. J.W. Turrentine, the expert in charge of the situation. Judge Melvin Snow, Summerland pioneer, yesterday expressed his approval of the progress made by the kelp people. 'There were warnings, he said, of an offensive odor when the manufacturing process started. Nothing like that has happened. Smells more like baked apples or roasted coffee. I don't believe Summerlanders will have to eat so much when things are underway.' The force of employees is expected to be largely increased soon.”

August 17, 1917 [SCICo]: “We have been _________ the necessity of moving the kelp cutters, as three machines have been working around the island and cut all the kelp.”

August 18, 1917 [SBMP]: “Kelp disease is nature’s provision. It is a natural condition that comes in cycles that is playing havoc with the kelp beds of the channel at the present time. It is said to come every eight or nine years, and has virtually passed unnoticed by the layman. All the beaches along this coast are strewn with kelp and in many places the surface of the ocean is quite clear…”

September 2, 1917 [SBMP]: “Santa Barbara kelp beds reserved for U.S. use. Fish and Game Commission acts under newly framed state law. Following consultation with the kelp cutters, the Fish and Game Commission has announced the temporary closure of certain of the kelp beds along shore which showed signs of needing a rest…”

September 8, 1917 [SBMP]: “Destruction is threatening kelp beds. Vast areas have collapsed to bottom of ocean, says Dr. Turrentine... There have been previous references to a parasitical attack on the beds. Many persons who see clean water where there was kelp before have attributed this to cutting operations... The greater part of your kelp beds is now lying on the bottom of the ocean... Whatever has attacked the kelp is a far greater destructive element that the kelp cutters could ever be...”

December 16, 1917 [LAT]: “The Hercules Power Company sent a big fleet of kelp cutters to the Santa Barbara beds today, for a time causing consternation among the Summerland kelp companies. Through the good offices of Dr. W. A. Turrentine, government chemist, representing the Department of Agriculture at the State’s chemistry plant at Summerland, and Dr. C. W. Crandall of La Jolla, representing the State Fish and Game Commission, the Santa Barbara fleet sailed for the island fleet, leaving the coast beds of kelp for the Summerland concerns. In Hercules fleet, in charge of Captain Morris, are three harvesters, three barges, three tugs and a dispatch boat, a fleet that could have quickly despoiled the local beds and put the Summerland concerns out of business.”

January 6, 1918 [SBMP]: “Captain Ira K. Eaton, who returned last Friday night in the Sea Wolf from San Pedro where he put his craft through a course of repainting and general overhauling, goes to the island this morning on a fishing trip. Coming up from the lower port, the captain towed a towboat, the Merwiss, to this port. The craft will be used at Goleta in the towing of kelp barges operating in that local city.”

July 7, 1920 [LAT]: “Santa Barbara. July 6. A strange disease, which is destroying kelp in the Santa Barbara channel, is being investigated by George J. Pierce and James McMurphy of the department of biology of Leland Stanford, Jr. University. They arrived today to make their headquarters at the Summerland experimental station of the United States Department of Agriculture. They went over the kelp beds this morning to observe the effects of the disease, comparing the disease with the unaffected kelp, and collected numerous specimens for future study in their laboratories at the university and Carmel. The disease in former summers has practically destroyed the summer crop of kelp in the large bed, which extends from Santa Barbara wharf to Carpinteria, at times practically obliterating it. This summer there have been serious losses of kelp, but the disease is not nearly so marked as formerly. It is hoped, as a result of these studies, to be able to discover some method of combating the disease or else of saving the crop before the disease makes its appearance.”

November 21, 1920 [LAT]: “Santa Barbara. November 20. A plant for the manufacture of wallboard, heavy paper, roofing and cardboard, all from kelp, is to be erected in Summerland. The Occidental Chemical Company, which manufactured potash from kelp during the war, is to erect the plant… It is said that the success of the venture will do much to solve the country’s paper shortage, as the immense beds of kelp along the Santa Barbara coast and around the Channel Islands, beds that are perpetually renewed, will afford an inexhaustible supply of paper-making material, while fuel oil for operating the plant is obtainable from the ocean bed at Summerland.”

December 14, 1920 [SBMP]: “Government expert at kelp station makes discovery said to be unique. Sharks captured off Santa Cruz Island recently saved Santa Barbara a place in the sun as experiments proved that shoes, the best of their kid, it was stated by government expert, could and were being made from the tough skins of the man eaters. Dr. J. W. Turrentine, in charge of the kelp station at Summerland, is reported to have attained results during his research work where he has produced a fairly good ‘sea pickle.’ Dr. Turrentine’s discovery, utilized the thick, fibrous substance of weed, which grows abundantly in the local harbor, has created unusual interest, the taste and palatable effect of the ‘pickle’ being somewhat similar to the dill variety after proper seasoning, it is said. Dr. Turrentine has denied, however, that he is working on a process of sea weed which, mixed with cotton, forms a thread much cheaper and stronger than one all cotton.”

1921. “At the time of our last Biennial Report the kelp beds of California were being taxed to their utmost to furnish potash, the supply of which was cut off from Europe by the war. When this source of supply was cut off potash manufactured from kelp sold readily for four times the pre-war price. About 400,000 tons of kelp were being cut annually... soon after the signing of the armistice nearly all kelp harvesting ceased, for as yet a sufficient market had not been found for the by-products... It is possible that this great industry may soon be partially revived, but at present time it is at a standstill.” [26th Biennial Report, Fish & Game Commission, State of California, 1918-1920, p. 75]

May 28, 2017 [The Log]: “A plan to install and operate five experimental kelp moorings offshore of Catalina Island for the next three years was approved by the California Coastal Commission at its May 10 meeting. “Approximately 30 individual kelp plants would be harvested and attached to the cultivation structure where they would be monitored and evaluated for a roughly 30-day cycle,” Coastal Commission staff stated. “At the end of the evaluation cycle, the kelp would be harvested and taken to a nearby onshore lab for evaluation. New kelp would then be planted on the cultivation structure.” USC and Marine BioEnergy aim to cultivate giant, feather boa, elk and oar weed kelp. “This process of planting, cultivation, and harvest would continue at up to five separate sites – each with one anchor and buoy supported cultivation structure – for up to three years,” Coastal Commission staff stated. University of Southern California’s Wrigley Institute and Marine BioEnergy are partnering to cultivate kelp in the open ocean. The three-year experiment would, according to Coastal Commission staff, “demonstrate that kelp farming in deep ocean waters far from shore could be commercially viable using its cultivation technique.”

Kelp, San Nicolas Island is a triangulation station established by William E. Greenwell of the U.S. Coast Survey in 1858. It is located at the extreme southeast end of the central mesa. As Greenwell described it: “The ground is covered with low sage bushes at this end of the island, but in the immediate vicinity of the signal it is more or less free of these.”