Oil: San Nicolas Island

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Oil: San Nicolas Island

“Petroleum possibilities. The surface geology on San Nicolas Island indicates the presence of subsurface structures suitable for small accumulations of oil and gas. However, the complete lack of information concerning the thickness and lithology of the concealed rocks prevents adequate evaluation of their petroleum potential. Until additional geophysical and stratigraphic core-hole data are available, the presence or absence of source rocks and reservoir rocks in the subsurface section of the island will remain conjectural.”

Geology of San Nicolas Island

Accommodation of Oil Industry on San Nicolas Island, 1974 Pdficon small 2.gif

In the News~

June 29, 1900 [LAT/VC]: “The Anacapa explorers have located seven claims, aggregating 1120 acres on the island. The entire island was surveyed by John Barry, who went with the party for this special purpose. The same party is at present on San Nicolas Island locating oil claims. There is much excitement over this territory…”

June 30, 1900 [OC]: “The Anacapa oil explorers returned Saturday. They report splendid oil indications on the island. John Barry surveyed the island, and claims to the number of 7 were located, making 112 acres… On Monday the same company sailed for San Nicolas Island to locate oil claims...”

August 26, 1900 [SFCall]: “…As to San Nicolas Island little has been known except that it is a most desolate spot, and was used as a burial place by the aboriginal dwellers in this region, but a seal hunter who knows the island says that it has a spring on which oil is always floating. There is a strong oil spring under the surface of the sea, near one of the islands.”

January 26, 1901 [SBDI]: “San Nicolas Island, about 60 miles off the coast of Santa Barbara, is to be explored by a party of Los Angeles engineers and scientific men and by Professor Philip Jones of the University of California. The party is being sent out by John Suplee of Los Angeles. J. B. Lipincott, a civil engineer, will be at the head of the exploration, accompanied by Homer Hamlin, a geologist. Professor Jones’ share in the examination of the but little known island will be to make an archaeological research and to secure specimens of Indian relics for the university. There are said to be large stores of valuable Indian relics, including implements of the aborigines, pottery, ruins of their abodes, mounds that probably were their playing grounds, skulls and other materials from which the unwritten history of the departed race may be traced. There is evidence that at one time the island was densely populated, but now those people have disappeared. What is the purpose of the visit to the island of other members of the party is not made public. The island is still a public domain. So far as known, it has never been thoroughly explored to learn what are its resources. When Mr. Suplee and Mr. Lippincott were asked for the object of the trip, the answer was that it was purely a pleasure party going to the island to fish and hunt and to take pictures of the Indian ruins. Others who know of the preparations for the trip have a different explanation. It is said that a study of the geological formation of the island will be made, for the purpose of learning if it contains oil. The party will sail from San Pedro Monday morning. Professor Jones has been in Santa Barbara several days. He has visited the Indian ruins in the Santa Ynez mountains, but was unable to find there the relics for which he is searching.”

January 27, 1901 [LAT]: “San Nicolas next. Prospectors to explore that field. Not content with the almost unlimited field for operation in the recognized oil districts of the State, oil prospectors have turned covetous eyes toward the islands of the sea. San Nicolas Island lying sixty miles off the Ventura coast, will be the next undeveloped field entered by the prospector, for it is said there are surface indications on that island which point to rich deposits of the precious fluid below the surface. A party of engineers and geologists will sail from San Pedro tomorrow for San Nicolas, to make a study of the formation of the various sections…”

February 16, 1901 [SBDI]: “Professor Philip M. Jones of the University of California, who with a number of oil experts and geologists of Los Angeles, spent several days on San Nicolas Island and returned last evening. Professor Jones went to the island in the interests of the University of California in search of Indian relics and to make a study of the shell and other deposits. Los Angeles capitalists sent experts over to the island to make a report as to oil indications. None whatever were found. Those who were in the party are A. A. Kendal, Homer Hamlin, United States Geological surveyor, and T. W. Woods of Los Angeles.”

February 28, 1901 [LAT]: “Government to lease San Nicolas Island. San Nicolas Island is to be leased by the government to the highest bidder... San Nicolas, like many others of the Channel Islands, may be leased by sheep herders, although it is said that oil prospectors have looked longingly on the island as a promising field for their operations.”

March 9, 1902 [LAT]: “It has been the ideal of many sentimental people to own an island in the Pacific… Anacapa, one of the smaller islands in the Santa Barbara Channel, was recently leased to a Los Angeles sheep man for a term of five years, at the ridiculous price of $5 a year… The government is now said to be arranging to dispose of San Nicolas Island, in the same way. This is a larger island, being nearly twelve miles in length, with an average width of three miles. Only about half of it will grow grass, the rest being covered with shifting sand. It is a great place for the collection of Indian relics, which abound there, and they are often brought away by the boatload. It was from this island that the lone Indian woman was brought to Santa Barbara, half a century ago. Evidences of oil are said to have been found on both these islands, and claims have been filed. If anyone desires to obtain an island cheap, they should send in their application to the proper authorities in San Francisco — presumably the Lighthouse Board — where they will be opened on April 1.”

April 17, 1902 [LAT]: “San Nicolas Island, one of the Santa Barbara Channel group, which the government some time ago advertised for rent, will probably soon be thoroughly exploited for water and oil. W. J. Gimpsey, an oil man and mine owner of Victor, has received word from Washington that his rent bid for the island—$362.50 per year — is the highest offered, and if no unforeseen obstacle turns up he will become the lessee of the 13,000 acres in the ocean, about four thousand acres of which are already considered good land. McGimpsey believes that there can be enough water developed on the island to make it blossom, but above all he believes that it is possessed of oil fields, and he will begin boring as soon as he comes into possession of the land. The sheep now on the island will probably be removed. Should the oil predictions prove true on San Nicolas Island, the Channel Islands may open up an entirely new field to oil men. McGimpsey is now in this vicinity looking for a suitable vessel to visit the island.”

April 30, 1902 [LAT]: “Who has the right to prospect for oil on San Nicolas Island, one of the Santa Barbara channel group? This question will have to be answered before the drill can be started to earth in the island field. The reason is evident. During the oil boom of several months ago, a number of Ventura people believed that there was a large petroleum deposit under San Nicolas. Among those who had faith in its productiveness were E. S. Hall, Sol Sheridan, E. Barnard, John Berry, Frank Shilling and several others. A party was organized and sent to the island, and it was located for its oil and minerals and the documents duly recorded in Ventura County, in which the island belongs. Now comes the announcement, mention of which was made in this column last week, that W. J. McGimpsey, an oil man and mine owner of Victor, is about to close with the government for a lease on the island, it being Mr. McGimpsey’s intention to prospect for oil after he had obtained possession of the land. This report came as quite a startle to the Ventura locators, who believed that yet they had ample time in which to do assessment work as required of original locators on mineral claims. Have they complied with the requirements, or have they still time to do so, are questions that will have to be settled. If they have, who has the right to prospect?”

May 6, 1902 [LAT]: “San Nicolas Island, lying about sixty miles off the coast of Santa Barbara, has been turned over by the government to W. J. Gimpsey, an oil and mining expert of Victor. Recently the government offered to lease the island for a period of five years, and bids were asked for. A bid of $362.50 a year was made by Mr. McGimpsey, and two weeks ago it was accepted. Now the island has been turned over. Since the acceptance of the high bid, J. H. Leverig and several other local men of means are said to have been interested in prospecting the promising territory on the island for oil. Capital has been raised sufficient to pay the expense of drilling several test holes under ordinary conditions, and the intention is to thoroughly prospect the eastern side of the island. On that side there are many indications of oil similar to those of the Summerland field, and little trouble was experienced in raising sufficient funds for the work. If the company fails to find oil, it will develop water and go into the business of stock raising.”

June 25, 1902 [LAT]: “W. J. McGimpsey left today for San Nicolas Island, where he will prospect for oil. He has leased the island from the government, and expects to begin drilling within a short time. "I have visited the island before," said he, "and spent some time investigating the field, which, so far as it is possible for a man to judge from a geological point of view in relation to other oil fields in this section, impresses me as being equal, if not superior, to any that have thus far been successfully operated." A report is going the rounds of seafaring men and others that all the buildings and shacks on the island were seen burning the latter part of last week. The island was visited Tuesday by the United States lighthouse tender Madroño, when notices were posted ordering a French sheepherder to vacate, for the reason that the island property had been leased by the government. A few days later the scow Brothers, Captain Winters, conveyed the sheepherder, with 3000 sheep, to San Pedro.”

June 28, 1902 [SBMP]: “San Nicolas Island was visited Tuesday by the U.S. lighthouse tender, Madroño, when notices were posted ordering a French sheepherder to vacate for the reason that the island property had been leased by the government. W. J. Gumpsey [McGimpsey] left yesterday for San Nicolas Island where he will prospect for oil. He has leased the island from the government and expects to begin drilling within a short time. ‘I have visited the islands before,’ he said, ‘and spent some time investigating the field, which as far as possible for a man to judge from a geological point of view in relation to other oil fields in this section, impresses me as being equal, if not superior, to any that have thus far been successfully operated.’”

June 29, 1902 [LAT/SB]: “W. J. McGimpsey left yesterday for San Nicolas Island, where he will prospect for oil. He has leased the island from the government and expects to begin drilling in a short time.”

July 28, 1924 [ODC]: “To prospect for oil on San Nicolas Is. San Nicolas Island, a barren and desolate bit of land sixty miles southwest of Catalina Island, may figure prominently in the romance of modern business if the calculations of six Angelinos are correct. It is the purpose of these men to prospect for oil, and in furtherance of that plan they have filed applications with the local Land Office for oil and gas permits. That San Nicolas Island is a likely place to prospect for oil is shown by investigations and reports made by Charles C. Carrol, a geologist of Venice, who is one of the six men filing application for permission to prospect on the island, which now is occupied solely by the government for lighthouse purposes. Associated with Mr. Carrol in the venture are C.C.C. Tatum, Oscar B. Luce, Jacob G. Kemper, Walter M. Lenz and G.A.B. Champney. The island is abut sixteen square miles in extent. The six permits would cover practically the entire island. Messrs Carrol, Luce and Kemper have applied for permits covering two square miles each. The other applications designate one square mile each. Application was made for the permits following a recent visit to the island by the applicants. As the Land Office does not have jurisdiction over insular possessions, the applications have been forwarded to the Treasury Department, which controls land used for lighthouse purposes.”