Potato Harbor, Santa Cruz Island

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Upper Potato & Lower Potato pastures, Santa Cruz Island

Potato Harbor, Santa Cruz Island (Puerto de las Papas, Potato Bay, Potato Cove, Tyler Bay) is located on the north side of the island to the east of China Harbor. It is the only safe anchorage on the north side of the island in northeast winds. In 1889, geologist W. A. Goodyear wrote:

“At Potato Harbor, alias Tyler Bay, the stratification of the white marine beds is nearly horizontal, and they are three hundred feet or more in thickness, as they extend down in places quite to the water's edge. Immediately west of Potato Harbor the hills rise much higher, and the white rocks disappear.”

The week of January 20, 1907:

“storm waters dislodged a portion of the cliff, and a slide engulfed all the tents in the [crawfish] outfit.”

In 1909 Margaret Eaton referred to:

“a little shack built on the side of the hill which seemed to be holding on for dear life.” [Eaton 1980: 136].

According to Pier Gherini [1966]:

“For routine supplies we depended upon the Larco fish boats which came to pick up lobsters and supply lobster camps. In consideration of receiving transportation, we granted the company the right to maintain fish camps at Potato Bay, Scorpion, San Pedro Point, and at Yellow Banks.”

Surveyor F. F. Flournoy referred to this location as Potato Bay. The place name Potato Harbor appears on the Santa Cruz Island Sheet C topographic map. When the island was partitioned in 1925, this location was included in Tract No. 6 appointed to Agale S. Capuccio.

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In the News~

June 1, 1888 [SBDI]: “Santa Cruz. Further particulars of the celebrated expedition… Puerto de la Papa was made for. This beautiful name translated into every day English means Potato Harbor… Never was a port more eagerly entered by weary sailors than was this same little Potato Harbor, surrounded by bold cliffs, and whose water was smooth and calm. Potato Harbor lies on the east end of the island and is in the shape of a horse-shoe, with the narrow opening into the ocean. The entrance is about a quarter of a mile wide and the harbor extends inland about half a mile… On the other side at the entrance is a small detached island, going up to a point about 300 feet high. This island was covered with the nests of sea birds and they accorded a noisy welcome to the bold intruders. Each side of the harbor is covered by a bed of kelp that acts like oil in smoothing the turbulent waters. There is a narrow strip of clear water in the center between the kelp beds… to be continued.”

June 2, 1888 [SBDI]: “Santa Cruz. Return of the venturesome voyagers… Leaving Puerto de la Papa, the Brisk sailed along the coast toward the west end of the island…”

June 3, 1888 [SBMP]: “The Islands. The Adventures of the Mariners on their First Trip. The Charms and Mysteries of Santa Cruz. Myriads of Seals. Caves and Cliffs… a party of expectant adventurers gathered upon the deck of the little sloop Brisk, surrounded by a picturesque collection of guns, blankets and camp utensils. The little yacht sailed out to the tuneful play of guitar and harmonicas… the sloop was headed for a little harbor, Puerto de las Papas, which translated means Potato Harbor, an unromantic name for a most romantic spot, and so called, principally because everyone has to take his own potatoes when visiting it. The landing was very exciting owing to the high sea… The mariners were finally safely landed and each one started out to find the steadiest place on the island. A little bluff was finally chosen about twenty feet above the surface, and the blankets spread for the night… Their visions of Santa Cruz were confined to a very small area…”

January 17, 1907 [SBMP]: “Crawfish Camps Get Relief. Yacht Vishnu Successfully Lands Supplies. Reports from islands indicate much damage… At Potato Cove where one of the camps is located, the storm waters had dislodged a portion of the cliff and a slide had completely engulfed all the tents of the outfit. Fortunately none of the men was caught in the disaster, and the damage was confined to property…”

December 24, 1914 [SBDNI]: “…In the gale of last week, the Sea Wolf lay at anchor in Potato Harbor, safe from the fury of the storm. A dozen other boats were assembled there for shelter. Captain Eaton was ill this morning, suffering from stomach trouble. A taxi carried him to his home.”

1926: “Through the courtesy of L. E. Hitchcock, of the Biology Department of the Pasadena High School, I joined a party visiting Santa Cruz Island, going March 29 and returning April 1, 1926. The first night was spent at Potato Harbor and the next two at Fry’s Harbor. We cruised along the entire east and north coasts, and covered considerable territory inland, from the last named landing, on foot. Aside from sea fowl, were were impressed by the abundance of Ravens and the scarcity of Bald Eagles, and also by the Island Finches, inhabiting deep coastal caves having no flooring but that of surging water…” » Ross, Roland Case. 1926. A Spring Trip to Santa Cruz Island in Condor 28(5):240-241.

March 9, 1930 [WFVZ]: “From the Oological Collection of Charles Ashworth and Richard Thompson, Ventura, California. Bald Eagle eggs. Locality: Potato Bay, Santa Cruz Island, Ventura, Calif. Nest of large sticks lined with twigs, moss, wool, etc. Ten feet high, 6 feet thick, 6 inches depression, placed on rocky ridge about 600 feet above the ocean.”

October 3, 1931 [LAT]: “Lazard Lippman brought his big sloop Talayha in for dry-docking yesterday by a fifty-mile wind off Santa Cruz Island Monday night, and striking a submerged boat off Potato Harbor Wednesday. He believed it might be one of the fishing boats unaccounted for since spring, but damage to his keel precluded further investigation…”