Difference between revisions of "Report of Explorations of the Islands off the Southern Coast of California, 1863"

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The beach being very rocky, without inlets or shelter is subject to the action of the waves to such a degree that few shells can remain more than a year on it and therefore a casual examination would induce the belief that they were scarce.  It is only by long and careful search that much variety of species can be found, though some are abundant.
 
The beach being very rocky, without inlets or shelter is subject to the action of the waves to such a degree that few shells can remain more than a year on it and therefore a casual examination would induce the belief that they were scarce.  It is only by long and careful search that much variety of species can be found, though some are abundant.
  
June 12th, I crossed over to Catalina island in the same vessel and the next day landed near the northwest end.  I there found Mr. M. Parsons with a small schooner of seven tons which I engaged to take me around this and to other islands.  As he could not start with me for a week I remained at Mr. Holand’s house, and made such collections, and explorations as I could in the north end.  On the 20th I started to circumnavigate the island, and dredging every day along the landward side down to a depth of 120 fathoms, slowly progressed o the southeast end.  The smoothness of the sea, clearness of the water and fine climate all tend to make this the best place for dredging among the islands, and I accordingly obtained many new and interesting shells, besides collecting fish, birds etc.  i also landed frequently and make collections and observations to illustrate the geology.  I found the rocks and lava streams of vesicular basalt.  Near the isthmus which divides the island into two, there is a vein of oxide of iron containing galena in masses, the whole about a foot thick and cropping out for some distance.  This and other similar veins have been mined to some extent, and are said to contain a large proportion of both gold and silver.  
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June 12th, I crossed over to <span style="color:#FF0000">'''Catalina Island'''</span> in the same vessel and the next day landed near the northwest end.  I there found Mr. M. [N.] Parsons with a small schooner of seven tons which I engaged to take me around this and to other islands.  As he could not start with me for a week I remained at Mr. Holand’s [Howland's] house, and made such collections, and explorations as I could in the north end.  On the 20th I started to circumnavigate the island, and dredging every day along the landward side down to a depth of 120 fathoms, slowly progressed o the southeast end.  The smoothness of the sea, clearness of the water and fine climate all tend to make this the best place for dredging among the islands, and I accordingly obtained many new and interesting shells, besides collecting fish, birds etc.  i also landed frequently and make collections and observations to illustrate the geology.  I found the rocks and lava streams of vesicular basalt.  Near the isthmus which divides the island into two, there is a vein of oxide of iron containing galena in masses, the whole about a foot thick and cropping out for some distance.  This and other similar veins have been mined to some extent, and are said to contain a large proportion of both gold and silver.  
  
 
After passing round the southeast end June 26th [1863] we found the wind and sea so violent on the outer side, that it was difficult to dredge at all and impossible to land.  I therefore made for the harbor which opens on that side near the north end and there tried to dredge but otherwise nothing of value, there being much difference in the species inhabiting this side, which were of more northern forays and scarcer.  After a thorough exploration of the harbor I proceeded towards the northwest end of the island, and seeing no appearance of any difference in its geological characters, turned our course for San Nicolas island.
 
After passing round the southeast end June 26th [1863] we found the wind and sea so violent on the outer side, that it was difficult to dredge at all and impossible to land.  I therefore made for the harbor which opens on that side near the north end and there tried to dredge but otherwise nothing of value, there being much difference in the species inhabiting this side, which were of more northern forays and scarcer.  After a thorough exploration of the harbor I proceeded towards the northwest end of the island, and seeing no appearance of any difference in its geological characters, turned our course for San Nicolas island.
  
It required forty eight hours of hard beating against the violent head wind before we searched anchorage at San Nicolas Island, sixty miles distant.  I went ashore there and visited Capt. Kimberly’s house, he having occupied the island as a sheep ranch.  Sheep and other stock do remarkably well although the vegetation consists almost wholly of Cacti and other plants apparently unfit for pasture.  The next day I ascended to the summit and walked along the whole narrow ridge from which the shores are visible on both sides, I found the island to consist entirely of sandstone of very late age but without fossils that I could discover.  It has a dip of about 25 degrees east and is distinctly terraced along the northeast side, forming three raised beaches at about 30, 80 and 300 ft. the last being near the summit.  On these raised beaches are shells of existing species few on the highest, and more on each below while there are most of all on the present beach, but of a rather northern group.
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It required forty eight hours of hard beating against the violent head wind before we searched anchorage at <span style="color:#FF0000">'''San Nicolas Island'''</span>, sixty miles distant.  I went ashore there and visited Capt. Kimberly’s house, he having occupied the island as a sheep ranch.  Sheep and other stock do remarkably well although the vegetation consists almost wholly of Cacti and other plants apparently unfit for pasture.  The next day I ascended to the summit and walked along the whole narrow ridge from which the shores are visible on both sides, I found the island to consist entirely of sandstone of very late age but without fossils that I could discover.  It has a dip of about 25 degrees east and is distinctly terraced along the northeast side, forming three raised beaches at about 30, 80 and 300 ft. the last being near the summit.  On these raised beaches are shells of existing species few on the highest, and more on each below while there are most of all on the present beach, but of a rather northern group.
  
 
The summit appears to have been raised from very deep water, containing no shells, for the sand with which it is chiefly covered contains only shells and bones left by the Indians, and much fresher than those of the higher terrace.
 
The summit appears to have been raised from very deep water, containing no shells, for the sand with which it is chiefly covered contains only shells and bones left by the Indians, and much fresher than those of the higher terrace.
  
Finding the bottom too rocky for dredging, and apparently little to be obtained by a longer stay, as the weather continued stormy, I started the next morning for San Clemente Island with a strong wind astern which took us the entire distance of fifty-five miles in eight hours, and we anchored in a beautiful calm bay before sunset, a great contrast to the stormy shores of San Nicolas.
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Finding the bottom too rocky for dredging, and apparently little to be obtained by a longer stay, as the weather continued stormy, I started the next morning for <span style="color:#FF0000">'''San Clemente Island'''</span> with a strong wind astern which took us the entire distance of fifty-five miles in eight hours, and we anchored in a beautiful calm bay before sunset, a great contrast to the stormy shores of San Nicolas.
  
 
I spent the next five days in examining the whole northeast side of Clemente island and also crossed it in two places.  I found it to consist entirely of basalt, having a somewhat columnar form especially towards the southeast end where the columns expand into fan shaped protrusions.  Unlike Santa Barbara island there is scarcely any soil covering the rocks and the island seems never to have been the resort of many animals.
 
I spent the next five days in examining the whole northeast side of Clemente island and also crossed it in two places.  I found it to consist entirely of basalt, having a somewhat columnar form especially towards the southeast end where the columns expand into fan shaped protrusions.  Unlike Santa Barbara island there is scarcely any soil covering the rocks and the island seems never to have been the resort of many animals.
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I learned from Dr. J. B Shaw, that on Santa Cruz Island there are metamorphic volcanic and fossiliferous rocks, but could not learn whether the fossils were recent or not.  From all accounts I should think that the four northern islands, Anacapa, Santa Cruz, Santa Barbara, and San Miguel were like the more southern ones, of similar formations to the coast ranges, but that there is less distinction between the materials consisting the northern then there is among he southern islands.
 
I learned from Dr. J. B Shaw, that on Santa Cruz Island there are metamorphic volcanic and fossiliferous rocks, but could not learn whether the fossils were recent or not.  From all accounts I should think that the four northern islands, Anacapa, Santa Cruz, Santa Barbara, and San Miguel were like the more southern ones, of similar formations to the coast ranges, but that there is less distinction between the materials consisting the northern then there is among he southern islands.
  
In May 1862 I landed for some hours at Prisoners’ Harbor Santa Cruz Is. Where I saw only metamorphosed sandstones. The existence of cretaceous and teriary rocks, though thus rendered probable required very close exploration to determine, and after all the rocks may be found as [deatitrite?] of fossils as those of Catalina Is.
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In May 1862 I landed for some hours at Prisoners’ Harbor <span style="color:#FF0000">'''Santa Cruz Is.'''</span> Where I saw only metamorphosed sandstones. The existence of cretaceous and teriary rocks, though thus rendered probable required very close exploration to determine, and after all the rocks may be found as [deatitrite?] of fossils as those of Catalina Is.
  
 
I regretted that the necessity of visiting the Sierra Nevada before winter made it impossible for me to go over these islands, where I think a very interesting zoological as well as other collections could be made.
 
I regretted that the necessity of visiting the Sierra Nevada before winter made it impossible for me to go over these islands, where I think a very interesting zoological as well as other collections could be made.

Latest revision as of 08:40, 30 June 2020

Report of Explorations of the Islands off the Southern coast of California
by James G. Cooper M.D.


Prof Whitney

Sir:
On the 24th April 1863 I left San Francisco in the steamer Senator for Santa Barbara, and reached there the next day. As it was desirable to spend some time at that place making zoological collections, I remained for weeks, making many interesting additions to the cabinet, in all classes of animals. I had intended also to collect plants, but the advanced season and unusual dryness made it useless to do so.

May 24th I reached Santa Barbara Island distant 75 miles, after a sail of 48 hours from the town in the sloop Hamilton in which I engaged passage at a low cost, as the owners were going to the island to hunt sea lions for their oil. I encamped with the sealers for twenty days, a week longer than I wished, but was delayed by waiting for a vessel from San Pedro which was being expected, there being no other means of getting away.

I found the Island to be composed entirely of vesicular basalt with very little tendency to a columnar structure and nothing like a volcanic crater or lava-streams.

There is an imperfect terraced arrangement probably due to the action of water in the intervals of successive elevations of which three or four seem to have occurred since its elevation above the level of the sea.

The whole surface is covered with a deep and apparently good soil, containing much lime, very light and ashy and averaging four or five feet deep. Though there are no bones or shells to be seen in this except on the supposition that it was in great degree formed by animal remains. Near the top there is a small bed of shells of living species and very fresh appearance, which I am satisfied were left by Indians, who formerly resorted there for seals, eggs, etc, and as on other islands kept sentinels on the high points, to watch for the approach of hostile or friendly canoes. These Indian remains may always be distinguished from fossils by their _____ appearance, and by consisting mostly of large shells, some of them broken to extract the animal.

About 30 feet above the sea on the southwest face of the island, there is a raised beach containing undoubted fossils, most of which are now living about the island but no species of ______ has not been found on any rest of the coast of this state.

The highest of the island is about 800 feet. There is no water on the island, except from rains.

The island is now the resort of great numbers of seals, of the species called Sea Lions, and formerly was also frequented by hundreds of Sea Elephants, a much larger species of seal, now nearly exterminated along this coast. Myriads of birds of several species also come to it to lay their eggs. From these animals the large proportion of lime in the soil is derived, and is also washed into the surrounding water. This supplies material for the shells of great numbers of mollusks, which are therefore found in an abundance unusual on volcanic islands and not observed by me or any others. Not only do they abound in the water but the land is perfectly alive with snails of which I obtained three land species and a new genus (______). These land shells seem to have inhabited the island from a very early period, and fossil forms of the two larger species are found differing considerably from those now living. This is the stronger evidence of the geological periods, that I have ever met with.

The beach being very rocky, without inlets or shelter is subject to the action of the waves to such a degree that few shells can remain more than a year on it and therefore a casual examination would induce the belief that they were scarce. It is only by long and careful search that much variety of species can be found, though some are abundant.

June 12th, I crossed over to Catalina Island in the same vessel and the next day landed near the northwest end. I there found Mr. M. [N.] Parsons with a small schooner of seven tons which I engaged to take me around this and to other islands. As he could not start with me for a week I remained at Mr. Holand’s [Howland's] house, and made such collections, and explorations as I could in the north end. On the 20th I started to circumnavigate the island, and dredging every day along the landward side down to a depth of 120 fathoms, slowly progressed o the southeast end. The smoothness of the sea, clearness of the water and fine climate all tend to make this the best place for dredging among the islands, and I accordingly obtained many new and interesting shells, besides collecting fish, birds etc. i also landed frequently and make collections and observations to illustrate the geology. I found the rocks and lava streams of vesicular basalt. Near the isthmus which divides the island into two, there is a vein of oxide of iron containing galena in masses, the whole about a foot thick and cropping out for some distance. This and other similar veins have been mined to some extent, and are said to contain a large proportion of both gold and silver.

After passing round the southeast end June 26th [1863] we found the wind and sea so violent on the outer side, that it was difficult to dredge at all and impossible to land. I therefore made for the harbor which opens on that side near the north end and there tried to dredge but otherwise nothing of value, there being much difference in the species inhabiting this side, which were of more northern forays and scarcer. After a thorough exploration of the harbor I proceeded towards the northwest end of the island, and seeing no appearance of any difference in its geological characters, turned our course for San Nicolas island.

It required forty eight hours of hard beating against the violent head wind before we searched anchorage at San Nicolas Island, sixty miles distant. I went ashore there and visited Capt. Kimberly’s house, he having occupied the island as a sheep ranch. Sheep and other stock do remarkably well although the vegetation consists almost wholly of Cacti and other plants apparently unfit for pasture. The next day I ascended to the summit and walked along the whole narrow ridge from which the shores are visible on both sides, I found the island to consist entirely of sandstone of very late age but without fossils that I could discover. It has a dip of about 25 degrees east and is distinctly terraced along the northeast side, forming three raised beaches at about 30, 80 and 300 ft. the last being near the summit. On these raised beaches are shells of existing species few on the highest, and more on each below while there are most of all on the present beach, but of a rather northern group.

The summit appears to have been raised from very deep water, containing no shells, for the sand with which it is chiefly covered contains only shells and bones left by the Indians, and much fresher than those of the higher terrace.

Finding the bottom too rocky for dredging, and apparently little to be obtained by a longer stay, as the weather continued stormy, I started the next morning for San Clemente Island with a strong wind astern which took us the entire distance of fifty-five miles in eight hours, and we anchored in a beautiful calm bay before sunset, a great contrast to the stormy shores of San Nicolas.

I spent the next five days in examining the whole northeast side of Clemente island and also crossed it in two places. I found it to consist entirely of basalt, having a somewhat columnar form especially towards the southeast end where the columns expand into fan shaped protrusions. Unlike Santa Barbara island there is scarcely any soil covering the rocks and the island seems never to have been the resort of many animals.

Shells, both land and marine are consequently scarce and though vast numbers of fish are visible in the water, I found few new animals.

The form of the island is that of a terraced table, and although from the nature of the rock and the scarcity of shells, very few fossils have been preserved, yet there is sufficient evidence that each one of the terraces of which there are about seven, has been at one time the beach of the island.

This evidence consists of the fact that the bluffs forming the steps from one to another are all hallowed out by numerous caves exactly like those now forming in the bluffs along the present shore. Some of the latest upheavals have greatly heightened the island near the north end, and there are more terraces under water which form dangerous shoals along the northern shores. Near the middle of the eastern side however there is a precipice which leaps off to a great depth. Being located there for four hours, I threw out the dredge, expecting to scrape up something as we were slowly drifting along with the current which runs strong during tides.

At a mile from shore I found no bottom with 840 feet of line (all I had), and as we drifted inland I found the depth at a quarter of a mile from shore to be 600 feet. Nothing at all seemed to live at that depth and nothing of interest nearer the shore.

The highest terrace I estimated to be nearly 1000 feet alone the water.

Having finished the exploration, we found that the anchor had become immovably fixed among the rocks in 100 feet depth of water and were obliged to cut the cable and make sail for Catalina Is., the remaining anchor being too light to trust in a gale.

We ran from the south end of Clemente to the North end of Catalina in about eighteen hours, sailing all night, distance 45 miles. On this occasion I was struck forcibly with the contrast in appearance between this and the three outer islands. On Catalina there are no signs of terraces as water______ caves. Although there is much volcanic rock, it does not seem to resume a tabular or columnar form but to have run out from fissures in the metamorphic in irregular streams. The outline of the island instead of being flat-topped is like the summit of mountain ridge, composed of irregular printed cones. Some of these near the middle of the island look very much like craters at a distance. There is no raised beach visible corresponding to those on the outer islands, and in fact, it seems that this island has remained stationary if it has not indeed sunk while the others were being raised. From the constant erosion of the shores I am inclined to thing that it may now be slowly sinking. The vegetation of these different islands is remarkably dissimilar, and I was sorry that I had not taken paper for pressing plants, although they were nearly dried up. There is brackish water obtained by digging on San Nicolas, and many natural banks of excellent rain water preserved in the basaltic can[y]ons of San Clemente, which are so deep and narrow that the sun never reaches the bottom, and the water remains good for an indefinite time. As before remarked there is no water on Sta Barbara [Island]. I except [sic] in winter, yet sheep thrive there probably supplied by the moisture deposited by fogs, and by eating succulent plants. Even a cat has live there for four years alone, subsisting on birds and multitudes of mice. The native animals are to a great extent different o the different island, both the birds which can go to all of them and the quadrupeds which have been carried to them from the mainland by the Indians or on floating logs during the great floods that occur periodically. I made careful notes of all kinds observed.

I spent one more day in dredging and on shore at Catalina I., then sailed across to San Pedro, arriving at sunset, July 11th, running the distance 24 miles in 5 hours.

I intended, after making some collections at San Pedro and having the vessel repaired, to sail up the coast to Santa Barbara, 120 miles, landing at several points not visited by the survey and dredging at places where I thought there must be interesting specimens obtainable.

I remained eight days at San Pedro, finding much of interest notwithstanding my former exploration there. I made eight large packages of specimens collected since leaving Santa Barbara Is and sent them to San Francisco.

July 20th [1863], sailed from San Pedro but only made about seven mile against the wind before night, when as usual it was calm, and we made no progress. The next day crossed the bay between Point Vincent and Point David [Dana?], which is very shoal and exceedingly rough, so that spray dashed washed over us and wet everything below decks. I found the surf so heavy on the shores of this bay that it was impossible for a small boat to land and the next morning after trying the dredging thoroughly, satisfied myself that it was impossible with the means at _____ to carry out my plan of examining the points, and that little could be obtained by dredging to compensate for the time and danger of the trip along lee shore and against the wind prevailing at that season.

I therefore decided to return to San Pedro, and by night had reached “Dick’s Harbor”, a little cave between Points Vincent and Fermin, occupied by the whales in winter. There I landed, and found a volcanic protrusion showing itself near the water level, though all the surrounding country consists of stratified rocks, cretaceous and tertiary.

July 23rd [1863], I spent most of the day dredging from Dick’s Harbor to San Pedro but found very little. On the same ground where I dredged in Oct. 1861, I obtained not a quarter of the species found then, showing hat the marine animals along the main land had not yet recovered from the destructive effects of the winter of 1861-2. I was told at Santa Barbara that certain species formerly abundant had been scarce since then at that placce also, and the smaller animals being destroyed, the fish had also left the coast for want of the old supply of food.

I was desirous of being at San Pedro at the extreme low tide occurring at full moon in July to see if any marine animals could be obtained there on the beach, not otherwise obtainable. I was able to explore the beach thoroughly by moonlight and at dawn on July 29th, but found almost nothing although hundreds of acres of sand flats were left bare by the tides. Two years before, I am satisfied that I could have found many interesting specimens.

July 30th [1863], I went on board the Senator and about midnight reached Santa Barbara. There I was obliged to remain over one trip of the steamer, to pack specimens before collected and obtain some others, especially some of the fossils of the vicinity. Although attacked with rheumatism in consequence of my recent exposures, I succeeded in obtaining all that seemed desirable over the next 12 days.

I learned from Dr. J. B Shaw, that on Santa Cruz Island there are metamorphic volcanic and fossiliferous rocks, but could not learn whether the fossils were recent or not. From all accounts I should think that the four northern islands, Anacapa, Santa Cruz, Santa Barbara, and San Miguel were like the more southern ones, of similar formations to the coast ranges, but that there is less distinction between the materials consisting the northern then there is among he southern islands.

In May 1862 I landed for some hours at Prisoners’ Harbor Santa Cruz Is. Where I saw only metamorphosed sandstones. The existence of cretaceous and teriary rocks, though thus rendered probable required very close exploration to determine, and after all the rocks may be found as [deatitrite?] of fossils as those of Catalina Is.

I regretted that the necessity of visiting the Sierra Nevada before winter made it impossible for me to go over these islands, where I think a very interesting zoological as well as other collections could be made.

The entire results of my zoological and other collections on this trip were contained in 14 large boxes and one keg. They were safely received in San Francisco and have since been, partly arranged, described and distributed for exchange with distant museums.

The detailed account of them is reserved for my final report, but I may remark that though the additional species obtained were only 130, yet their novelty and interest surpasses any collection made during any other three months I have been engaged in this work, and that I obtained a large stock of duplicates much wanted for exchange.

Aug. 14 th [1863], I reached San Francisco, and spent the three following weeks working at the collections obtained on this trip.

My collections in the Sierra Nevada during September must form the subject of another report.


Yours Respectfully, James G. Cooper, M.D.