Island of the Blue Dolphins

Island of the Blue Dolphins

In trying to research the formal name of the Catalina Channel, the waterway between Santa Catalina Island and the Southern California mainland, The Daily News of Open Water Swimming was reminded of the Island of the Blue Dolphins, a story about a remarkably courageous woman who lived alone for 18 years on San Nicolas Island, the most remote of California’s Channel Islands.

While the island is currently owned and controlled by the United States Navy as a weapons testing and training facility, San Nicolas Island was originally the home of the Nicoleño people. The Nicoleños were evacuated from the island by the Spanish missionaries after confrontations with Russians, but in the departure from the island under rough windy conditions, Juana Maria was left behind.

She resided on the island alone for 18 years before she was found in 1853 and brought back to Santa Barbara. She died within seven weeks and her story was the basis for Scott O’Dell’s 1960 award-winning novel Island of the Blue Dolphins and a 1964 film when she became known as the Lone Woman of San Nicolas Island.

The isolation and the loneliness Juana Maria must have felt during those long 18 years is unfathomable. While marathon swimmers may occasionally feel a sense of isolation and loneliness in the open water, we must put everything in perspective.

Juana Maria’s ability to adapt to the conditions which she faced can be a tremendous lesson and inspiration to those experiencing life and competitions under less trying conditions.

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