The cave featured in Scott O’dell’s 1960 classic YA novel Island of the Blue Dolphins has been discovered on San Nicolas island, just off the coast of Santa Barbara. According Navy archaeologist Steve Schwartz, it is likely to have sheltered the real-life Lone Woman - the mystical, mythical dolphin charmer with probably very tangly hair that smells like fire - that the book is based on.
Says the LA Times of Juana Maria, the Lone Woman:
According to legend, she jumped overboard and swam for shore when she frantically realized that her baby had been left behind. Less romanticized theories hold that she told the captain she’d show up with her child but a sudden storm forced him to shove off without her.
What’s known is that a solitary woman lived in the sand and fog of San Nicolas for the next 18 years. On the mainland, her legend grew. A time or two, fishermen reported seeing a fleeting figure on the deserted island. In 1850, a padre at the Santa Barbara Mission commissioned a sea captain to find her.
“The old woman was of medium height but rather thick,” he later reported. “She must have been about 50 years old but she was still strong and active. Her face was pleasing, as she was continuously smiling. Her teeth were entire but worn to the gums.”
As in O’Dell’s telling of it, the Lone Woman was eventually taken back to Santa Barbara. But unlike his version, I bet you will never guess what happened next.
After seven weeks, she died of dysentery.
If you haven’t read the book, well you’re probably too old to read it now and it is an indication that you did not go to a very good school. You can watch the movie here.