Staff Report

The true-life story of Juana Maria, depicted in “Island of the Blue Dolphins” by Scott O’Dell, is a classic literary work that is part of educational curriculum for school children everywhere, just as it was for their parents years ago.

South Coast residents have a deeper connection to this story due to the proximity to Juana Maria’s home on nearby San Nicolas Island in the Channel Islands.

Local academics have done extensive research to learn more about her solitary life and survival in this remote place, but major questions remain.

Was she or wasn’t she completely alone on the island? Did she actually encounter other people on the island before she was found and taken to Santa Barbara?

The Santa Ynez Valley Historical Museum is inviting the public to attend “Mysteries of The Lone Woman of San Nicolas Revealed!” at 5 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 27. Doors open at 4 p.m. for a Back-to-School Open House prior to the talk.

John R. Johnson, Ph.D., Curator of Anthropology at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History, and Susan Morris, a historical researcher and expert on the Lone Woman, will present current research about Juana Maria’s life.

Recent archaeological discoveries and historical research have uncovered new details that help us understand why she may have remained on San Nicolas Island – perhaps not so alone as previously believed, a museum spokesman said. Researchers have uncovered what is believed to have been her sheltered cave as well as two redwood boxes with a cache of artifacts that are likely to have belonged to her.

The hour-long presentation is part of the museum’s back-to-school “Focus on Education” open house, which is geared toward local educators, parents and their students. Information will be shared on the museum’s school tour programs and current classroom materials targeting elementary history and social studies standards, followed by The Lone Woman presentation.

Admission is a suggested donation of $5 per adult and free for children. Teachers and school administrators are invited to attend for free. Light refreshments will be served, with beer and wine available for purchase.

“This event is a great way to kick off the school year,” said Theresa Reilly, curator of education for the museum. “We get an opportunity to showcase our educational initiatives to the community and bring history alive. It’s exciting to call attention to new research on Juana Maria conducted by leading anthropology experts that live in our region.”

An RSVP is requested by calling Reilly or Teresa Mills at 805-688-7889, emailing or visiting