Of Boats and Birds

,h4>Shore to Sea Lecture Series Brings the Islands to Life Although we see them from our coastline nearly every day, the five islands that comprise the Channel Islands National Park still seem remote and unreachable. That’s too bad, because the islands (and the waters that surround them as part of the national marine sanctuary) are home to a richly diverse and spectacularly unique ecosystem. But thanks to the monthly Shore to Sea lecture series — sponsored by said park and sanctuary — the islands’ magic is getting a little bit closer.

The series began in 2003 as a collaboration between the park, sanctuary, JASON remote expedition team, Santa Barbara Maritime Museum, UCSB’s Marine Science Institute, and the Ventura and Santa Barbara offices of education. The original project featured researchers involved with Robert Ballard’s JASON project, which led to such a positive response that a monthly series was launched in Ventura. In 2005, lectures began in Santa Barbara at Chase Palm Park, and have since become one of the best-kept secrets for nature and island culture lovers. This year, audiences have been regaled with tales from Betsy Lester Roberti, who grew up on San Miguel Island until her family moved to the mainland in 1942 with war looming. With the sanctuary’s help, she is currently turning her experience into a book. Roberti reminisced about the mailbag pilot (now on display at the Santa Barbara Maritime Museum) used to deliver vegetables, the mail, and ice cream. She told how she did not leave the island until she was three-and-a-half-years-old, and how her first excursion on State Street was accompanied by a photographer to document the novelty. And she described, in the days before cellular phones, how the family’s emergency signal was to fly a flag upside-down, after which a boat arrived 13 days later.

At another lecture, Greg Sanders spoke about sea otter translocation projects. Much of the water around Santa Barbara is a sea otter-free zone, a map of which the otters themselves are ignorant, leading to the need for occasional translocations of animals. Sanders showed footage of an attempt to capture a sea otter with a special net (they are notoriously difficult to catch), and told the story of an otter who kept returning to live with sea lions and seals.

April’s talk by Josh Adams focused on the multitude of fascinating seabirds, both full-time residents as well as migrating vacationers who call this area home seasonally. The sooty shearwater has an exhausting flight plan that involves Santa Barbara, New Zealand, and Alaska’s Aleutian Islands. He also discussed the Xantus’s murrelets who nest on the islands, which were saved by the recent rat eradication.

The upcoming talk on May 9 focuses on another aspect of the area: shipwreck archaeology. Diver Mark Norder, who founded the volunteer group Coastal Maritime Archaeology Resources (, and Patrick Smith will be speaking about their underwater work. Norder said that the islands are akin to “a giant sieve sticking out of the ocean, [trapping artifacts from] West Coast maritime technology and shipbuilding since the mid 1800s.” Adding that the talk will also discuss current efforts to find two Navy torpedo bombers that crashed off Anacapa Island in the ’40s, he expla ined, “Looking at different ships, times, and technology in a single area is what makes the Channel Islands so exciting.”

Intrigued? You should be, because future lecture topics include rare plants of the Channel Islands, white abalone restoration, and research reports on the marine protected areas, Santa Rosa Island, and the use of remotely operated vehicles in underwater surveys. So make your next Tuesday night educational, and check out the Shore to Sea lecture series.

4·1·1 The next free Shore to Sea lecture is Tuesday, May at 7 p.m. at the Chase Palm Park building on Cabrillo Boulevard. Ventura talks are held the following Wednesday at the CINP headquarters. For more info call 966-7107 or 658-5711.

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