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
(cmarhomepage.org), 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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