Few experiences promise as much nature, culture, wonder, and adventure as a trip to California’s Channel Islands, and almost nothing captures that eye-opening combination of hands-on learning and outdoor enjoyment besides a return visit. But thanks to a visually vibrant collection of essays, interviews, photography, and illustrations, a new book called Island Visions translates the islands’ magic into a beautifully portable format, conveying the spirit and excitement of an excursion there while serving full educational helpings of the archipelago’s science, history, and personalities.
The 386-page hardcover was spearheaded by Santa Barbara–raised brothers Jacob Seigel Brielle and Isaac Seigel-Boettner, who’ve been visiting the islands since their first trip there as Santa Barbara Middle School (SBMS) students. The project, which was also supported by SBMS and Maps.com, started more than seven years ago following the tragic death of nature/underwater filmmaker Mike deGruy, whose kids also attended SBMS.
Isaac Seigel-Boettner and Jacob Seigel Brielle | Credit: Courtesy
“Mike was just out of this world, the human exclamation mark. He made things exciting,” said Seigel-Boettner. “We saw an opportunity to imbue a little bit of that enthusiasm into the islands.”
The brothers, who call the finished product an “untext book,” gathered an advisory board that featured, among others, deGruy’s widow, the filmmaker Mimi deGruy; Laura Francis from the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary; Scott Simon from REEF at UCSB; and Channel Islands legend Peter Schuyler. “Between those four people, they know everybody who’s anybody,” said Seigel-Boettner.
With their contacts, they enlisted 40 different scientists, fishermen, rangers, and even famous folks such as Sylvia Earle and Carl Safina to write chapters, revealing personal connections to their fields while delivering the facts and analysis required for a full grasp on the islands’ many natural and cultural resource issues. “We have perspectives that clash sometimes and don’t always agree, so kids can see how complicated and nuanced the idea of protecting this place is,” said Seigel Brielle. “This gave them a place to tell their story in a cohesive way that brings these voices together.”
Now in their early thirties (Isaac is 31; Jacob is 33), the brothers were born at Cottage Hospital and taken home as infants in bike trailers by their cyclist/teacher father, John Seigel-Boettner. He’s been a force at SBMS for decades — “We were raised in our dad’s classroom,” said Seigel-Boettner — while their mother, Lynn Seigel-Boettner, is also a teacher at Vieja Valley Elementary School.
They both wound up at UC Berkeley, where Jacob made the film With My Own Two Wheels in 2010. When that won them some acclaim at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival, the brothers saw filmmaking as a viable career choice, starting Pedal Born Pictures together. The company, which most recently produced a short documentary about the last video shop in Santa Barbara, is evolving into a storytelling media agency, working with both for-profits and nonprofits, mostly in the Bay Area, where the brothers live.
The book is for sale commercially — it’s truly a great primer on the Channel Islands for any age, and a very entertaining tome to flip through — and the brothers hope to get Island Visions into classrooms all around the area. “A lot of teachers are looking for something that’s not on a screen,” said Seigel Brielle. “This provides a really cool way to integrate local, place-based storytelling and content, but not have kids spend more time in front of their screens.”
They hope to encourage more people to go out there and see the magic for themselves as well.
“I wanted to show kids that you don’t need to go thousands of miles away to find these amazing things,” said Seigel Brielle, wondering why more in this region aren’t studying the Channel Islands instead of learning about faraway lands. “Many people don’t even know it’s a national park!”
Though their topic is the Channel Islands, the brothers believe the underlying messages of conservation and interconnectedness are much more global in scope. “The isolation of these islands is what makes them fantastic, but the more you probe into that isolation, you realize they are not at all isolated,” said Seigel-Boettner. “And that’s true for the world as a whole. We think we are in our own place, but eventually you realize we aren’t just islands floating through the universe. We need to acknowledge that sooner rather than later.”
Every day, the staff of the Santa Barbara Independent works hard to sort out truth from rumor and keep you informed of what’s happening across the entire Santa Barbara community. Now there’s a way to directly enable these efforts. Support the Independent by making a direct contribution or with a subscription to Indy+.