Dan Haifley, our ocean backyard: ohlones, shipwrecks and elephant seals

Posted: 04/28/2012 in all marine news

Santa Cruz Sentinel – 

The late Sen. Henry Mello affectionately referred to it as New Year’s Island, a landmark he used to pilot his small boat north from the Santa Cruz Harbor.

Located near the San Mateo-Santa Cruz County border, it was christened Punta de Año Nuevo on January 3, 1603 by the chaplain of a ship commanded by Spaniard Don Sebastian Vizcaino as it sailed past what its crew believed to be an unbroken finger of land jutting offshore as they made their way from Monterey toward San Francisco Bay.

State Parks archaeologist Mark Hylkema said by that time the area had been seasonally occupied for 12,000 years since the ice age by the Quiroste, one of 50 Ohlone tribes that fished, hunted and made tools from malleable rock found there.

They made contact with the Spanish in 1769 who a quarter century later relocated them to the Santa Cruz Mission, where most succumbed to disease.

Some survived and in 2009, a cultural preserve was established by their descendants at Año Nuevo State Park.

While many believe the island was part of the mainland before ocean waters began to separate them in the 1700s, Hylkema has reviewed historical diaries of mariners but found no indication of this.

“There are no archeological sites on the island, which could be because it separated from the mainland before the Ohlone presence,” Hylkema told me.

Thousands of years ago water levels were lower, likely connecting the island to a peninsula.

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