Santa Catalina Island, California

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Santa Catalina Island
Santa Catalina NASA EO.jpg
Santa Catalina Island satellite image
Santa Catalina Island, California is located in California
Santa Catalina Island, California
Geography
LocationPacific Ocean
ArchipelagoChannel Islands of California
Area74.98 sq mi (194.2 km2)
Highest elevation2,097 ft (639.2 m)
Highest pointMount Orizaba
Country
United States
StateCalifornia
CountyLos Angeles
Largest cityAvalon (pop. 3,728)
Demographics
Population4,096 (as of 2010)
Density55 /sq mi (21.2 /km2)
 
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Santa Catalina Island
Santa Catalina NASA EO.jpg
Santa Catalina Island satellite image
Santa Catalina Island, California is located in California
Santa Catalina Island, California
Geography
LocationPacific Ocean
ArchipelagoChannel Islands of California
Area74.98 sq mi (194.2 km2)
Highest elevation2,097 ft (639.2 m)
Highest pointMount Orizaba
Country
United States
StateCalifornia
CountyLos Angeles
Largest cityAvalon (pop. 3,728)
Demographics
Population4,096 (as of 2010)
Density55 /sq mi (21.2 /km2)

Santa Catalina Island, often called Catalina Island, or just Catalina, is a rocky island off the coast of the U.S. state of California in the Gulf of Santa Catalina. The island is 22 miles (35 km) long and 8 miles (13 km) across at its greatest width. The island is located about 22 miles (35 km) south-southwest of Los Angeles, California. The highest point on the island is 2,097 feet (639 m) Mt. Orizaba. Part of the Channel Islands of California archipelago, Santa Catalina lies within Los Angeles County.

Catalina was originally settled by Native Americans who called the island Pimugna or Pimu and referred to themselves as Pimugnans or Pimuvit. The first Europeans to arrive on Catalina claimed it for the Spanish Empire. Over the years, territorial claims to the island transferred to Mexico and then to the United States. During this time, the island was sporadically used for smuggling, otter hunting, and gold-digging, before successfully being developed into a tourist destination by chewing gum magnate William Wrigley, Jr. beginning in the 1920s. Since the 1970s, most of the island has been administered by the Catalina Island Conservancy.

The total population as of the 2010 census was 4,096 persons, 90 percent of whom live in the island's only incorporated city, Avalon. The second center of population is the unincorporated village of Two Harbors at the island's isthmus. Development occurs also at the smaller settlements of Rancho Escondido and Middle Ranch. The remaining population is scattered over the island between the two population centers.

History[edit]

Early history[edit]

Prior to the modern era, the island was inhabited by people of the Gabrielino/Tongva tribe, who, having had villages near present day San Pedro and Playa del Rey, regularly traveled back and forth to Catalina for trade. The Tongva called the island Pimu or Pimugna and referred to themselves as the Pimugnans or Pimuvit. Archeological evidence shows Pimugnan settlement beginning in 7000 BC. The Pimugnans had settlements all over the island at one time or another, with their biggest villages being at the Isthmus and at present-day Avalon, Shark/Little Harbor, and Emerald Bay.[1] The Pimugnans were renowned for their mining, working and trade of soapstone which was found in great quantities and varieties on the island. This material was in great demand and was traded along the California coast.[2]

Archaeologists have learned much about these tribes from middens, ancient dumps where they tossed everything they no longer needed. These middens can today be identified by mounds of crumbled abalone shells. It is estimated that there are over 2,000 middens on Catalina Island, only half of which have been discovered. Evidence from these middens indicate that around 2000 B.C as many as 2,500 lived on Catalina Island.[3]

Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo

The first European to set foot on the island was the Portuguese explorer Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo, who sailed in the name of the Spanish crown.[4] On October 7, 1542, he claimed the island for Spain and christened it San Salvador after his ship. (Catalina has also been identified as one of the many possible burial sites for Cabrillo.) Over half a century later, another Spanish explorer, Sebastián Vizcaíno, rediscovered the island on the eve of Saint Catherine's day (November 24) in 1602. Vizcaino renamed the island in the saint's honor.[1]

The colonization of California by the Spanish coincided with the decline of the Pimugnans. They suffered from the introduction of new diseases to which they had little immunity and the disruption of their trade and social networks caused by the establishment of the California missions. By the 1830s, the island's entire native population were either dead or had migrated to the mainland to work in the missions or as ranch hands for the many private land owners.[1]

Franciscan friars considered building a mission there, but abandoned the idea because of the lack of fresh water on the island. While Spain maintained its claim on Catalina Island, foreigners were forbidden to trade with colonies. However, it lacked the ships to enforce this prohibition, and the island served as home or base of operation for many visitors. Hunters from the Aleutian Islands, Russia, and America set up camps on Santa Catalina and the surrounding Channel Islands to hunt otters and seals around the island for their pelts. The pelts were then sold for high prices in China.[1]

Smuggling also took place on the island for a long period of time. Pirates found that the island's abundance of hidden coves, as well as its short distance to the mainland and its small population, made it suitable for smuggling activities. Once used by smugglers of illegal Chinese immigrants, China Point, located on the south western end of Catalina, still bears its namesake.[1]

Mexican land grant[edit]

Governor Pío Pico made a Mexican land grant of the Island of Santa Catalina to Thomas M. Robbins in 1846, as Rancho Santa Catalina. Thomas M. Robbins (1801–1854) a sea captain who came to California in 1823, married the daughter of Carlos Antonio Carrillo. Robbins established a small rancho on the Island, but sold it in 1850 to José María Covarrubias. A claim was filed with the Public Land Commission in 1853,[5] and the grant was patented to José María Covarrubias in 1867.[6] Covarrubias sold the island to Albert Packard of Santa Barbara in 1853. By 1864 the entire island was owned by James Lick, whose estate maintained control of the island for approximately the next 25 years.[7]

In the fall of 1857 the whaler Charles Melville Scammon, in the brig Boston, rendezvoused with his schooner-tender Marin in the "snug harbor" (some have suggested Avalon Bay; more likely Catalina Harbor) of Catalina. They left on November 30 for Laguna Ojo de Liebre to become the first to hunt the gray whales breeding there.[8][9][10]

Catalina's gold rush[edit]

Three otter hunters, George Yount, Samuel Prentiss, and Stephen Bouchette, are responsible for the Island's short-lived gold rush. Yount found promising samples and, shortly before he died in 1854, told some discouraged 1849 Gold Rush miners. Samuel Prentiss, Catalina's first non-native permanent resident, was told of a buried gold treasure. He died in 1854 after spending 30 years unsuccessfully digging for it.[11] Just before he died, he told Stephen Bouchette of the treasure. That same year, news of Yount's promising sample began to circulate. Bouchette staked a claim and announced he had found a rich vein. He secured generous backing and spent more than $10,000 for extensive tunnels stretching over 800 feet. Some believe that there was little, if any, gold and that the claim was a ruse to get loans to dig for the lost treasure. In 1878, he and his wife loaded all they could onto a sailboat and were never seen again. Experts are still unable to determine if they found the buried treasure, were lost at sea, or simply returned to the mainland.[12]

Word of Yount's promising samples, combined with Bouchette's well-funded claim, brought hopeful miners, and, by 1863, boom towns briefly dotted the hills. In less than one year, 10,000 feet of claims were registered, and 70 miners were actively mining these claims. Tunnels were dug by hand, and miners camped out with only one store and saloon to supply their needs. Challenged by hardship, they did enjoy the convenience of homing pigeons that delivered messages to the mainland in 45 minutes, while mail took 10 days. By 1864, all prospectors had been evicted by the Union Army. Although evidence of gold on Catalina is inconclusive, the promise of a gold-rich bonanza fueled e of estate speculation for the next few decades.[13]

The island experienced a brief gold rush in the 1860s, but very little gold was actually found. In 1864, the United States federal government, fearing attempts to outfit privateers by Confederate sympathizers in the American Civil War, ended the mining by ordering everyone off the island. A small garrison of Union troops was stationed at the Isthmus on the island's west end for about nine months. Their barracks stand as the oldest structure on the island, and are currently the home of the Isthmus Yacht Club.

Early developers[edit]

Tourists enjoying the waters off Catalina in 1889

By the end of the 19th century, the island was almost uninhabited except for a few cattle herders. At that time, its location just 20 miles (30 km) from Los Angeles—a city that had reached the population of 50,000 in 1890 and was undergoing a period of enormous growth—was a major factor that contributed to the development of the island into a vacation destination.

The first owner to try to develop Avalon into a resort destination was George Shatto, a real estate speculator from Grand Rapids, Michigan. Shatto purchased the island for $200,000 from the Lick estate at the height of the real estate boom in Southern California in 1887.[14] Shatto created the settlement that would become Avalon, and can be credited with building the town's first hotel, the original Hotel Metropole, and pier.[14] His sister-in-law Etta Whitney came up with the name Avalon, which was taken from Alfred, Lord Tennyson's poem "Idylls of the King," about the legend of King Arthur. Despite Shatto's efforts, he defaulted on his loan after only a few years and the island went back to the Lick estate.[1]

Avalon Bay before the construction of the casino

The sons of Phineas Banning bought the island in 1891 from the estate of James Lick and established the Santa Catalina Island Company to develop it as a resort. They had a variety of reasons for doing this. They wanted Catalina's rock to build a breakwater at Wilmington for their shipping company. They had also just built a luxurious new boat, the Hermosa, to bring tourists to the Island. If tourism failed, this investment was at risk. By owning Catalina, they would not only get their rock, but also money from tourists for their passage as well as everything on the Island.[15] The Banning brothers fulfilled Shatto's dream of making Avalon a resort community with the construction of numerous tourist facilities. Although the Bannings' main focus was in Avalon, they also showed great interest in the rest of the island and wanted to introduce other parts of Catalina to the general public. They did this by paving the first dirt roads into the island's interior, where they built hunting lodges and led stagecoach tours, and by making Avalon's surrounding areas (Lovers Cove, Sugarloaf Point and Descanso Beach) accessible to tourists. They built two homes, one in Descanso Canyon and the other in what is now Two Harbors, the latter now being that village's only hotel.

As the Bannings anticipated construction of the new Hotel Saint Catherine, their efforts were set back on November 29, 1915, when a fire burned half of Avalon's buildings, including six hotels and several clubs. In the face of huge debt related to the fire and the subsequent decline in tourism due to World War I,the Banning brothers were forced to sell the island in shares in 1919.

Wrigley ownership[edit]

The Casino as it appeared in 2007

One of the main investors to purchase shares from the Bannings was chewing-gum magnate William Wrigley, Jr. Preceding his purchase, he traveled to Catalina with his wife, Ada, and son, Philip. Reportedly, Wrigley immediately fell in love with the island and, in 1919, bought out nearly every share-holder until he owned controlling interest in the Santa Catalina Island Company.[1]

Wrigley invested millions in needed infrastructure and attractions to the island, including the construction of the Catalina Casino which opened on May 29, 1929.[1] Wrigley also sought to bring publicity to the island through events and spectacles. Starting in 1921, the Chicago Cubs, also owned by Wrigley, used the island for the team's spring training. Players stayed at the Hotel St. Catherine in Descanso Bay and played on a ballfield built in Avalon Canyon. The Cubs continued to use the island for spring training until 1951, except during the war years of 1942–45.[16] In another effort to bring publicity to the island, Wrigley established the Wrigley Ocean Marathon on January 15, 1927, offering a reward to the first person to swim across the channel from the mainland. The award was won by Canadian swimmer George Young, the only finisher.[17] Following the death of Wrigley, Jr. in 1932, control of the Santa Catalina Island Company passed down to his son, Philip K. Wrigley, who continued his father's work improving the infrastructure of the island.[1]

During World War II, the island was closed to tourists and used for military training facilities.[18] Catalina's steamships were expropriated for use as troop transports and a number of military camps were established. The U.S. Maritime Service set up a training facility in Avalon, the Coast Guard had training at Two Harbors, the Army Signal Corp maintained a radar station in the interior, the Office of Strategic Services did training at Toyon Bay, and the Navy did underwater demolition training at Emerald Bay.[1][19]

In September 1972, 26 members of the Brown Berets, a group of Chicano activists, traveled to Catalina and planted a Mexican flag, claiming the island for all Chicanos. They asserted that the Guadalupe Hidalgo Treaty between Mexico and the United States did not specifically mention the Channel Islands. The group camped above the Chimes Tower on the point above the Casino near Avalon and were viewed as a new tourist attraction. Local Mexican-Americans provided them with food after they used up their own supplies. After 24 days a municipal judge visited the camp to ask them to leave. They departed peaceably on the tourist boat, just as they had arrived.[20]

On February 15, 1975, Philip Wrigley deeded 42,135 acres of the island from the Santa Catalina Island Company to the Catalina Island Conservancy that he had helped to establish in 1972. This gave the Conservancy control of nearly 90 percent of the island.[21] The balance of the Santa Catalina Island Company that was not deeded to the Conservancy maintains control of much of its resort properties and operations on the island.[22]

Recent history[edit]

Actress Natalie Wood drowned in the waters near the settlement of Two Harbors under questionable circumstances over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend in 1981. Wood and her husband, Robert Wagner, were vacationing aboard their motor yacht, Splendour, along with their guest, Christopher Walken, and Splendour's captain, Dennis Davern. In 2011, thirty years after the actress' death, the case was reopened, partially due to public statements made by Davern.[23]

In May 2007, Catalina experienced the 2007 Avalon Fire. Greatly due to the assistance of 200 Los Angeles County fire fighters transported by U.S. Marine Corps helicopters and U.S Navy hovercraft, only a few structures were destroyed, yet 4750 acres of wildland burned.[24]

In March 2011, the Tōhoku, Japan earthquake and tsunami damaged some docks and capsized ten vessels in Catalina Harbor from over 5,000 miles (8,000 kilometers) away.[25]

In May 2011, a wildfire started near the Isthmus Yacht Club and was fought by 120 firefighters transported by barge from Los Angeles. It was extinguished the next day after burning 117 acres (47 ha).[26][27]

Also in May 2011, 1,500 pounds (680 kg) of marijuana, in 50 pounds (23 kg) bales, was seized by Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, using the department's Air Rescue 5 helicopter.[28][29][30]

Geography and climate[edit]

Silhouette of Catalina Island at sunset, as seen from the mainland

Catalina is primarily composed of two distinct rock units: Catalina Schist from the Early Cretaceous (95 to 109 Mya), and Miocene volcanic and intrusive igneous rocks. The island is rich in quartz, to the extent that some beaches on the seaward side have silvery-grey sand.[31] These formations originally occurred on the ocean floor and emerged from the ocean through tectonic activity. This means that the Santa Catalina Island land-mass was never directly connected to mainland California. Other geologic factors that contributed to the island topography observed today include further geologic uplift and subsidence, tectonic plate movement, sedimentation, metamorphic activity, weathering, and erosion.[32]

Santa Catalina Island has a very mild subtropical climate with warm temperatures year-round. The National Weather Service maintains cooperative weather records at the Santa Catalina airport. The average January temperatures are a maximum of 58.4 °F (14.7 °C) and a minimum of 47.6 °F (8.7 °C). Average July temperatures are a maximum of 78.1 °F (25.6 °C) and a minimum of 60.0 °F (15.6 °C). There are an average of 12.5 days with highs of 90 °F (32 °C) or higher and an average of 0.3 days with lows of 32 °F (0 °C) or lower. The record high temperature was 103 °F (39 °C) on August 29, 1967, and the record low temperature was 29 °F (−2 °C) on January 11, 1949. Coastal high fog is common during summer, but usually burns off by the afternoon.

Average annual precipitation at the airport is 11.82 inches (30.0 cm); the highest mountain peaks get up to 16 inches. There are an average of 45 days with measurable precipitation. The wettest year was 1952 with 21.74 inches (55.2 cm) and the driest year was 1964 with 5.53 inches (14.0 cm). The most precipitation in one month was 7.81 inches (19.8 cm) in January 1952. The most precipitation in 24 hours was 2.95 inches (7.5 cm) on December 5, 1966. Snowfall is a rarity on the island, averaging only 0.4 inches (1.0 cm) a year at the airport, but 4.0 inches (10 cm) fell in 1949, including 3.0 inches (7.6 cm) in January.[33]

Climate data for Santa Catalina WB Airport, California
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDecYear
Average high °F (°C)59.0
(15)
61.1
(16.2)
59.6
(15.3)
62.3
(16.8)
65.8
(18.8)
67.6
(19.8)
77.9
(25.5)
80.0
(26.7)
77.8
(25.4)
74.6
(23.7)
66.1
(18.9)
60.0
(15.6)
67.7
(19.8)
Average low °F (°C)48.1
(8.9)
48.7
(9.3)
46.8
(8.2)
49.1
(9.5)
51.1
(10.6)
53.2
(11.8)
59.8
(15.4)
62.2
(16.8)
61.5
(16.4)
59.1
(15.1)
54.2
(12.3)
49.5
(9.7)
53.6
(12)
Precipitation inches (mm)1.80
(45.7)
1.14
(29)
1.66
(42.2)
1.35
(34.3)
0.17
(4.3)
0.11
(2.8)
0.01
(0.3)
0.01
(0.3)
0.22
(5.6)
0.23
(5.8)
2.38
(60.5)
2.60
(66)
11.67
(296.4)
Source: http://www.wrcc.dri.edu [33]

Wildlife[edit]

Since Catalina Island was never connected to mainland California, it was originally lacking in all terrestrial life. Any plants or animals that arrived on the island had to make their way across miles of open ocean. The original species to come to the island arrived by chance by blowing over on the wind, drifting or swimming over the ocean, or flown over by wing. Starting with the Native Americans and continuing today, animals and plants have also been introduced by humans, both intentionally or accidentally.[34]

Catalina is home to at least fifty endemic species that occur naturally on the island and nowhere else in the world.[35] This limited distribution of a species may result from the extinction of the original population on the mainland combined with its continued survival on the island where there may be fewer threats to its continued existence.[36]

Flora[edit]

Catalina manzanita, one of the island's endemic plants

The most common native plant communities of Catalina Island are chaparral, coastal sage scrub, island oak-ironwood woodland and grassland. Eucalyptus trees are the most common introduced plant.

About 400 species of native plants grow on the island.[37] Six species, subspecies or varieties are endemic and can be found only on Catalina Island. These plants are: Catalina manzanita (Arctostaphylos catalinae); Catalina mahogany (Cercocarpus traskiae); Catalina dudleya (Dudleya hassei); St. Catherine’s lace (Eriogonum giganteum var. giganteum); Santa Catalina bedstraw (Galium catalinense ssp. catalinense); and Santa Catalina Island ironwood (Lyonothamnus floribundus ssp. floribundus). A disjunctive population of toyon var. macrocarpa is also a Santa Catalina endemic.[38] These plants may be seen at the island's Wrigley Memorial & Botanical Gardens.[39]

Fauna[edit]

The island is home to five native land mammals: the Island Fox, the Spermophilus beecheyi nesioticus subspecies of California Ground Squirrel, the Santa Catalina Island Harvest Mouse (Reithrodontomys megalotis catalinae), the Santa Catalina Island Deer Mouse (Peromyscus maniculatus catalinae), and the Ornate Shrew (Sorex ornatus). Only one Ornate Shrew was ever found, from a now-developed spring area above Avalon. Shrews are difficult to capture and may survive in wetter areas of the island.[40]

The Catalina Orangetip butterfly is a notable insect of the island. The Southern Pacific rattlesnake (Crotalus oreganus helleri) is also present on the island. This species should not be confused for the Santa Catalina rattlesnake, found on Santa Catalina Island, Mexico.[41]

The island is also home to a number of non-native animals, notably including the American bison. In 1924, fourteen bison were brought to the island for the filming of the movie The Vanishing American, though the scenes with the bison in them did not make it into the final cut of the film. Due to cost overruns, the film company decided to leave the bison on the island instead of bringing them back to the mainland. Today the size of the Catalina Island bison herd is maintained at population of about 150 animals.[42] Other non-native animals currently living on the island include the blackbuck, bullfrog, feral cat, mule deer, rat, and common starling. The island was also previously home to populations of cattle, feral goat, feral pig, and sheep, but these animals are no longer present.[43]

In the waters surrounding the island, there are schools of fish like garibaldi, California sheephead, leopard sharks, white seabass, yellowtail, bat rays, Giant sea bass, and many more.[44] Great white sharks are also occasionally found or caught off the coast of Catalina, though usually around seal rookeries and not around inhabited areas.[45] Common marine mammals around Catalina include California sea lions and harbor seals.[41]

Conservation[edit]

Most of the island is controlled by the Catalina Island Conservancy, a private nonprofit organization. The mission of the Catalina Island Conservancy is to be a responsible steward of its lands through a balance of conservation, education and recreation. Through its ongoing efforts, the Conservancy protects the natural and cultural heritage of Santa Catalina Island, stewarding approximately 42,000 acres (170 km2) of land (88 percent of the island), 50 mi (80 km) of shoreline, an airport, and more than 200 mi (320 km) of roads.[46]

One of the Conservancy's key goals is the conservation of the Island Fox, an endangered endemic species. In 1999, all but 100 out of 1,300 foxes on Catalina Island were wiped out because of a virulent strain of canine distemper. Following a successful recovery program which included captive breeding, distemper vaccinations and population monitoring, the Catalina fox community has been restored to more than 400 individuals—a number deemed by the Conservancy scientists to be a self-sufficient population.[47] However, mysterious, usually fatal ear tumors continue to plague the Catalina fox. Three Catalina Island Conservancy wildlife biologists continue to monitor the population through pit tagging, trapping and inspection.[48]

The Institute for Wildlife Studies, a separate conservation organization, has worked to restore bald eagles to the island on Conservancy land since the late 1970s. Bald eagles had been common on the island until the 1960s, when it is believed that the effects of dumping the pesticide DDT off the coast of Southern California made it impossible for eagles to successfully hatch their young. The reintroduction of the bald eagle to the island may also edge out an invasive golden eagle population that threatens the native Island Fox.[49]

Transportation and communication[edit]

Catalina is serviced by passenger ferries. Ferries depart from Orange County in Newport Beach and Dana Point, while they depart from Los Angeles County in Long Beach, San Pedro, and Marina del Rey. The trip takes approximately an hour and costs approx $65 round trip. Helicopter service is also available from Long Beach or San Pedro.[50] Catalina has also been an active port of many cruise lines since the 1990s, with Royal Caribbean, Princess Cruises, and Carnival Cruise Lines making the port a regular for Baja cruises. Specifically, Carnival Cruise Lines' Carnival Paradise has made calls to the island every week since 2004, making it the ship to have the most weekly calls to the port, but left in November 2011 and was replaced by the Carnival Inspiration. The ships anchor about 100 feet off of Avalon Harbor.

KAVX Avalon Airport, Catalina

The island is also home to the Catalina Airport (FAA Identifier: AVX), also known as Airport-in-the-Sky. The airport was founded by Dick Probert and built in 1946. The airport is located 7 miles (11 km) northwest of Avalon. The 3,000 feet (910 m) runway sits on a mountaintop, 1,602 feet (488 m) above sea level.[51] Until the time of the airport's construction, the only air service to the island was provided by seaplanes. Fixed-wing flights pay a $25 landing fee as of January 1, 2009.[52]

The use of motor vehicles on the island is restricted; there is a limit on the number of registered cars, which translates into a 14-year-long wait list to bring a car to the island.[53] Most residents move around via golf cart. Because of these restrictions, there is no regular vehicle ferry service for visitors to take their car from the mainland to Catalina Island. Tourists can hire a taxi from Catalina Transportation Services. Bicycles are also a popular mode of transportation. There are a number of bicycle and golf cart rental agencies on the island. Only the city of Avalon is open to the public without restrictions. The only major road into the back country is Stage Road. Under an agreement with Los Angeles County, the Conservancy has granted an easement to allow day hiking and mountain biking, but visitors must first obtain a permit at the Conservancy's office (on which they declare the parts of the island they intend to visit). Hiking permits are free, whereas bicycle permits are available for a fee (as of 2006, $60 per person annual, $20 per person good for 2 consecutive days, helmets and mountain bikes with knobby tires required).

Catalina's isolation offered good opportunities to experiment with new communication technologies throughout its history. Although not high tech, the first of these communication innovations was the use of pigeons by Catalina's gold prospectors. Homing pigeons delivered messages to the mainland in 45 minutes, compared to 10 days to deliver mail from Isthmus to Wilmington by regular post in 1864. Even today, Avalon Post Office does not match the airmail service enjoyed by the miners. Pigeons were used to deliver messages for Catalina residents until 1899.[54] By 1902, the first commercial wireless telegraph station was built in Avalon where the Chimes Tower now stands. By 1919, the world's first wireless telephone system was installed. Engineers came from all over the world to study it, and people stood for hours to use this new technology. (The only drawback was that all conversations could be monitored by anyone listening to their radio.) Another communication first touched Catalina when the world's first commercial microwave telephone system was installed in 1946. Although microwave telephones had been used for wartime applications, this was the first peacetime use of this technology.[55]

Catalina's isolation also left the island as the last central office in the US Bell System to operate entirely using manual switchboard operators.[56] The Catalina Island exchange was converted to dial in 1978.[57]

Tourism and attractions[edit]

Avalon beach in summertime

Close to one million people travel to Catalina Island every year, though the total numbers in any given year varies depending on economic conditions.[58] Glass bottom boats tour the reefs and shipwrecks of the area, and scuba diving and snorkeling are popular in the clear water. Lover's Cove, to the east of town, and Descanso Beach, to the west of the Casino, are popular places to dive. The Avalon Underwater Dive Park was the first non-profit underwater park in the United States.[59] The area is famous for the schools of flying fish and the bright orange Garibaldi which teem in local waters. Parasailing is also offered. Bus tours are given of the interior. While tourists rarely have an opportunity to surf, two beaches on the "backside" of Catalina offer good waves: Shark Harbor and Ben Weston Beach.

A report released by the Natural Resources Defense Council listed Avalon as one of the 10 most chronically polluted beaches in the nation for failing state health tests as much as 73% of the time.[60] Researchers have identified Avalon's sewer system as the cause of the pollution. Many of the city's century-old clay and metal pipes have deteriorated to the point where they have vanished, allowing human sewage to enter the city's ground water and into Avalon Bay.[61]

Two Harbors, the smaller of the island's two population centers, in 2012.

Two Harbors is the second, and much smaller, resort village on the island. Located at the isthmus of the island, north of Avalon, it is the primary landing spot for those who wish to tour the western half of the island. It is accessible by boat from San Pedro and by bus or boat from Avalon.

The Catalina Island Chamber of Commerce & Visitors Bureau[62] assists tourists with any information on how to get to Catalina Island.

Catalina panorama, taken from a sail boat; Avalon is to the far left, Two Harbors to the mid-right.

Government and infrastructure[edit]

The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department (LASD) operates the Avalon Station in Avalon, serving Santa Catalina Island.[63] There is also a branch of the County of Los Angeles Public Library system in downtown Avalon, adjacent to the Sheriff's office.[64] Fire Protection is provided by the Los Angeles County Fire Department Battalion 14 with Fire Station #55 in Avalon Canyon and Fire Station #155 at Two Harbors.[65] Paramedic and lifeguard services are provided by the County Fire Department's Lifeguard Division, also known as Baywatch.[66]

Children in Avalon attend schools in the Long Beach Unified School District. There are two schools on Catalina Island. Two Harbors is served by a one-room school house for grades K-5; students travel to Avalon for grades 6–12.[67] Avalon schools are housed on one main campus that includes Avalon Elementary School, Avalon Middle School and Avalon High School.[68] Thousands of school-age youths travel from the mainland to study at the Catalina Island Marine Institute every year.[69]

The USC Wrigley Institute research and teaching facilities at Big Fisherman's Cove, near Two Harbors, maintained by the University of Southern California and named for Philip K. Wrigley, consist of a 30,000-square-foot (3,000 m2) laboratory building, dormitory housing, cafeteria, a hyperbaric chamber,[70] and a large waterfront staging area complete with dock, pier, helipad, and diving lockers. The facility was made possible by a donation from the Wrigley family in 1995.[71]

Culture[edit]

In its heyday in the 1930s, due to its proximity to Hollywood, Catalina Island was a favored getaway destination for Hollywood stars such as Clark Gable. The island also served as a filming location for dozens of movies.[72]

Art Good, host of the Jazztrax Showcase of the Absolute Newest, holds the Catalina Island Jazztrax Festival there each year.

From 1927 until 1937, pottery and tile were made on the island at the Catalina Clay Products Company, and these items are now highly sought-after collectibles.[73]

The Catalina Island Museum, located in the historic Catalina Casino building, is also an attraction as it is the keeper of the island's cultural heritage with collections numbering over 100,000 items and including over 7,000 years of Native American history, over 10,000 photographs and images, a large collection of Catalina-made pottery and tile, ship models, and much more. The museum features dynamic exhibits on this history and also a unique gift store. Programs include walking tours of Avalon, classes for students, gallery docents, lectures, an annual silent film benefit and more.

Music[edit]

Notable visitors and residents[edit]

References[edit]

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External links[edit]

Coordinates: 33°23′N 118°25′W / 33.383°N 118.417°W / 33.383; -118.417