San Nicolas Island
San Nicolas Island is the most remote of California's Channel Islands. The uninhabited island is currently military-owned and controlled by the United States Navy and is used as a weapons testing and training facility.
The Nicoleño Native American tribe inhabited the island until 1835. As of the 2000 U.S. Census, the island has since remained officially uninhabited, though the census estimates that at least 200 military and civilian personnel live on the island at any given time. The island has a small airport and several buildings, including telemetry reception antennas.
San Nicolas was originally the home of the Nicoleño people, who were probably related to the Tongva of the mainland and Santa Catalina Island. It was named for Saint Nicholas by Spanish explorer Sebastián Vizcaíno after he sighted the island on the saint's feast day (6 December 1602). The Nicoleños were evacuated in the early 19th century by the padres of the California mission system. Within a few years of their removal from the island, the Nicoleño people and their unique language became extinct.
Lone Woman of San Nicolas Island
The most famous resident of San Nicolas Island was the "Lone Woman of San Nicolas Island", christened Juana Maria; her birth name was never known to anyone on the mainland. She was left behind when the rest of the Nicoleños were moved to the mainland. She resided on the island alone for 18 years before she was found by Captain George Nidever and his crew in 1853 and brought back to Santa Barbara. She died seven weeks later. Her story was the basis for Scott O'Dell's Newbery Medal-winning 1960 novel Island of the Blue Dolphins.
A swim from San Nicolas Island to the California coast has never been attempted. The Santa Barbara Channel Swimming Association (SBCSA) supports and sanctions open water swims in this channel and the other 7 of the 8 Channel Islands.