Juana Maria was the name given to the famous “Lone Woman of San Nicholas,” a Native American who spent nearly two decades stranded on an island off the coast of California. Juana Maria had grown up on San Nicholas, but most of her tribe was slaughtered in the early 1800s by hostile hunters. Missionaries evacuated the few remaining survivors in 1835, but Juana Maria was left behind when she ran back to the island to locate her missing infant. She never found the child, but when attempts to rescue her stalled, she was forgotten and left to survive on San Nicholas in complete isolation.
Juana Maria spent the next 18 years taking shelter in a cave and fishing with hooks made from seashells. She captured sea birds and seals and fashioned their feathers and skins into dresses, and passed the time weaving baskets and bowls from grasses. Her solitude finally came to an end in 1853, when Captain George Nidever discovered her on San Nicholas. Nidever took Juana Maria to Santa Barbara a few weeks later, and though no one could speak her language, she used hand gestures to relate the astonishing story of her survival. Sadly, she was unable to adjust to the diet of the mainland, and died of dysentery only two months after leaving her island. Her story was later fictionalized in the popular children’s novel “Island of the Blue Dolphins.”
18 years is a long time to be in total isolation. It's a wonder the woman was still sane after all that time. Pretty sad that she died the way she did, though.
Coffee out on the patio this morning, OK?