Thursday, December 28, 2017

Real Life Castaway: Lone Woman Found on Desert Island

California's channel islands have provided many aquatic finds and evidence of prior civilizations but in 1853, some men in a boat found a lone woman on San Nicholas Island and they had no idea how she got there or who she was.

What the men found was a woman inside a hut made of whalebones and brush. She wore a dress of feather sewn together with sinew. What they came to realize is that she had been on the island for 18 years.

Prior to this, the islands long ago had Native residents who traded with other islands by canoe. Eventually, because seal trade became popular, the islands were corrupted and missionaries came in and took the people away to work and convert them. When they emptied the island, they believed they had gotten everyone but then realized a woman and perhaps her baby were left behind. Some stories reported her jumping overboard and swimming back. But, somehow this woman remained.

It appeared she had made sufficient tools of rope and seashells. She also had killed seals and ducks. She had managed to survive quite well. When the rescuers came, no one understood her language. It had been 18 years and it was unrecognizable. 

Even though she was brought to civilization she did not know how to behave and continued to sing at will whenever she wanted to. No one understood her, but she made the best of her days. No other Natives were able to translate her communication either.

Missionaries baptized her Juana Maria. Only seven weeks after being taken to the mainland, she passed on. 

She sadly remained a mystery permanently, as no one of the time, even the Native People, could shed a light on her origins.

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