By Dave Bunnell
Photos by Dave Bunnell with additional contributions by Carolyn Fusinato
In 1988 I published Sea Caves of Santa Cruz Island, with descriptions of 113 caves of which over 100 had been mapped by members of the California Sea Cave Survey. They were of impressive length and the combined surveys totaled over 5 miles of cave! Some were never completed due to their orientation towards the most prevailing swell conditions and some we had simply missed . Over the last 32 years, I have now made only five trips back that have resulted in about 16 new caves and determined that there are perhaps as many more caves missed on the original trips.
On our most recent trip after a lapse of 4 years, I was joined by Phyllis Boneau, Carolyn Fusinato, Matt Oliphant, Nancy Pistole, and Charley Savvas. We rented a 45‑foot catamaran for a week and brought kayaks for accessing the caves. Our objectives were basically scattered around the island, so our sailing plan was to circumnavigate the entire island, which is some 25 miles long. As usual we picked a week with good low tides, which is crucial to accessing the maximum amount of cave passage. The fall months are historically some of the calmest in the Channel Islands.
As usual, results were mixed. We surveyed four new caves—Bashed Kayak (532 feet), Pelican Rock (129 feet), Gurgling Tidepool (179 feet), and the premiere discovery of the trip, Fraser Point Cave (530 feet). The latter was a spacious multi-entrance cave with copious tidepool life including purple urchins, starfish, and sponges in various hues of yellow, orange, and red.
Some of our hoped-for leads again proved elusive due to a large western swell. But we were able to accomplish some further photo-documentation in previously mapped caves including Painted Cave, the longest on the island and second longest sea cave in the USA.
Currently I am working on a revised second edition on the island’s sea caves with the new materials gathered in the past 3 decades.
We are grateful to the NSS for supporting the expedition with a Sara Corrie grant.