Santa Barbara Island Geology
The smallest of the Channel Islands, Santa Barbara Island is
approximately one square mile in size and its highest point is Signal Peak at 635 feet. This island is believed to be the tip of a Miocene volcano, uplifted from the sea floor by underwater volcanic activity hundreds of thousands of years ago. It has always been isolated from the other islands, and although it is closer to Catalina, it is part of the Channel Islands National Sanctuary and National Park, linking it to the northern Channel Islands.
It is thought to be the youngest of the islands, only lifting up out of
the water during the Pleistocene era when the mammoths were swimming the Channel to the northwest to populate the more western islands above Santa Barbara. The coastline of the island is very rugged and entry is difficult, and the interior of the island is cut by six canyons that nurture more dense vegetation than is found on the upper windswept marine terrace that makes up the majority of the island.
Previous to European colonization, the island was used to mine a black
basaltic stone sought after as the material for manufacturing ceremonial and ritual totems or charmstones of importance to the shamanic priesthood that watched over the native’s health and well being. A prehistoric workshop for the manufacture of stone tools has been discovered on the Island, along with 14 other archeological sites.