The island of San Nicolas is 61 miles from the coast, and has a total
area of 22 square miles.
The island is roughly a plateau, with arroyos
cutting down to the shoreline. The eastern end of
San Nicolas is a continually shifting area of
sand that is thought to have varied greatly in size
over the last hundred years. Land's End, the
westernmost point of the island, is a haven for
tide-pool life, sustaining such things as purple
sea urchins, sea lettuce, snails, and anemones.
Two lava reefs range westward from this area,
and are abundant in lobster, abalone, and
scallop beds. South of Land's end, sea lions bask
on the lava ridges, and elephant seals keep
a rookery as well.
Although at one time the island of San Nicolas
supported a sizable human population, it has
since been overgrazed by sheep and goats, making
large extended habitation impossible. In
1933, the United States Navy assumed control of
the island, and has since used it for gunnery
practice, and as a monitoring site for the
Pacific Missile Test Center. The island was named
San Nicolas due to it's discovery on December
8th, which is the day of Saint Nicolas.