John Vonderlin: Everything You Ever Wanted to know About Ano Nuevo Island

Story from John Vonderlin
Email John ([email protected])
Hi June,
This ScreenShot of a page from “The Call,” has an excellent article on Ano Nuevo. 1
I’ll return to this in the future. Below is the OCR text version of the article. Enjoy. John
THE   SAN   FRANCTSCO   CALL,   SUNDAY,   JULY   4,   1897.

About   four   miles   balow   Pigeon   Point   on
the   sea   coast   of   San   Mateo   County   there
projects   into   the   Pacific   Ocean   a   point   of
land   known   to   geographers   and   a   small
portion   of   the   general   public   as   Point   Ano
Nuevo.   On   the   map   it   presents   much   the
appearance   of   a   cape,   but   in   reality   the
western   end   of   the   point   is   an   island
which   has   been   christened   Ano   Nuevo
Inland.   Whether   the   point   or   the   island
first   received   the   name   is   not   a   matter   of
record.   Certain   it   is   tbat   the   name   of   one
had   something   to   do   with   the   name   of   the
other;   but   that   need   not   be   considered   at
the   present   time.
Around   the   island   mentioned   is   a   group
of   rocks   that   are   about   as   interesting   to
the   scientist   and   the   naturalist   as   any   part
of   California,   and   about   as   Utile   known   to
the   average   citizen   as   tbe   Dry   Tortugas.
Nor   have   scientists   ever   made   any   study
of   the   island,   as   the   records   of   the   Govern –
ment   fog   signal   located   at   that   point   will
show.   No   matter   how   considered   Ano
Nuevo   Island   and   the   closely   adjacent
country   are   full   of   interest,   and   the   more
it   is   examined   the   mora   unusual   features
will   come   to   light.
To   write   a   history   of   Point   Ano   Nuevo
it   would   be   necessary   to   go   back   to   the
time   when   the   world   was   young.   When
continents   were   being   formed   from   sedi –
mentary   deposits   and   the   ocean   roiled
over   what   are   now   mountain   tops,   erup –
tion   after   eruption   shook   the   world   and
there   was   a   general   upheaval.   What   was
low   became   high   and   what   was   high   in
many   instances   sank   from   sight   What
had   been   the   ocean’s   bottom   became   the
top   of   lofty   mountains.   Then   other   erup –
tions   came   and   the   mountain   sunk   and
what   had   been   a   lofty   peak   became   only   a
point   of   land   projecting   into   a-   tempestu –
ous   body   of   water.
In   the   present   instance   this   was   what   is
now   known   as   Point   Ano   Nuevo.   Just
how   the   spot   looked   at   the   time   is,   of
course,   only   a   matter   of   conjecture;   but
the   supposition   is   that   there   was   no   chan –
nel   between   »?hat   is   now   the   island   and
the   mainland.   Rocks   and   sand   washed
by   the   waves   were   all   that   could   be   seen.
Cherished   Treasures   of   Those   Who   Go   Before.
A   woman   came’in—a   withered   body
with   a   face   which”   I   think   has   always   been
kept   in   the   shadows   of   the   deepest   dark –
ness   of   God’s   world/   And   she   bent   close
to   the   body   on   the   stone   slab—for   her   eyes
were   half   bereft   of   their   seeing   and
In   other   respects   the   conditions   were
much   the   same   as   exist   at   the   present
The   first   human   beings   to   walk   over   the
•■and   and   rocks   of   Nuevo   Island   were
undoubtedly   the   original   nomadic   tribes
of   the   Pacific   Coast   that   have   since   been
called   Indians   by   students   of   American
archaeology.   That   this   is   a   correct   infer –
ence   is   shown   by   the   number   of   Indian
relics   that   have   been   found   in   the
In   the   sandhills   just   to   the   east   of   Ano
Nuevo   Island   numbers   of   Indian   skulls
have   been   found   within   the   last   twenty
years.   By   care-work   one   ambitious   stu –
dent   succeeded   in   finding   all   the   parts   of
a   human   skeleton,   though   of   course   few
of   the   parts   belonged   to   the   same   indi –
vidual.   No   perfect   bodies   have   been
found,   so   it   is   impossible   to   state   with
any   degree   of   accuracy   whether   or   not   the
started   back   as   recognition   and   the   chill
of   the   dead   came   to   her.-
I   watched   her   furtively.   It   was   my
first   introduction   to   this   chapter   in   the
life   of   a   great   city.   A   curious   desire   to
witness   tbe   final   act   in   the   drama   of   those

Indians   who   once   lived   near   Ano   Nuevo
were   of   the   same   tribe   that   once   inhab –
ited   the   islands   of   the   Santa   Barbara
As   has   already   been   stated   no   promi –
nent   scientist   has   ever   visited   the   region
about   Ano   Nuevo,   but   such   explorations
as   have   been   made   by   interested   relic –
hunters   tend   to   show   that   the   Indians   did
not   really   have   thor.r   homes   near   Ano
Nutvo,   but   simply   time   there   to   hunt
and   fish.   The   unfav   >rable   climate   that
exists   at   this   point   th   ■   greater   part   of   the
year   would   in   itself   >c   almost   enough   to
convince   of   this,   but   in   addition   the
relic-   that   have   bee   i   found   are   mostly
instruments   of   the   kind   that   would   be
used   for   hunting   and   ishing.   Few   jars   or
cooking   utensils   hav<   ever   been   discov –
ered,   but   arrow   and   _\   ear   beads   have   been
found   by   the   dozen.   Fish-hooks   made   of
bone   have   also   bee   1   found   as   well   as
knives   made   of   store   and   clubs   of   raw –
hide   loaded   with   piec   is   of   flint.
On   Ano   Nuevo   [si   md   itself   there   has
on   been   one   find   of   my   importance.   It
was   that   of   a   skull   a   id   a   portion   of   the
thorax   of   a   human   be   ng.   This   portion   of
anatomy   was   buried   i   1   a   few   feet   of   sand
and   the   position   of   th*   bones   was,such   as
to   indicate   that   the/”   had   been   moved –
since   they   were   buri<   d.   It   is   not   likely
that   they   were   ever   n   oved   by   the   people
who   buried   them,   but   there   is   good   reason
to   believe   that   they   were   exhumed   by
wild   beasts   after   the   ]   ndians   had   leit   the
vicinity,   and   then   ben   the   Indians   re –
turned   the   following   rear   the   bones   were
buried   again.
Another   indication   that   the   Indians
came   to   the   vicinity   to   hunt   and   fish   is
the   fact   that   game   is   so   plentiful   there.
,   The   sweep   of   the   Jar   an   current   keeps   the
waters   full   of   the   bes   .   of   fish,   and   the   an –
nual   visit   of   the   seals   to   the   point   wero   in
themselves   enough   t   :>   attract   the   Indians
to   the   vicinity   whenever   the   weather   per –
mitted.   v   Consider   the   fact   that   the   moun –
tains   just   to   the   east   are   full   of   deer,   and
there   is   all   the   reason   necessary   to   show
that   the   Indians   cane   to   Ano   Nuevo   to
hunt   and   fish.
Some   of   the   arrowl   cads   that   have   been
found   close   to   this   in   cresting   part   of   the
world   are   .of   the   f   nest   workmanship.
Each   is   carefully   chipped   and   compares
favorably   with   the   v*ork   of   those   tribes
that   have   become   famous   for   this   sort   of
weapon.   At   least   .’OO   of   these   arrow –
heads   have   been   found   on   Point   Ano
The   first   record   o:   the   visit   of   white
men   to   Point   Ano   Nuevo   dates   from   the
days   of   tho   missionary   fathers.   The   story
goes   that   a   party   of   priests   under   the   di-;
rection   of   Father   Junipero   Serra   set   out
on   a   voyage   of   discovery   a   few   weeks,
before   Christmas   about   1776,   but   did   not
j   meet   with   much   success.   In   endeavoring
:   who   play   out   their   lives   and   end   them   in
their   own   way   had   le   1   me   wonderingiy   to
this   farewell   stage   of   the   unidenti –
fied   dead—to   this   last   halting-place   this
side   of   tbe   suicide’s   grave.
The   woman   pulled)   back   the   covering
and   took   up   the   hand   of   the   silent   form
lying   beneath   it.   There   was   a   seal   ring
on   one   of   the   fingers.   She   tried   to   take
it   off.
,A   man   pushed   her   to   one   side.
“You   cannot   have   it   now,”   he   said.
“We   will   see   you   later.”   And   he   covered
up   the   body   again.   ■
She   looked   at   the   man   and   her   lips
moved,   but   she   did   not   speak.   If   she   had
spoken—if   she   had   shrieked—it   would
have   been   a   relief.
As   she   moved   toward   the   door   the   man
spoke   to   her   again.   •-   .
•’How   can   I   get   it?”.   she   asked,   trem –
blingly—”the   ring,   it   is   mine.”
“He   hasn’t   been   identified   yet,   madam,”
the   man   reminded   her.   sj?«.?–“.-,
“Of   course   hot,”   she   said   feverishly—
“of   course.”   -..””
And   then   there   was   a   commotion   on   the
other   side   of   the   room.
“He   b’longs,   to   some   ,   un,”   whispered   a
ragged   individual   next   to   me.
And   in   the   shuffling   and   amid   the   nerv –
ousness   and   the   suppressed   whisperings
the   woman   disappeared.
«***•**-•.   –   ■   •
The   Coroner   was   very   busy.   He   solved
all   sorts   of   things   with   that   business-like
air   of   solemnity   which   belongs   to   Ibis
office.   And   he   bad   that”   peculiar   frown
which   is   the   most   important   requisite   for
the   successful   manager   of   final   departures.l –
-“How   do   you   dispose   of   valuables   found
on   the   person   of   the   dead?”   I   ventured   .to
ask.   r   i   _
;.’-He   paused;”   to   :   eye   me   sharply   and   \to
I   announce,   somewhat   fearfully,   that   “the
Public   Administrator   gets   them.”
“There   isn’t   so   much,   after   all,”   he   ex –
-1   plained   ;   “usually   a   watch,   or   a   ring,   or   ‘a
to   return   they   were   caught   in   a   fog   and
could   only   steer   by   the   compass.
Of   course,   that   was   not   a   satisfactory
manner   of   navigation   in   those   days   any
more   than   it   is   at   the   present   time,   so   the
good   padres   aid   not   attempt   to   do   much
sailing.   They   simply   tried   to   keep   as
near   one   spot   as   possible,   intending   to
land   at   a   point   near   where   Santa   Cruz
now   stands   as   soon   as   the   fog   lifted.
But   alas   for   human   calculations,   when
the   padres   did   at   last   see   land   it   turned
out   to   be   another   place   than   what   they
were   looking   for.   But   there   was   no   help
for   it.   They   must   land   and   at   least   try   to
get   food   of   some   kind.   The   vessel   was
about   empty   of   stores   and   the   men   were
hungry.   The   spot   looked   barren   to   say
the   least,   but   the   padres   made   a   landing
and   very   likely   secured   in   some   way   a
supply   of   something   to   eat,   for   history
records   that   they   offered   up   blessings   and
considered   that   their   landing   on   the   isl –
and   had   been   providential,   for   they   must
soon   have   perished   bad   they   not   had   the
opportunity   to   land.
History   or   tradition   says   that   before   the
padres   left   Ano   Nuevo   Island   they   de –
cided   to   name   it   in   honor   of   the   day   on
which   they   landed   there.   As   this   hap –
pened   to   be   the   first   day   of   the   year   they
called   it   “Ano   Nuevo,”   or   New   Year’s
Island.   And   so   it   is   called   to   this   day.
A   few   efforts   have   been   made   todo   away
with   the   pretty   Spanish   cognom-n   and
substitute   entirely   that   of   New   Year’s
Island,   but   all   have   resulted   in   failure.
“The   Spanish   name   does   not   mean   any –
thing,’.’   some   people   say,   so   why   not   use
one   that   people   will   understand?   But   the
Llnited   Slates   Government   has   seen   fit   to
preserve   the   old   name   in   referring   to   the
fog   station   there   and   all   of   the   charts   U3ed
by   seamen   are   labeled   with   the   original
name,   so   it   is   likely   that   that   is   what   the
island   will   be   called   for   all   time.
The   first   time   that   Ano   Nuevo   Island
figured   on   the   records   of   the   country   was
in   1872,   the   year   in   which   tne   Government
built   the   fog   station   on   the   island.   As   is
well   known,   all   islands   are   supposed   to
belong   to   the   Government,   and   the   engi –
neers,   when   it   was   decided   to   erect   a   sta –
tion   at   that   point,   went   at   their   work
with   the   idea   that   the   point   of   rocks   and
sand   was   an   island.   But   it   seems   that
a   man   named   Coburn,   who   bad   bought   a
portion   of   land   along   the   coast   in   with
some   old   Spanish   grant,   laid   claim   to   the
point   on   the   ground   tbat   it   was   not   an
island.   He   brought   up   witnesses   to   swear
that   they   had   walked   irom   the   mainland
to   the   point   of   rocks,   and   that   therefore
it   was   not   an   inland,   ln   the   end   the
Government   lost   the   suit   and   had   to   pay
$5000   for   the   rock,   which   was   not   really
worth   25   cents   for   any   other   purpose   ex –
cept   some   sort   of   a   station.
Point   Ano   Nuevo   has   long   been   con –
wortnless   pin.   He   can   tell   you.   what   be –
comes   of   the   things.   I   oniy   know   t_ey
are   bundled   up   and   sent   away   from   here.’
So   I   hurried   away,   still   determined,   out
into   the   street   and   past   the   crowds   of   liv –
ing,   scurrying   mortals;   away   from   the
presence   of   the   end   of   life.   And   .I   got
into   a   car   and   sat   opposite   a   young   woman
and   watched   her   as   she   fondled   the   little
one   in   her   lap.’
Out   from   the   flatness   of   death   into   the
fullness   of   li>e.   It   is   a   strange,   strange
scheme,   indeed.
“•*’*’   ******   –
There   were   a   few   people   goipg   my   way,
some   with   mourning   faces,   and   some   with
the   mourning   only   in   their   clothes.   As
we   stepped   out   of   the   elevator   two   men
were   examining   a   watch.
“Pretty   good;   watch   for   a   quarter,   eh?”
one   of   them   said,   laughingly.   “No   name
on   it,   eitherl   call   that   luck.”   ;   .
.   The   other   one   shrugged   bis   shoulders.
“I   wouldn’t   carry   it,”   he   declared.   “I’d
be   wondering,   who   had   .it   before.   I
wouldn’t   have   anything   bought   at   sui –
cides’   auction.”   ‘   *
The   other   ;:   laughed   again.   “You’re
superstitious*,   like   a   woman,   he   replied
I   am   quite   positive   that   I   shared   the
superstition,   and   on   looking   at   the   pack –
ages   of   unreclaimed   articles   which   the
worthy   Administrator   had   in   his   posses –
sion,   I   felt   it   becoming   stronger.
“The   law   prescribes   a   certain   length   of
time   that   we   must   keep   these   things,”
said   he   as   he   opened   the   smallest   package.
“This   is   a   ring’taken   from   a   poor   fellow
who   shot;himself.V   No   one   ever   came   to
claim   it,   and   no.   one   wan   to   buy   it   be –
cause—”…   and   he   held   it   up   to   the   light   so
that   I   could   see   plainly   the   engraving   on
the   inside—”From   Mother,   June,   1888.”   I
“Now,,   you   see,   that’s   of   no   value   and
we   never   ■   could   dispose   of   it   in   any   way.’
So   it’ll   lie   around   here   probably   until   it
gets   lost.”;’:   ;;;.   ./[
“Why   couldn’t   you   ■■.   bury   such   things
with-‘the   owners?”   I;suggested.   “After
all,   tbey   really   belong   to   them.”
“Nothing   belongs   to   a   dead   man.   When
ceded   to   be   the   roughest   point   on   the
Pacific   Coast.   Its   peculiar   location   and
the   direction   of   the   ocean’s   currents   keep
the   water   in   the   vicinity   in   a   constant
boil.   Fogs   are   also   plentiful   and   many
are   the   ships   that   have   been   lost   in   the
near   vicinity.
To   reach   the   island   at   the   present   time
it   is   necessary   to   cross   a   channel   at   least
half   a   mile   wide,   which   is   at   all   hours
a   dangerous   undertaking.   The   breakers
roll   in   on   both   sides,   and   if   the   water   is   at
all   rough   the   passage   can   only   be   made   at
great   risk   of   life.   Eight   of   the   fog-signal
keepers   have   been   drowned   while   crossing
this   bit   of   treacherous   water.   At   the   big
low   tide   the   shallowest   place   is   about   six –
teen   feet   deep   and   about   200   feet   wide.
To   wade   across   is   an   impossibility.
The   location   of   the   island   allows   the
seas   to   sweep   in   from   both   sides   and   the
breakers   meet   in   the   center.   In   calm
he   cnooses   death—or   death   chooses   him—
he   has   to   give,   up   his   possessions   in   this
world   to   those   more   able   to   enjoy   them
than   be   is.   Beside*,”   he   said   in   a   busi –
ness-like   way,   “he’d   have   an   awful   time
keeping   the   poor   fellows   in   their   graves.
Fiends   would   rob   them.”.
“But   you   auction   things   off,   don’t
you   I   asked,   anxious   to   get   his   thoughts
away   from   fanciful   notions   least   1   should
have   to   admit   that   I   had   a   few   about
some   things   myself.
“Well,   not   exactly   a   public   auction –
just   a   sale   of   a   few   things,   you   know.   The
place   would   become   unpleasantly   full   of
dead   men’s   relics   if   we   didn’t   dispose   of
them.   Then   we   might   be   liable   to   be –
come   ■   haunted—have   the   different   spirits
hunting   for,   their   former   possessions   and
prowling   about   at   unreasonable   hours.”
He   looked   at   roe   quizzically.   :•;;,-
“”So   we   just   have   a   little   sale—a   few   fel –
lows   come   up   here   and   I   just   sell   for   al –
most   nothing   a   few,   things   that   will   never
be   called   for.   .That   keeps   the   spirits
quiet.   They   don’t   mind   if   people   are   hav –
ing   good   use   out   of   things.”   *,=
“Anything   more   lean   do   for   you?”   he
asked   as   I   rose   to   go. –
–‘   There   was   nothing   else—nothing   in   the
whole   worldbut   I   wanted   to   get   out   into
the   sunshine   where   there   was   life.,:
–   –   ■’;.   Muriel   Bailt.   I
Hawaiian:   Intelligence.
‘”‘■Jl   pleasing   example   of   Hawaiian   intel –
ligence   was   noted   by   T.   Daniel   Fraw –
ley   and   his   theatrical   company   on   ■   their
tour   of   ;   the   islands   ■■   a   year   ‘   ago.   r   The
writer   chanced   to   dine.   with   several   mem –
bers   of   the   troupe   Va’   few   days   ;.’after.,   tbeir
return   and   the   impression   .   which   he
gleaned   from   their   most   enthusiastic   de –
scriptions   of   the   natives’   appreciation   of
the   drama   has   left   him   ever   since   with
most   favorable   opinions   concerning   ?   Ha –
waiian   .Island   *   culture.   ‘V   Mr.   V   Frawley   ex –
hibited   not   merely   the   enthusiasm   of   the
successful   theatrical   manager   in   speaking
of   an   audience’s   cordial   response   to   his
weather   there   is   a   smooth   strip   of   water
about   fifty   feet   wide,   through   which   the
boat   can   be   rowed,   but   at   any   moment
this   is   likely   to   De   turned   into   a   whirlpool
so   whoever   crosses   takes   his   life   in   his
hands.   In   bad   weather   to   cross   this   chan –
nel   is   impossible.   The   breakers   are   a
whirl   of   foam   and   the   stanchest   boat
would   soon   be   swamped.   \   On   certain   occa –
sions   the   keepers   of-the   fog-signal   have
had   to   remain   on   the   island   for   weeks   at   a
time.   The   lighthouse   tender   Madrona,
which   makes   periodical   trips   along   the
coast,   often   finds   it   impossible   to   make   a
landing   and   has   to   leave   without   deposit –
ing   the   usual   supplies.
The   fog-signal   station   on   Ano   Nuevo
Island   is   one   of   the   most   important   of   the
Government   stations   on   the   Pacific   Coast.
It   is   right   in   the   path   of   the   heaviest   ship –
ping   and   a   moment’s   neglect   of   the   signal
might   result   in   the   loss   of   a   ship.
efforts,   but   spoke   with   the   keen   admira –
tion   of   a   student   of   human   nature   who
had   witnessed   a   particularly   bright   dis –
play   of   intelligence.   At   such   plays   as   “The
Senator,”   “The   Great   Unknown”   and
v   One   of   the   delicate   society   skits   which   the   natives   of   Hawaii   appreciated   as   keen –
ly   as   did   their   American   companions,   a   circumstance   which   is   urged   as   evidence   of
Hawaiian;   refinement!   and   fitness   to   become   citizens   of   civilized   America.   Before
this   and   other   finely   poised   satires,   which   the   Frawley   Company   presented   in
Honolulu   last   year,   the   natives   displayed   the   keenest   appreciation   and   the   alertest
comprehension.   uffiMBHHBHBHh
Since   the   signal   was   erected   in   1372   there
have   scarcely   been   any   changes   in   its
manner   of   working   or   in   the   buildings.*
The   signal-house   is   on   the   western   tip   of
the   island   and   contains   a   double   set   of
engines   and   boilers   so   as   to   be   able   to
guard   against   accidents.   The   signal   is   a
whistle   that   gives   a   blast   of   fifteen   seconds
every   minute.   It   can   be   heard   for   two
miles   at   sea   with   the   greatest   distinctness
and   a   much   greater   distance   with   audi –
bility   enough   to   let   any   skipper   know
where   he   is   going.
In   addition   to   the   fog-signal   there   is   a
light   of   the   fourth   order   on   the   island,
which,   however,   -is   not   intended   to   be
used   as   a   range   light   of   any   kind.   The
idea   in   putting   it   there   is   to   let   a   skipper
know   where   he   is   in   case   he   should   get   in
too   close   on   a   dare   night.   This   light,
however,   can   be   seen   for   at   least   ten   miles
at   sea.
Everything   about   .Ano   Nuevo   Island
is   in   the   best   of   working   order   and   as
clean   as   care   and   work   can   make   it.
There   are   a   number   of   difficulties   to   bo
contended   with   that   are   unknown   at
other   stations.   The   keeper’s   residence   is
a   large   roomy   house   fitted   for   two   fam –
ilies   and   about   as   comfortable   as   such   a
house   in   such   a   location   could   be.
Thomas   H.   Butwell   is   the   keeper   at
present   in   charge   of   the   station,   and   he
has   every   reason   to   be   proud   of   the   wort
he   has   done.   He   has   only   one   assistant,
and   together   they   do   all   tbe   work,   on
many   occasions   keep   the   fog   whistle   going
day   and   night.   The   world   little   knows
what   is   gone   through   with   by   the   men
who   keep   the   signals   going   for   mariners
that   ships   may   go   safely   over   the   sea.   It
is   long   hours   and   hard   work   and   very   lit –
tle   possibility   of   a   vacation.   It   is   seldom
tbat   they   get   more   than   a   mile   or   two
away   from   the   station   more   than   once   a
year—when   they   report   to   the   main   office
in   this   City.
There   is   no   danger   of   abalones   ever   be –
coming   extinct   on   the   Pacific   Coast   if
those   on   Ano   Nuevo   Island   are   taken
care   of.   There   are   hundreds   of   thousands
of   them   there,   and   many   of   them   are   as
large   as   the   largest   that   have   ever   teen
caught.   Just   below   low-water   mark   on
the   western   shore   of   the   island   they   can
be   seen   in   all   their   glory   clinging   to   rocks.
Some   of   them   are   as   large   a*   the   top   of   a
water-bucket.   These   are   the   large   red
ones   that   have   been   declared   to   be   al –
most   extinct.   Nobody   his   ever   been   per –
mitted   to   take   any   of   them   since   Mr.   But –
well   has   been   in   charge   of   the   island.
“The   Two   Escutcheons,”   the   natives   in
the   audience   exhibited   even   more   ap –
preciation   of   the   exquisi’e   flashes   of   rep
artec   and   persiflage   than   did   the   English –
or   Americans   who   sat   beside   them.

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