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Recent Earthquake is Good for an Island Geography Lesson

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9:51 a.m., Thursday, Dec. 3, 2009

9:51 a.m., Thursday, Dec. 3, 2009
A 2.5 microquake struck the seas yesterday morning. It's doubtful that anyone felt it because it was in the middle of the ocean, 81 miles southwest of downtown Los Angeles. But what's fun about its location is its proximity to the four southern Channel Islands. Since the mere presence of islands off the coast of Southern California seems to perplex a lot of people, we thought it was a good moment to at least identify them. The most popular island--northeast of the quake--of course, is Catalina (officially, Santa Catalina) Island. The 76-square mile mass is home to two small towns--Avalon and Two Harbors--and during its heydey, had famous jazz band after jazz band playing parties in the Avalon Casino (no gambling, it's "casino" as in "place of entertainment). The island used to be the home to spring training for the Chicago Cubs (the Wrigley history is rich here) and non-native buffalo brought over for a movie. Most of the island--the "interior," as locals call it--is run by the Catalina Island Conservancy.

To the north of the earthquake is the smallest Channel Island: Santa Barbara Island. It's one of five islands within Channel Islands National Park and it's also one of the least visited ones because of its size (it's one square mile, to compare, Anacapa is 1.1 square miles). Additionally, due to its distance from the other islands and docking up in Ventura County, the long boat ride is not a favorite for people (will the National Park Service ever put a visitor center in San Pedro, 38 miles to the east? One would hope). A few campsites dot the shores, but the island is really home to birds, pinnipeds and other sea life in the tide pools. If you can make it, you'll find solitude, so bring a book and, perhaps, a kayak.

To the west and east of the quake are two islands off limits to the public. San Nicolas and San Clemente are military controlled. If you read Island of the Blue Dolphins in grade school, San Nicolas is the island. Lots of secret things happen here, but maybe Wikipedia--true or not?--will tell you some hints.