Santa Cruz Island An Illustrated History

The most comprehensive illustrated history of Santa Cruz Island is being released to coincide with the centennial anniversary of the National Park Service, August 25, 2016. This two-volume book contains nearly 600 images, some of which have never been published. Santa Cruz Island An Illustrated History explores the geologic origins of the island and traces the cultural history from the native inhabitants, over 13,000 years ago, to the establishment of the Channel Islands National Park in 1980 and its current efforts to preserve and protect the island.

“John Gherini is the perfect individual to tell this tale. A descendant of one of the families who shaped twentieth-century Santa Cruz Island and a person with deep roots in the Santa Barbara Channel region, John brings an insider’s knowledge to this complex story.”

Robert M. Senkewicz,
Professor of History
Santa Clara University


Santa Cruz Island An Illustrated History will initially be available for purchase on Amazon and at Chaucer’s BookstoreSanta Barbara Arts & PlumGood Store.

“John Gherini weaves natural history, cultural history, and his own family’s generations on Santa Cruz Island into a fully-realized tapestry of one of the most complex and beautiful locations among our National Parks. This is more than a splendid coffee-table book; it educates even while it illuminates.”

  • James F. Brooks,
    Professor of History and Anthropology,
    University of California, Santa Barbara

About the Island

Rising from the waters of the Pacific off the southern California Coast, Santa Cruz Island captures the imagination. Once home to a large Chumash population, in the nineteenth century it became a self-sufficient island rancho. As with all islands of beauty and size, it attracted people from the coastline.

The attractions of the island, however, routinely led people into conflict, wrapping it in a shroud like its morning fog. The modern history of the island would witness the passion to own it, to protect it, to use it and to fight over it.

For the first time a thorough history of Santa Cruz Island‘s tumultuous past is provided. In pre-Columbian times it was a source of wealth to the indigenous peoples—the place where they made their shell bead money. During the Spanish-Mexican period it was a smuggler’s haven, where fur hunters avoided the customs officials.

As a land grant, it passed through the hands of Andres Castillero, William E. Barron, and eventually was purchased by Justinian Caire. The island flourished under the direction of Caire and his family. It was a secluded paradise off the Santa Barbara Coast, with extensive sheep and cattle holdings, as well as an esteemed winery.

Seeds of conflict were sown by Justinian Caire‘s will when the island was divided between family members. The Stantons, Rossis, Gherinis, the National Park Service and The Nature Conservancy all were involved over time. The tortured legal and family disputes are recounted for the first time in this important new work.

Island ranching, hunting and recreation, and environmental challenges are described in detail. Recent historical events involving the establishment of the Channel Islands National Park are explored, as well.