Stranded On An Uninhabited Island For 18 Years, This Woman Was Found Still Alive

By the 1800s, residents of San Nicholas Island, who had previously lived in peace and tranquility, had encountered bloody conflicts with Russian seals hunters. This is because the islanders are opposed to hunting seals in their sea.

At that time, animal fur and skins were one of the natural sources of trade for Native Americans and European colonizers to work to obtain these natural resources. As a result of the bloody conflict, the island's population has dropped dramatically.



In 1835 at the behest of Charles Hubbard, a Christian missionary force known as Santa Barbara undertook a rescue mission to the island of San Nicholas to retrieve the surviving remnants to the mainland.

When the ship reached the island, all the people were transported by boat except one woman. She is Juana Maria. There are two versions of the story why Juana is not involved.

In the first version, Juana was already aboard the rescue boat, but after Juana realized her baby was missing, she returned to the village and found her son dead from being eaten by a stray dog. Due to heavy storms at that time, rescue vessels had to leave the island as soon as possible.

The second version says that as a result of the storm approaching the island, the crew was unable to count the rescued residents and they left the island in a hurry. The rescue boat named Poeres Tone is scheduled to return to the island when the weather subsides. But unfortunately, the ship sank after landing in San Francisco.



After Juana was stranded on the island on her own, 18 years later a skin-and-feather hunter named Captain George Nidever found Juana Maria on the island.

Nidever had previously been asked by the Missionary Maria Mission team to search for Juana if the captain stopped by the island to hunt for animals.

Captain Nidever wrote Juana's story in his book. Nidever described Juana Maria as being discovered as an 'old lady' who was busy dumping whale poop.

Juana Maria smiled and bowed and spoke to them in a language she could not understand.

"She was 50 years old, her face was beautiful ... she kept smiling, her clothes consisted of one leather dress," Nidever wrote.



When Juana was discovered, she had developed a hump from the whale's bones and probably lived in a cave around that location. Juana is overjoyed to see Nidever and his crew and she's ready to follow Nidever back to mainland.



In Santa Barbara, Juana has become center of attention. Many people want to visit her. However, after 7 weeks in the mainland, Juana died of dysentery or bleeding. She was buried unmarked near the Santa Barbara Mission building.

No one knows her real name. The name of Juana Maria was the only name the Catholic priest gave her after she was taken to Mission Santa Barbara. While on the island, her name is "Karana" but there is no historical evidence to indicate her actual name.

Some of the items she brought with her from San Nicolas Island were bone needles that she might use to make clothes. Unfortunately, the objects stored in San Francisco were destroyed by the earthquake in 1906, and her clothes were also lost after being taken to the Vatican.



In 2018, a historian Susan Morris speculated that Juana Maria might have founded before on the island.

This is because apart from the hunters and seals, wild elephants, hunters or smugglers may have met the woman.

This impression was made by Morris based on ship logs and journals indicating that all of these groups had stopped at San Nicolas Island.

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