Santa Catalina Island

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Santa Catalina Island, often called Catalina Island, or just Catalina, is a rocky island off the coast of Orange County, just south of Los Angeles California. The island is 22 miles (35 km) long and 8 miles (13 km) across at its greatest width. The island is located about 22 miles (48 km) south-southwest of Los Angeles, California.

In the book Rocinante Mark Gravengood and Jackie Archer fly from Oceanside (northwest of San Diego) to Catalina and on the way discover a couple with an overturned power boat. They call in on the radio and arrange for the Coast Guard to rescue them. Later they continue from Cataline to Camarillo (near Oxnard).Roc3-4
There is a placemark for this location in the downloadable Google Earth Rocinante set at Google Earth and the Spearfish Lake Tales.

Jenny Easton has her film shoot for Defenders of Gaea on one of the beaches here.BAR23

Real World Notes

At one time Catalina was owned by William Wrigley Jr. (of chewing gum fame). Beginning in the 1920s he developed it into a tourist destination. From about 1921 to 1951 his Chicago Cubs baseball team rented part of the island and did their off-season training there. The Wrigley heirs formed the Catalina Island Conservancy in 1971 and transferred control of most of the island to it in 1972.

In 1959 the Four Preps singing group were awarded a gold record (over one million sold) for their 1958 song "Twenty Six Miles" which publicized Catalina as a romantic destination. See and Bruce Belland, Ed Cobb, Marv Ingram, and Glen Larson were students at Hollywood High School. In total the group amassed eight gold singles and three gold albums. In 1969, the group disbanded, as their type of music had become less popular. Belland moved on to writing songs for other singers, as well as writing television show scripts, eventually becoming a network executive. Cobb became a record producer and sound engineer. Somerville went into television acting and providing voice-overs. Ingram became a commodities broker. Glen Larson became a television producer, creating, among others, 'Battlestar Galactica' and 'Knight Rider.' In an interview Belland later recalled that the chorus came to him when he was surfing at Will Rogers State Beach. A pal pointed to the horizon and said he could see Catalina 26 miles away. "That's where it came from. But those words would haunt me. It's really like 22.3 miles, but you try singing that." The lyrics may not represent maritime precision but they took the musical postcard to #2 on the popularity charts and popularized Catalina around the world. Dick Clark referred to the song as "the first surfer hit". In July of 2007 the city had a party for the song's 50th anniversary - here's a home video:

Catalina Island has a resident population of about 3,000 which can double with tourists on a summer weekend. Ninety percent of the full time residents live in Avalon, the island's only incorporated city, which celebrated it's centennial on June 26th 2015. Public Safety services are provided by the Los Angeles County Sheriffs Department. Several regularly scheduled ferries link the island with different ports on the mainland. There is a large general aviation airstrip and it's a popular place to fly to, land, take a taxi down to the town of Avalon, have lunch (the buffalo burgers are great!) then taxi back to the plane and fly home. Yes, there are buffalo burgers there. Wild buffalo run free on the inner parts of the island and the herd is regularly thinned down. The meat is processed on the island and sold in the island stores.

Catalina has a long history as Hollywood's exotic "back lot". Beginning as early as 1911 and continuing through the Silent Film era and the introduction of sound to motion pictures, Catalina Island has served as the location for the filming of over 500 motion pictures, documentaries, television programs and commercials. Over the past 100 years, the Island has been transformed into the coast of North Africa, from Tahiti to the American frontier and back again. It has been mistaken for the lost continent of Atlantis and the home of that famous mechanical shark, Jaws. D.W. Griffith filmed his feature "Man’s Genesis" on the Island over 100 years ago in 1912.

Catalina is also a popular SCUBA diving place - One of the more popular places is Emerald Bay where the water is so clear that when standing on the deck of the dive boat you can see 75 feet (23m) straight down and count the pebbles on the bottom. Farnsworth Bank is another popular spot that is 180 feet (55m) deep. SCUBA classes on the mainland frequently have an graduation dive where they hand out the certification cards (they resemble credit cards) 40-60 feet underwater.

The highest point on the island is 2,097 feet (639 m) Mt. Orizaba (pronounced Or-ee-za-ba) which has several tall radio towers, one of which hosts the microwave dishes that link the island's telephones and internet back to the mainland. An underwater fiber optic cable connecting to the San Pedro central office has displaced the microwave dishes to backup link status.

Catalina was also the location of the last manual telephone exchange in America - that's manual, as in large switchboards side by side, lots of cords, and operators saying "Number please". Even the pay phones had magneto cranks on the side. For a long time there were only 24 telephone trunk circuits from Catalina to the mainland - you had to wait your turn. The manual to automatic conversion was done in 1978, and as the new electronic exchange was installed and made operational the number of switchboards was reduced one by one, and a photo of the last switchboard is here: More here:
The two prior manual conversions were Virginia City, Nevada, in 1975, and in St. Ignace, Michigan in 1974.

More information about the island may be found on Wikipedia by following this link Santa Catalina Island or this link to the Catalina Island Conservancy, or this one to the Santa Catalina Island Chamber of Commerce.