Island of the Blue Dolphins

By Scott O'Dell



Records the courage and Self-reliance of an Indian girl who lived alone for eighteen years on an isolated island off the California Coast when her tribe emigrated and she was left behind.

The story happens on the Island of the Blue Dolphins, also known as Island of San Nicholas, a small island located about 75 miles off the California Coast in the Pacific in 1814 - 1815.

It is a true story of a 12-year-old girl called Karana, from the Ghalas - an Indian tribe, who lives a simple, happy life playing with her brother Ramo, gathering food and enjoying her childhood. Until one day the red – sailed boat of the Aleut hunters arrives at the island to hunt otter. In a conflict with the Alcuts many men of the tribe are killed and soon the tribe has to leave the Island.

The girl and her brother are left alone. Soon she loses her brother to the wild dogs. The most amazing thing is Karana’s desperate struggle to survive. She has to kill animals to eat and defend herself but in time she learns to appreciate all life!

First, she spares her greatest enemy, the leader of the wild dogs Rontu and he becomes her best companion.

With him she starts to learn about forgiveness and love. Then she saves and befriends a female otter. After that experience, she never killed another otter.

When the Aleuts return, she has the opportunity to kill the enemy girl but she becomes friends with her too and misses her when she is gone.

An exhausting battle to spear the devilfish teaches her another lesson. She succeeds in killing it, but is not very happy and never does that again.

Karana is strong, courageous, persistent and optimist.

The theme of the book is the change of a little girl into a woman through her experiences by accepting her new life and looking towards the future without losing hope, all this while being completely alone.


I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys adventure and admires courage while trying to survive in an impossible situation and suceeds. Even though it was very difficult for her she appreciates this paradise on earth. I found it deeply moving as it was a true story and I felt it sent me a message for my own life, it showed me you can overcome problems alone that you don’t think you can. It was interesting because it was tragic as she lost all her family and friends and found herself alone but the best part was how the book finishes as I hate sad endings, she is rescued and spends the rest of her life in civilisation and she doesn’t die alone. It’s a must!


(Los Angeles, 1898-1989) Writer and journalist, regarded as one of the largest growers of children's literature of the twentieth century.

After completing studies at several American universities, he moved to Italy to complete his humanistic education at the University of Rome. After being mobilized to intervene in the conflicts of his time, he settled in his native country as a rancher, an activity that soon left to devote to the cultivation of literature and writing newspaper articles.

His collaborations in the press, aimed at adult readers, appeared in Los Angeles Mirror, where he was a columnist, and Los Angeles Daily News , the medium in which he served as editor. However, they also end up leaving journalism to devote himself entirely to children's literature.

So in 1960 he gave the press Island Dolphin Blue , a novel that told the story (based on fact) of Karana, a young Indian woman who survived for eighteen years on a deserted island. The play, which garnered an immediate and overwhelming success (then amplified by the film version of it was made ​​in 1964), was honored in 1961 with the Newbery Medal, a prestigious award given to the most outstanding works among intended for children and youth.


The following is reprinted from The Paris Review:

Island of the Blue Dolphins Cave is Found

November 1, 2012 | by Sadie Stein

The Island of the Blue Dolphins was my home; I had no other.

After more than twenty years of searching, a Navy archaeologist believes he has found the cave on San Nicolas Island occupied by The Lone Woman—better known to many as the protagonist of Scott O’Dell’s 1960 classic, Island of the Blue Dolphins. The Newberry Medal–winner was based on the true story of a Native American woman left behind when the rest of the Nicoleño tribe was evacuated from the channel islands by missionaries after the population was decimated by Russian fur traders; one story has it she returned to the island to search for her missing child.

Juana Maria, taken at the Santa Barbara Mission

The Lone Woman passed into legend and was reportedly glimpsed throughout the next eighteen years by passing ships off the California coast. In 1853, Captain George Nidever encountered the woman on San Nicolas. In his memoirs, he related that she was “of medium height … about 50 years old but … still strong and active. Her face was pleasing as she was continually smiling … Her clothing consisted of but a single garment of skins.” A Sacramento paper reported on the finding of the woman whom the missionaries unceremoniously rechristened Juana Maria:

The wild woman who was found on the island of San Nicolas about 70 miles from the coast, west of Santa Barbara, is now at the latter place and is looked upon as a curiosity. It is stated she has been some 18 to 20 years alone on the island. She existed on shell fish and the fat of the seal, and dressed in the skins and feathers of wild ducks, which she sewed together with sinews of the seal. She cannot speak any known language, is good-looking and about middle age. She seems to be contented in her new home among the good people of Santa Barbara.

But after only seven weeks, unaccustomed to the diet of the mainland, she died of dysentery. (O’Dell spared his protagonist, Karana—and his young readers—this fate.) She was buried at Mission Santa Barbara. But despite her “discovery,” and the fact that an 1879 map of San Nicholas was clearly marked with the words “Indian Cave,” no one had ever been able to find the Lone Woman’s shelter on the twenty-two-mile island.

Cave image, LA Times

Now, Steve Schwartz believes he has. According to the L.A. Times,

“We’re 90% sure this is the Lone Woman’s cave,” Schwartz told several hundred fellow researchers last week at the California Islands Symposium in Ventura. Further excavation is necessary, he said, adding that a crew of students has painstakingly removed about 40,000 buckets, or a million pounds, of sand from a cavern at least 75 feet long and 10 feet high.

Excavators have also come across a stash of tools, which may have belonged to the Lone Woman.

Island of the Blue Dolphins