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The Santa Barbara Channel is that part of the Pacific Oceanmarker which separates the mainland of Californiamarker from the northern Channel Islandsmarker. It is generally south of the city of Santa Barbaramarker, and west of the city of Venturamarker.

It trends east-west, is approximately 80 miles long and averages about thirty miles across, becoming narrowest at its easternmost extremity where Anacapa Islandmarker is less than twenty miles from the mainland.

The Santa Barbara Channel is considered a scenic location, with the islands visible from the mainland on clear days.

Excursion boats cross the channel, taking visitors to watch whales and visit the islands. In the perpendicular (east-west) direction, huge cargo ships and tankers occupy a major shipping lane on their way to or from the ports of Los Angelesmarker and Long Beachmarker.

The Channel is the location of numerous oil fields, some of which have substantial reserves. These include the Ellwoodmarker, Summerland, and Dos Cuadras fields. In 1969, the Dos Cuadras was the point of origin of a major oil spillmarker, which came about when oil spurted at high pressure through faults and cracks around a zone which had recently been drilled for the first time. Public outrage over the massive environmental damage inflicted by this spill, which covered hundreds of square miles of the channel and fouled beaches from Ventura to Goleta, was a major spur to the budding environmental movement. Some oil exploration and production activities continue in the area, in spite of vigorous opposition from local organizations, such as Santa Barbara-based Get Oil Out (GOO).

Kaustubh Vemuri of Pune in India, became the youngest person to swim across the Santa Barbara Channel on 29 September 2007. He swam a distance of 20 km from Anacapa Island to Oxnard in 7hr and 23mins. [84331]


Prior to the Holocene era sea levels were considerably lower, such that the water width separating the mainland was much less. This effect had a significant effect upon biological colonization as well as human transport via plank canoes. As examples, the Native American Chumash peoples navigated these waters with ease using their primitive watercraft, allowing communication and trade between island and mainland villages. In terms of biological colonization, C. Michael Hogan reviews some of the theories of colonization of the rare species Torrey Pine, Pinus torreyana to the islands, suggesting that it is likely that Chumash peoples carried the initial cones in their canoes. The most famous endemic species, though now extinct, was the pygmy mammoth, which is often cited as a case study in insular dwarfism.

Alternate meaning

The Santa Barbara Channel is also the name of local television including 17 community access and 21 arts and education.

Line notes

  1. History, 1969
  2. C.M.Hogan, 2008


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