Aleut: The Aleuts are the native peoples of the Aleutian Islands. There are 71 Aleutian Islands, stretching all the way from Alaska to Russia. Today, most of the islands are a part the United States, but some belong to Russia. In the 1800s and early 1900s (nineteenth and twentieth centuries), when the Russian Empire extended into what is now the US state of Alaska, Russians used the term "Aleut" to refer to any of the native peoples of the region, including those who did not live on any of the Aleutian Islands. The Aleut men hunted seals using harpoons made from wood and bone.

Ancestor: An ancestor is a person who someone is descended from. This word is usually used to refer to relatives who have lived in the distant past, such as a great-great-great grandparent. Her ancestor lived in the time of Queen Elizabeth.

Archipelago: An archipelago is a group of scattered islands. The Channel Islands form an archipelago off the coast of Southern California.

Asphaltum (tar, pitch): Asphaltum is a natural tar-like substance that washes ashore from underwater oil seepages. The use of asphaltum by American Indians is known from archeological evidence and early historic accounts. Asphaltum was the caulk, glue, and paint of coastal people. It was often mixed with pine tree pitch and used to waterproof baskets and canoes. Coastal American Indians in California lined the seams of their plank canoes with melted asphaltum to keep water from getting in and to hold the planks together.

Brig: A brig is a two-masted wooden sailing ship that is square-rigged (has rectangular-shaped sails on both masts). During the late 1700s and early 1800s (eighteenth and nineteenth centuries), brigs were used as merchant vessels and naval warships. The ship that brought a sea otter hunting crew to San NIcolas Island in 1814 was a brig.

Cache: A cache is a collection of items—such as tools, food, and treasures—stored in a hidden or inaccessible place. In 2009, a large cache of American Indian artifacts was found on San Nicolas Island.

Canoe: A canoe is a narrow, hollow boat pointed on both ends. Paddles are used to move it through the water. Early canoes were built by carving out a hollow space in a log or by lashing together wooden planks. Now, canoes are built using a variety of manufactured materials including plastic, aluminium, and fiberglass. The fishermen paddled upriver in their canoe.

Circlet: A circlet is a band shaped like a circle and worn on the head as jewelry. It can be fashioned from many different materials, though it is typically made from precious metals like gold or silver and inlaid with jewels or decorations. The princess wore a gold circlet on her head.

Cove: A cove is a small, sheltered, circular bay with a narrow opening that protects it from strong currents. It can be found on the coast of an ocean, lake, or river. Coves are formed through the erosion (wearing away) of the soft rocks that surround them. The boat sailed into the cove looking for shelter from the storm.

Earthquake: An earthquake is a shaking of the Earth's surface, caused by sudden movement in the Earth's crust. This crust is made up of many pieces called tectonic plates. Faults are associated with, or form, the boundaries between these plates. In an active fault, the pieces of the Earth's crust along the fault move over time. The moving pieces can cause earthquakes.The tower collapsed during the earthquake.

Effigy: An effigy is a sculture or model of a person or animal. A small stone effigy of an elephant seal was found in a redwood box cache on San Nicolas Island.

Endemic: Endemic is a word used to describe animals and plants native to a single area and found nowhere else in the world. The island night lizard is endemic to San Nicolas, Santa Barbara, and San Clemente Islands.

Habitat: A habitat is the place where a plant or animal lives. A habitat provides all that is necessary for a plant or animal to survive.

Headland: A headland is an area of land that extends out from a coast into water. It is often high and ends in a steep drop, or cliff. A headland is formed when hard rock erodes less quickly than the soft rock around it, leaving behind a chunk of land that sticks out. A large headland is also called a cape. From her boat, the captain could see the sheer cliff of the headland in the distance.

Indigenous: This word relates to anything native to (or naturally found in) a certain area. It is often used to refer to the native peoples of a region, who can trace their ancestry in the area back hundreds or thousands of years. The Chumash are one of many indigenous peoples of California.

Kelp bed: A kelp bed is a small cluster of kelp. A larger gathering of kelp is known as a kelp forest. Kelps are algae that live in the ocean. Kelp beds and forests are home to many kinds of plants and animals, including fish, invertebrates, and marine mammals. The sea otter swam through the kelp bed.

Lair: A lair is the sleeping place of a wild animal. It is often well hidden to protect the animal from predators. It might be a burrow, tunnel, hole, or cave. The bear retreated to its lair to hibernate.

League: A league is an old unit of measure for distance that is not often used today. A league was most commonly defined as three miles, both on land and at sea. The island is described as being two leagues long and one league wide.

Mesa: A mesa is a piece of land with a flat top and steep sides that is higher than the area surrounding it. A mesa resembles a table (mesa is the Spanish word for table), and in English it is also called a "table hill" or "table mountain." Mesas are formed through the process of erosion when water washes away the smaller and softer types of rocks from the top of a hill. Spanish explorers called the landforms they saw in the American Southwest mesas because they looked like tables.

Midden: A midden is a mound of shells, bones, and other discarded materials marking the place where humans once lived. Shells in middens on San Nicolas Island include those from abalones, mussels, black turban snails, and owl limpets. Bones include fish species, such as rockfish, surfperch, California sheephead, and cabezon. Bones from sea lions, sea otters, and other marine mammals have also been found.

Pelt: The word pelt is used to describe the skin taken off an animal when the skin still has the hair, fur, or wool on it. Animal pelts were often used to make clothing because the fur was thought to be beautiful, and it kept its wearer extremely warm. Today, many people oppose the use of animal fur to make clothing, and so animals are not often killed for their pelts. The woman used the otter pelt as a cape.

Ravine: A ravine is a deep valley with steep sides. It is smaller than a canyon and often narrower. It is formed when running water erodes (wears away) an area of land. Sometimes the running water may continue to flow through the ravine. Some ravines may only have seasonal streams. We hiked through the ravine.

Sandbar: A sandbar is a long and narrow strip of sand. It is formed near areas where waves break. When waves crash on shore and then fall back, the movement creates a trough underwater. Sand is deposited on the beach when the waves move forward and on the other side of the trough when the waves move back. When enough sand has been deposited on the offshore side so that the sand rises out of the water, it is called a sandbar. Sandbars sometimes join two pieces of land and when big enough, they can separate a body of water from the ocean. A sandbar connects the islands of Waya and Wayasewa in Fiji.

Sandspit: A sandspit is a stretch of sand that is connected to the mainland on one end and extends out into the ocean on the other. It forms as wind and waves, travelling at an angle to the shore, move sediment (sand, dirt) down the coast. When the shoreline curves, the sediment is still pushed and deposited in the same direction, forming a bank of sand that extends outward. The area behind a sandspit is sheltered from ocean currents, creating an area where mud flats or salt marshes can form. Sandspits range in size from small spits that extend only a few hundred feet to large ones that can span over 60 miles. The Chumash built a settlement on the Morro Bay sandspit because of its closeness to the ocean.

Schooner: A schooner is a two-masted wooden sailing ship with a taller main mast near the middle of the vessel and a shorter foremast in front of the main mast. Schooners were used for coastal trade and fishing during the late 1700s and early 1800s (eighteenth and nineteenth centuries) because they were able to handle coastal winds and maneuver in shallower waters. The ship that brought the Nicoleños to the California mainland in 1835 was a schooner.

Shellfish: Shellfish is a term used for saltwater (and sometimes freshwater) invertebrates that have an outer shell and are used for food. Despite their name, shellfish are not a kind of fish. Some common shellfish include shrimp, clams, mussels, oysters, and crabs. The restaurant served shellfish as an appetizer.

Sinew: Sinew is a tough piece of tissue that connects a muscle to a bone and helps the muscle move the bone. In humans, it is more commonly called a tendon. Animal sinew can be used to bind wood, bone, or other materials together. The wooden planks of the canoe were fastened together with animal sinew.

Skin canoe: A skin canoe is a kind of small boat that has a bone or wood frame covered by the skin of an animal. The kind of wood and skin used varies depending on where the canoe is made. Seal and sea lion skins make good skin canoes because they are waterproof. Skin canoes are very light and can move through the water quickly. The hunters paddled out into the ocean in their skin canoes.

Snare: A snare is a tool used to trap and capture animals. Snares are often made from some kind of wire or string that is fashioned into a noose that will catch an animal around the neck or body. In many areas of the world today, the use of snares is illegal because of the pain they cause to animals caught in them. The squirrel was caught in a snare and couldn't escape.

Spring: A spring is a place where underground water comes up to the surface and flows outward. A spring forms when an underground stream, moved along by pressure, finds an opening to the surface from which to emerge. Large springs can become the source of a river. Springs do not flow all the time and can dry up during droughts. The spring water was clean and clear.

Tide: The tides are the rising and falling of the sea level. Tides are caused by the gravitational pull of the moon on Earth. During low tide, people are able to walk on the same beach that is underwater during high tide.

Tidepool: A tidepool is a pool of water located on or near the shore. The water level in a tidepool varies depending on whether it is a high or low tide. During high tide, the tidepool becomes submerged (covered by water) and cannot be seen. During low tide, the tidepool becomes visible and exposed to sun and wind. Sea anemones, barnacles, and sea stars live in tidepools.

Tsunami ("huge wave"): A tsunami, also known as a tidal wave, is a series of large waves caused by earthquakes or volcanic eruptions that take place underwater. Tsunami waves are not very high when they are out in the open ocean, but as they travel towards a shore and the ocean becomes shallower, they become much larger in size. In 2004, a tsunami in the Indian Ocean destroyed a number of cities and killed over 200,000 people.

Wildflower: A wildflower is any flower that grows in the wild and originally had not been planted in an area on purpose. A wildflower may be a native or nonnative plant. The wildflowers on the hill were beautiful.

Last updated: November 15, 2018