Karana's cave discovered?

The Island of the Blue Dolphins is the Newbery Medal-winning story of a 12-year old girl who lives alone on a Pacific island after she leaps from a rescue ship. Isolated on the island for eighteen years, Karana forages for food, builds weapons to fight predators, clothes herself in a cormorant feathered skirt, and finds strength and peace in her seclusion. This classic tale of discovery and solitude has engaged readers for over 50 years.

Scott O'Dell based his novel on the true story of Juana Maria, a Nicoleño Indian better known to history as "The Lone Woman of San Nicolas Island". About 60 miles off the coast of California, San Nicolas is a lonely Navy base dotted with installations designed to track missiles. It also has more than 540 known archaeological sites, some with evidence that people have lived on the island for more than 8,000 years.

Steve Schwartz, a Navy archaeologist, has been searching for her cave for more than 20 years. Year after year, he scoured the island's beaches and cliffs, drilled exploratory holes, checked a yellowing government survey map dated from 1879, pored over contemporary accounts and conferred with other experts, all in vain. If he could find the cave, he thought, he could find artifacts — clues that would flesh out the real-life story.

With the help of recently unearthed notes written in a fine script by a 19th century government surveyor, Schwartz now believes he's found it. "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. Read more here.