"Santa Barbara--Surfs Up and much more at the Maritime Museum

By Joe Hilbers

From a Chumash plank canoe like those used for thousands of years to surfers riding on foam epoxy boards the Marine history of Santa Barbara can be found at its Maritime Museum.

Appropriately located adjacent to Santa Barbara Boat Harbor the Museum touches on almost every sea and marine activity that has been a part of the community through the centuries. Newest permanent exhibition is called "Surf's Up" and chronicles Santa Barbara' long history of surfing from the days of 100 pound redwood plank boards early in the 20th century to the present.

Here a touch screen TV gives a pictorial and oral history as told by some of the city's most prominent surfers and those that made innovative improvements from the boards themselves to the wet suits used. The visitor here is confronted by a 'double overhead' 12 foot cresting wave made from fiberglass to see it as a surfer does.

Changing photo and history placards tell of legendary shapers and surfers from Santa Barbara. But this is only the newest of the exhibits that display the City's maritime history. There are wonderful oil paintings of the tall ships that plied the waters of the Pacific just off its shores as well as the commercial fishing industry that thrived through many decades.

There is the Munger Theater located inside a replica of the Charles Wilson lumber schooner. The day of our visit we watched a movie on the cruise of the U.S. Coast Guard's tall sailing ship, Eagle, used as part of the training of future Coast Guard officers.

The Channel Islands, just off Santa Barbara' coast, have a history all their own, from early settlement first by the original Chumash Native Americans and later as the site of ranches that existed right up to the time the islands became a National Park. The Islands also have a grim history for ship wrecks including the Navy disaster of 1923 when nine U.S. Destroyers ran aground at Honda Point.

Here too an exhibit about Charles Henry Dana and a model of the "Pilgrim" made famous by his book "Two Years Before the Mast". A chronicle of the first Spanish explorers to the coast as well as a history of the 19th century otter, seal and whale hunting industries that took place in those years as well as photos and histories of men who made their living killing these marine animals.

On a brighter note are the Environmental exhibits that show both the problems brought about by our present society and the efforts currently being made to seek solutions. One exhibit shows 65 modern items that are contaminating the adjacent Pacific Ocean, everything from plastic cups to lost or abandoned fish traps.

There is also a military exhibit including a model of the aircraft carrier "USS Ronald Reagan" as well as a submarine periscope which visitors can use to make like a U Boat or U.S. Commander stalking a target.

New to the museum are two additional theaters, one called the Presentation Wall shows surfing footage through most of the day, the second, almost ready for use, is the Survival at Sea Theater entitled "Storm At Sea".

The Santa Barbara Maritime Museum is located at 113 Harbor Way on the waterfront in Santa Barbara's Harbor. It is open six days a week from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., closed Wednesdays. For more information call 805 962-8404 or on the web at www.sbmm.org.

Last Update:9/1/08

© 2008 Joe Hilbers All Rights Reserved.
Graphic Design by Impact Graphics