Goleta's Historic Cannons

Cannons discovered at Goleta Beach Cannons discovered at Goleta Beach
In 1981 after a strong storm washed away much of the sand from the beaches, a jogger discovered five cannon near Goleta Beach. Currently housed in the Goleta Valley Historical Society's Sexton Museum of Goleta History, the cannon underwent an extensive restoration process conducted by archaeologists from UC Santa Barbara and volunteers from the University, the Goleta Valley

How old are the cannon?
The cannon are believed to have been built in the late 18th century, based on markings on the cannon as well as metallurgy testing done by Dr. Madden of the University of Pennsylvania. Two of the cannon, Cannon B and Cannon E, are marked with a letter "H." This was the symbol used by the founder Harrison, of Robertsbridge, Sussex, England. If Harrison was the manufacturer, the cannons were made before 1746. Based on other markings made on the cannons' trunnions, it is believed that they were built in England or Scotland.

Where did the cannons come from?
It is not known exactly how the cannons made their way into the Santa Barbara Channel. There are, however, many theories. They may have been lodged at the bottom of the ocean during a shipwreck. Sometimes, when ships ran aground, heavy items like cannon were thrown overboard so the ship could be refloated. A few have suggested that Sir Francis Drake may have left the cannon behind during his 1578 visit to California. This theory is extremely doubtful because the cannon are believed to have been built in the 18th century, and there is no other evidence that Drake actually entered the Santa Barbara Channel.

Another theory suggests the cannon came from the Santa Barbara schooner Dorotea, which foundered near the Goleta Slough around 1829 or 1830. The cannon possibly were thrown overboard at this time. When the Dorotea was sold to Santa Barbara resident Jose De La Guerra, the ship's bill of sale listed four six-pound guns and one three-pound gun. The Goleta cannon consist of four four-pound guns and one three-pounder, but some believe that the variance occurred because it is difficult to see a difference between the cannon sizes unless actually measured. It is improbable, however, that we will ever know the true source of the cannon.

How were the cannons restored?
When discovered, the cannon were covered with sand, gravel, and magnatite. They were stored in water until restoration began to prevent the iron from exfoliating. The heavy encrustation materials were chipped away, and the cannons then underwent an electrolysis treatment to remove salts from the iron. Student volunteers at UCSB carefully cleaned the cannons before bathing them in alcohol and tannic acid. Following the final bath, each cannon was dipped in 350 degree microcrystalline wax and pronounced ready for display.