THUMS Islands: A Different Kind of Long Beach Real Estate


One of the purposes of this blog, aside from bragging about this awesome city and telling you about Long Beach real estate, is to let you in on the stories behind various Long Beach landmarks and history.

If you look off the coast, in San Pedro Bay, you will see 4 artificial islands that look like wonderful vacation destinations. The have colorful towers, waterfalls, and palm trees. They look FUN! They’re much closer than Catalina. Makes me quote Tina Fey and say, “I want to go to there.”


one of the THUMS Islands

We cannot go to there, though, as these are actually oil islands, working oil islands that are tapped into the Wilmington Oil Field, one of the 10 largest oil fields in the country. They are in production 24/7. We would be arrested if we tried to enter the islands. Not very friendly of them. On occasion, though, there are sponsored tours of the islands, but contact your City Council member for more information on that. I took these photos while on a boat in the bay on July 4th.

As a group they are called THUMS Islands, with the name standing for the consortium of oil companies who built them in 1965: Texaco, Humble Oil (now Exxon), Union Oil, Mobil Oil and Shell Oil. And speaking of Catalina, the boulders that rim each of the islands are from Santa Catalina Island. The THUMS Islands were designed by theme park architect Joseph Linesch, who also worked on the design of Disneyland. Occidental Petroleum bought the islands in 2000.

Each island has been named after an astronaut who died in the line of duty: Island Grissom, Island, White, Island Chaffee and Island Freeman. Island Grissom is the closest and has waterfalls and the most sculptured screens. Island Freeman is the largest at 12 acres, the others are about 10 acres each.

Not only are the oil operations camouflaged by the screens and colorful structures, but they are sound-proofed with wellheads and pipelines below the surface to enhance the appearance of the skyline and harbor. Ah, come on, I do want to go to there!

While the islands may not be friendly to us, they have each been certified for commendable wildlife habitat management and environmental education programs. Approximately 25,000 barrels of oil are produced daily from 735 active wells on the islands. Part of the net profits generated from the sale of the oil is funneled to the City’s Tidelands Fund.


Island Grissom

Houses on the peninsula and along Ocean have a view of THUMS. If you’re interested in living in view of these, let me know. We can work something out and maybe I’ll figure out how to get you a tour of one. Maybe.