|Alcatraz - AKA The Rock|
Alcatraz Island is located in the San Francisco Bay, 1.5 miles (2.4 km) offshore from San Francisco, California, United States. Often referred to as "The Rock," the small island was developed with facilities for a lighthouse, a military fortification, a military prison (1868), and a federal prison from 1933 until 1963. Beginning in November 1969, the island was occupied for more than 19 months by a group of Aboriginal Peoples from San Francisco who were part of a wave of Native activism across the nation with public protests through the 1970s. In 1972 Alcatraz became a national recreation area and received designation as a National Historic Landmark in 1986.
Alcatraz - The Rock - has now officially been ticked off on my bucket list! Woop, Woop! :)
We booked tickets in advance to make sure we got the right boat and made it all the way out and on to the island. We traveled with "Alcatraz Cruises" that left from Pier 39 in Fisherman's Wharf.
|On board - Showing the San Francisco Bay and the Hornblower Hybrids solar panels.|
Alcatraz Cruises has this really cool boat called "The Hornblower Hybrid". I hope they'll build more of these. :)
"As the nation’s first hybrid ferry, the eco friendly vessel is powered largely by solar panels, wind turbines, and grid electricity. Carpet, countertops, and fixtures incorporate recycled and sustainable materials. "
- alcatrazcruises.com -
|The San Francisco Bay area.|
|A short boat ride later we arrived at The Rock.|
|Welcome to Alcatraz - United States Penitentiary|
And there I was, finally, at The Rock. I somehow always had this idea that the island was much bigger - very likely thanks to the influence of Hollywood since I was a hardcore "The Rock" fan back in the nineties... (Haven't seen it yet? It's a classic - a must see!)
|Walking around on the island towards the prison.|
Before reaching the main prison we came across buildings that used to house the families of the guards working in the prison.
|Inside the main prison.|
|I really don't think anyone could get through those windows...|
|Audio Tour Control|
When arriving in the main prison we all got our own audio tour to show us the way around the different areas.
The audio tour was very much like an audio book - narrated by both previous inmates and guards. It had a great set out ambient sounds always playing in the background to let you experience more of how life was everyday in prison, as well as for special events that took place.
|Some of our Tour Narrators were Inmates.|
Mixed in with the slamming of cell doors and rusty hinges were sounds coming from the bay outside - the wind, birds and the sound of water - imagine having freedom so close, but so far out of reach.
|One of the standard cells.|
|Prisoner turned Artist.|
Being in prison for years and years, a man needed something to do. Many started drawing or painting...
It makes sense of course, but I have to admit I was grinning seeing the pink ball of yarn. I pictured Al Capone, or some of the other big baddies, with glasses on the tip of the nose, tongue sticking out in deep concentration, with a pink neatly knitted table cloth in the making between their hands.
There were also cells with no beds. Sleeping on the floor like this must have been pretty awful...
To many tourists delight, myself included of course, there was a guard stationed along the row of isolation cells, and he was inviting us in.
Of course, I had to go in! No way I wouldn't go in - traveling half across the globe and then not enter? I don't think so! ;)
A lot of giggles ...............and then there was a loud slam and the creaking of hinges followed by complete silence...
I think everyone held their breath and just listened. Complete silence. Complete darkness. It took several seconds before you heard people draw their breath again. You could touch the air it was so thick with tension of nervous people. And then of course the giggling started again. :)
|Ms Happy Camper - Finally Behind Bars! Ha ha ha :)|
Here we have some of the famous inmates of Alcatraz, all lined up like pearls on a string. Alphonse "Scarface" Capone, George "Machine Gun" Kelly, Arthur "Doc" Barker, Alvin "Creepy Karpis" Karpavicz, Robert "The Birdman" Stroud, Ellsworth "Bumby" Johnson, Meyer "Mickey" Cohen.
|The cells were divided over A - B - C and D block.|
Corridors and areas had names like Broadway, Park Avenue, Michigan Avenue and Time Square.
|View by the lighthouse over the bay area.|
Alcatraz closed on March 21, 1963.
In 1972 it became a national recreation area and received designation as a National Historic Landmark in 1986.
Today it's a National Park, housing numerous birds, mostly seagulls. All visitors are told to specifically leave the birds in peace as this is their home, and they are protective and aggressive if approached.
|The grounds below were covered in seagulls.|
They seemed pretty happy floating around on the chilly air currents coming down the bay or hanging out at one of the abandoned prison buildings. Some seemed more interested in the funny tourists, and came pretty close to get a better look at us for some entertainment.
It was an interesting experience I wouldn't want to be without, and despite rumors and stories about the island - I did not happen to bump into any lost or tormented spirits while visiting. An experience of a lifetime.
|Back at Fisherman's Wharf.|
And there we were, back on the main land, with more Californian moments to come.