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Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Touring Alcatraz

Monday morning in San Francisco, Aimée and I caught the street car to Fisherman's Wharf for our sailing to Alcatraz Island, one of the popular attractions in the city. Before this journey, I had not realized that Alcatraz is THAT close to the city - indeed it is a 12 minute boat ride. The island has served a variety of uses over the years including military prison and an American Indian occupation (1964 and 1969 to 1971).

One statement about Alcatraz I saw that day was, "If you break the rules, you go to prison. If you break the prison rules, you go to Alcatraz." Indeed as a penitentiary, it housed some fierce dudes. It was a federal prison from 1934 to 1963.

The island was named by a Spanish explorer who saw the pelicans and called it, "Isla de los Alcatraces."

Our tour began at the dock with an introduction and stories by the Ranger. Apparently the first prisoner on Alcatraz was a Canadian from Montreal. Oh, our rowdy ancestors. From the landing area, we saw a guard tower - there used to be 6 on the island.



From there, up we went to see the features of the island - such as the cellhouse, warden's house, morgue, barracks, and various other buildings. One of the focal points is an audio tour of the cellhouse; at the beginning, each person gets a headset and MP3 player and listens to the stories and instructions. At any point, a person can pause the tour. We got to see the cells:



And Cell Block D (solitary confinement)...



This is definitely not her kind of place.

The prisoners spent their time:
- in a regimented way - for example, 20 minutes for meals, and did the same thing every day at the same time (not a good place for a Perceiving personality type).
- knitting, painting, writing.
- reading books!



To see a larger image, click in the centre of the picture.



The civilian population of "The Rock" was about 200 people, which included staff and their families. There were enough apartments and cottages for 60 families and 10 bachelors. At times there were up to 75 children living on the island; each morning a boat would come and take the children to school in San Francisco, and then they returned home every night. Apparently, the families never locked their doors... egads!

Here is a view of the entire island, from a Golden Gate viewpoint...



not a lot of space for 75 children... The tallest, long building is the cellhouse.

Three hours we wandered around Alcatraz, hearing stories of escape attempts, the famous prisoners, and infamous wardens. It was quite engaging, well put together, and worth the trip. There's lots of humour about the joint...

In the city, we saw t-shirts with this message: The Hotel Alcatraz - Guaranteed Room With a View - 24 Hour Security - Lifetime Accommodation - Catering to Select Clientele - Bars in Every Room - All Drinks Are on the Rocks.

After our tour, we headed back to San Francisco; this was our view of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge.



This bridge is a two-tiered (traffic going towards San Francisco are on the up part of the bridge - traffic going to Oakland travel on the deck directly below), toll bridge that is 4.5 miles long. Technically it is two bridges. This was our route to go to the airport in Oakland. Apparently 270,000 vehicles cross this bridge every day!

When we landed, Julie met us - with a plan - adventure 2 of this day to follow....

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