Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Alcatraz Island is located in the middle of San Francisco Bay in California. It was formerly used as a military stockade and later as a maximum security prison . Today, the island is a historic site supervised by the National Park Service as part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area and is open to tours. Visitors can reach the island by ferry ride from Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco. It is listed as a National Historic Landmark. Its name comes from the Spanish word for gannet.
It is home to the now abandoned prison, the oldest operating lighthouse on the West Coast of the United States, early military fortifications, and natural features such as rock pools , a seabird colony, and unique views of the coastline.
Alcatraz was a military fort from 1850 to 1933. The United States Disciplinary Barracks on Alcatraz were acquired by the United States Department of Justice on October 12, 1933. The island became a federal prison on January 1, 1934. During the 29 years it was in use, the jail held such notable criminals as Al Capone and Robert Franklin Stroud, the Birdman of Alcatraz. The penitentiary was closed for good on March 21, 1963. The prison closed because it was far more expensive to operate than other prisons of the time. It was easier to build a new, traditional land-bound prison than to pay for all the upkeep and support the Alcatraz prison required.
During its 29 years of operation, the penitentiary never logged any official successful escapes. All attempts were either ultimately unsuccessful or tragic, where the attempters were either shot dead or drowned in the frigid San Francisco Bay waters. Three escapees, Frank Morris and brothers John and Clarence Anglin , disappeared from their cells on June 11, 1962. This attempt, popularized in the motion picture Escape from Alcatraz was the most intricate ever devised. Though only some evidence was found that they died in their attempt, they are officially listed as "missing and presumed drowned." It is very likely that they did die in their attempt as, after all these years, no one has surfaced claiming to be or even have seen the escapees.
Approximately 40 years later, Jamie Hyneman and Adam Savage, the co-hosts of the television series MythBusters sought to prove whether or not the criminals could have survived their escape attempt. Using similar materials to those allegedly used by the three convicts, they constructed a raft from a large quantity of rubber raincoats, as well as some wooden paddles. Leaving the island as the tide was going out at the same time of night that the escapees had supposedly left, with a crew member standing in for the third prisoner, they were able to paddle across the outgoing tide to the Marin Headlands, near the Golden Gate Bridge. While not proving whether or not the escapees actually survived the attempt, they did prove escape was possible with the resources they had available.
In 1969, a group of Native Americans attempted to reclaim the land saying that an 1868 federal treaty allowed Native Americans to use all federal territory that the government was not actively using. After nearly two years of occupation, the government forced them off.
The island is also known as "The Rock", and it was featured in a movie of the same name.
Cell phone service is available on the island.
- San Quentin State Prison is nearby and still in use.
- National Park Service - Alcatraz Official Website
- Federal Bureau of Prisons - A Brief History of Alcatraz
- California State Military Museum - Post at Alcatraz Island
- Report on the 1962 escape incident (from the FBI's FOIA electronic reading room)
- Photographs of Alcatraz
- Alcatraz Interactive Virtual Tour
- Official website for buying Alcatraz ferry/visit tickets
- Alctraz Ferry and Tours Combined with Other Sightseeing Activities (ticket reseller)
The contents of this article is licensed from www.wikipedia.org under the GNU Free Documentation License. Click here to see the transparent copy and copyright details