San Francisco, U.S.A
Alcatraz Island is one of the most popular attractions in San Francisco and tickets sell out fast. We were really lucky to get hold of the tickets and visited the island on our second day in San Francisco.
The only way to reach Alcatraz Island is via the ferry ride from Pier 33 near Fisherman’s Wharf.
View of Golden Gate Bridge from our ferry to Alcatraz Island. How can you not see the Golden Gate Bridge when you are in San Francisco? It is just like not eating Dim Sum when you are in Hong Kong or Sushi in Japan. Talking about that, I didn’t manage to eat Dim Sum when I was in Hong Kong and I still hoping to try it one day!
Deterioration of the structures on Alcatraz Island over time and cordoned off for visitors’ safety.
“Break the rules and you go to prison, break the prison rules and you go to Alcatraz”
We were given an audio device to take on a self-guided tour around the prison. The award-wining self-guided audio tour was so awesome and includes stories from former prison guards and inmates as you walk through the cell block.
The new inmates will collect their prison uniform here with an identification number on their first day in the island.
The inmates have to be confined in their tiny and cramped cell with no freedom and loneliness in the island.
“Broadway“, the central walkway in the cell block between B and C blocks.
This is me standing at the Broadway with the audio device hanging around my neck.
The Dining Hall, it is also called the ‘Gas Chamber’ due to the teargas canisters installed and is used used in the event of a riot. The dining hall was the most vulnerable area for riots and fights because they now had knifes and forks to harm each other.
View of the Kitchen. To avoid the risk of riots, the inmate were fed very well with meat, potatoes, gravy, vegetables, salad, salad dressing, bread and coffee.
Cell Block D and apparently, this is the most haunted area.
Several of the cells in Alcatraz’s D Block were designed for solitary confinement and the most serious offenders could be confined to these cells. These cells were called “The Hole” as they contained no windows and inmates will live completely isolated in darkness.
I felt spooky when I stepped into “The Hole” and I did not even wish to spend more than 5 seconds in this cell.
Inmates were given restricted access to the Library. Books on sex, violence and crime were not available.
Recreation Yard, the only place where inmates could enjoy sunlight and fresh air. They could also play sports such as baseball or handball in the recreation yard.
The Water Tower in recreation yard.
Visitation Area. Inmates could earn visitation privileges with good records. They could receive a visit from their immediate family members once every month. However, many are deferred to do so as the journey to Alcatraz Island is expensive for just an hour long visit over the telephone.
This is the housing for the prison guards and their families.
View of San Francisco from Alcatraz Island.
The isolation of Alcatraz Island from outside by the cold water and strong current of San Francisco Bay made it hard for anyone to escape.
One of the famous escape attempts include ‘The Battle of Alcatraz in 1946‘ which was the bloodiest attempt in the prison’s history.
The elevated Gun Gallery in the Cell House.
One of the inmates Bernard Coy spotted a flaw in the bars protecting the Gun Galley and widened it with a self-made bar spreading device. He starved himself so that he could be thin enough to squeeze through the bars and gained control of the guns. Bernard Coy and his accomplices tried to takeover the island but the escape attempt was foiled. They couldn’t find the keys as prison guard William A. Miller had held on to the keys as contrary to the regulations to let out kitchen staff without having to disturb the gallery guard.
The prisoners were trapped in the cell house as the inmates tried several keys and jammed the locks. Two guards and three inmates were killed in the battle of Alcatraz. Two of the surviving convicts were executed.
In memorial of prison officer William A. Miller for his quick thinking and bravery.
The only successful escape attempt that was possibly made was the ‘June 1962 Alcatraz Escape‘ by Frank Morris and brothers John and Clarence Anglin.
They used self-made drills to enlarge the vent holes in their cells. The noise was disguised by the accordions played during music hours. They also used false walls and realistic dummy heads with human hair placed in their beds so that they would not be missed during nighttime head counts. They crawled out of their cells through the small vent hole and used raincoat to construct a raft to escape from the island. It is still not known if they have made it alive.
Replica of the dummy heads used in the escape attempt.
“Alcatraz was never no good for nobody.” AZ 1576 Frank Weatherman, last prisoner to leave Alcatraz.
The prison on Alcatraz Island was too expensive to operate as the costs of transporting supplies to this isolated was too high. The buildings were also deteriorating rapidly caused by the corrosive effect of the salt water around the island. Hence, the federal prison was shut down in March 21, 1963 and it has now became a national park which is part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.