Tuesday, April 14, 2009

San Fran Day 3 (Alcatraz)

To start off our day we took the Hop On Hop Off Tour one more ride in entirety which was kind of nice to hear the whole thing in one shot.
We had booked the night tour of Alcatraz because the website said it was the most extensive tour. We also thought it might give us some nice night shots. Once we landed we started the trek up the hill with Drew the tour guide. It doesn't take much to imagine how a prisoner would feel shackled and handcuffed walking up this hill. Once we arrive in the prisoner building the staff outfits you with a headset and you take a tour directed by former Alcatraz inmates. There is also some talk from guard's children who grew up on Alcatraz. It's a really good tour and lends a certain personal touch.
Approaching Alcatraz

San Francisco View from Alcatraz

We heard about John Paul Scott and Darryl Parker who over several months, used string they impregnated with baking soda, to cut through the kitchen window cell bars and escape. They were then faced with the tall barb wire fence so they climbed the pipes up the side of Alcatraz and onto the roof where they went down the other side and down the cliff and began to swim towards San Francisco. Parker, exhausted, landed on a pile of rocks in the water called Little Alcatraz and waited there until he was "rescued" by the guards. John Paul Scott swam and swam and was carried by the current until he landed under the Golden Gate Bridge. He was laying there on the rocks, exhausted and suffering from hypothermia, when some teenagers came along and found him and called the police.

There was also the fellow who worked down at the dock and over the years managed to steal, one piece at a time, from the laundry that was brought in at the dock, a full sargent's uniform. Then he snuck on the boat dressed as a military man but unfortunately the boat was going across to angel island (military base). It didn't take long for his absence to be discovered at headcount and a call was made to the boat that discovered they had one more soldier on board than they came with. He garnered a new nickname in prison; Sarge.

In the cells you can see where 3 prisoners used spoons to chisel away the concrete from the air vent in their cell. In the end, they drowned trying to swim to freedom.
Alcatraz at night just before departure.


Hilary said...

Ever since I was a child, and watched The Bird Man of Alcatraz, I imagined that it would be a very cool place to see. Looks like I was right. Thanks for the tour. :)

NJ said...

Hilary, one interesting fact about the Birdman was that he never had birds when he was at Alcatraz. He had canaries at Leavenworth but the Birdman of Alcatraz just sounded better for a movie. I know one thing is that Jeff and I will be renting the Rock and Escape from Alcatraz when we get home.