The Island of Alcatraz Lighthouse

When people first hear the word Alcatraz they immediately think of it as a famous prison, which it is, but it has a long history before that became a reality. Alcatraz got its name from the Spanish in 1775 when naval officer and explorer Juan de Ayala surveyed the harbor and the San Francisco Bay. Since he observed pelicans in large numbers on the island he named the island as “Isla de los Alcatraces” meaning the “Island of Pelicans”. While I did not see many pelicans, seagulls were everywhere.

In the mid 19th century, the island was developed with a light house, a military fort, and a military prison. Below is a picture of the original lighthouse from Wikipedia. This lighthouse was first completed in July of 1853.

In 1909 a new and higher lighthouse was built to replace the original light house due to damage from the 1906 earthquake and the building of the current cellhouse which overshadowed the height of the current lighthouse. The new lighthouse is 84 feet tall with a tapered octagonal shape and its light reaches out 22 nautical miles. The lighthouse, which is the oldest operating lighthouse on the west coast of the United States, was automated in 1963 when the Federal Penitentiary closed.

With the island being vacated in 1963, Native Americans(American Indians) occupied the island for more than 19 months, 1969-1971. Their hopes was to reclaim their land per rules of the treaty. This island is where their ancestors gather the seagull eggs. Initially the occupation was a group primarily from San Francisco, but they were later joined by AIM and other urban Indians from other parts of the country. In 1972, Alcatraz was transferred to the Department of Interior to become part of Golden Gate National Recreation Area. It was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1986.

Over the next few post, I will share the pictures and the history that I learned from my tour of the island. While the history was interesting, I had a hard time forgetting the sadness and troubling times from its history. This place was visual proof of man and his self destructive ways. I am hoping for a day where kindness and gentle nature is the norm, probably not in my day but maybe one day. Remember always the power and beauty of kindness and try to share it as much as you can.

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