Sunday, July 29, 2012

Welcome to The Rock

A little over 4 years ago, I visited Alcatraz for the first time as a tourist and on this recent trip, I brought out-of-town visitors. To see my 2008 posts, start here.
Today, by Pier 33 where passengers wait to take the Alcatraz ferry is a huge model of the island.

During the 20 minute ferry ride, you can see the Golden Gate Bridge in the distance and Alcatraz Island come into view.

Before we disembarked, I took a picture of the lower deck of the ferry.
There is plenty of room indoors, but most people prefer to be on the upper decks with no windows to hamper the view of the scenery.

From the ferry's upper open deck, you can see Building 64, what used to be residential apartments for the guards who worked on the island and previous to that it housed soldiers when the island was a military prison.

This was once the Officer's Club where it served as a general store when the island was a military prison in the early 1900's. When the island was converted into a federal prison in 1934, it served as a recreation hall, gym, 2-lane bowling alley and soda fountain for the prison guards. Unfortunately, it was destroyed by fire in 1970 and all that is left is the concrete skeleton.

The highlight of visiting Alcatraz, in my opinion, is going through a self-guided audio tour of the cellhouse at the top of the island. Included with the price of the round-trip ferry ride, visitors walk through the interior with headsets listening to recorded voices of former guards and prisoners. The audio is available in multiple languages and it is highly recommended.

If you have seen the old Clint Eastwood movie "Escape from Alcatraz", you might remember the opening in this cell. After working for months on an escape plan, on June 11, 1962, three inmates escaped from Alcatraz through their cell's 6"x9" vent. To date, no one allegedly knows what happened to them. You can read more about this successful escape here.

This row is the Isolation area and is said to be haunted. It is reserved for the most dangerous or violent inmates who were not allowed to leave their cells for exercise. The cells with the heavy doors were known as "The Hole" where prisoners are shrouded in complete darkness for days and given a restricted diet.
There are some night tours and even overnight tours of Alcatraz, but I prefer day tours just in case these ghosts are real. :D

A docent gives a talk at the prison's former mess hall.

According to the sign at the entrance to the mess hall, experienced inmates thought Alcatraz served the best food of all the Federal prisons. One of the prison regulations was "Take all that you wish, eat all that you take."

After 29 years in operations, Alcatraz closed on March 21, 1963 due to growing operating expenses.
The menu you see at the top is the last meal served here.

Behind the bars where all those people in the previous photo were looking at is the prison's kitchen. Yes, inmates worked here and used sharp utensils. The board to the far left is an outline of all the knives used in the kitchen. The outline made it easier for guards to spot any missing utensils.

- Karen



15 comments:

cocomino said...

What a valuable experience. Thanks for sharing. I learned a lot.

James Wei said...

The prison cells look not so differently comparing to local Australian ones I have seen here.

I guess there is no IKEA furniture ideas for the old time prisons

rainfield61 said...

This is not a "great" place to be visited.

Poetic Shutterbug said...

Great post Karen. It is amazing that they escaped through that small vent. Wonderful pics an info. It's been a very long time since I visited there so this post was a treat.

helen said...

I see you have visited some interesting places in the US. Yes, the light rail goes over the Steel Bridge. Presently that is the only bridge that it crosses to get from the east side to the west side of downtown. But another bridge is being built farther to the south which will carry light rail. bikes and passengers and no cars! It is the first bridge to be built since the 1960s!

betchai said...

i am with you, the hallowed cell blocks and the rest of the interior would bring so much impact to the visit at Alcatraz. actually the interiors are the most striking images you have, for me too.

Filip and Kristel said...

Great pictures, I am reliving my visit to Alcatraz again.

Greetings,
Filip

Jana said...

thanks for the digital tour, I have never been there-very interesting indeed! wish you happy rest of the week...

Jenny Woolf said...

I find the pictures fascinating and rather disturbing, but I don't think I'd like to actually go to Alcatraz, might give me a kind of claustrophobia or something....

Yogi♪♪♪ said...

Great tour. Alcatraz is on my bucket list.

llandudnopictures said...

Truly fascinating, thank you for the tour!

LifeRamblings said...

an amazing trip, beautiful views and an interesting history.

Rachel Cotterill said...

Not sure whether I'd be brave enough for an overnight tour. Looks like an amazing place to visit, though.

Emm in London said...

What a brilliant post and excellent photos. I like the ruins of the old Officer's Club but yes, I'd enjoy the tour of the prison more and would love to spend the night there!

city said...

thanks for sharing.