This is the view from the far corner of the exercise yard. It is a stellar site in the late afternoon with hundreds of screeching gulls and howling winds in the background. There were some sensational photo opportunities and the atmosphere on the island is something you can’t really describe. It’s almost surreal. Basically you buy your ticket, get on the ferry, travel to the island, listen to a five minute orientation speech, and then they set you loose to roam free on the island with an optional audio tour narrated by actual surviving inmates. The island reeks of urine (we concluded it is bird excrement), and it is common to see birds nesting pretty much wherever they like.
Inside there are no birds. The above shot is of the solitary confinement section of the prison. The jail itself is dark and cold. It is pretty much what you would expect except it seemed smaller than I thought it would be. It was hard to conceive it once housed over 300 inmates each in their own 5 x 7 ft cell. One of the great beauties of the tour is the fact that most or all of the visitors wear the audio tour, so after you have completed it you can walk through the prison in relative silence as no one talks. It makes the effect even more haunting.
The structure is quite spectacular in its own ominous way. If I ever return to San Francisco I will visit Alcatraz again with more time and more camera gear. It was great to be able to experience it still relatively in tact and remembering the media hype and infamy of it during my early childhood. Mind you I wasn’t even born the day it closed in 1963.