Sitting in San Francisco Bay, 1 1/2 miles offshore, Alcatraz was once home to one of the US’ most infamous prisons. Often just referred to as “the rock” the small, uninhabited island was first a lighthouse and then a military fortification before being adapted for the purpose which made it famous.
In 1933 Alcatraz was acquired by the Federal Bureau of Prisons for the express purpose of housing the most intransigent of inmates in the whole prison system. Many who ended up here were violent bank robbers or murderers, including Al Capone and the Birdman of Alcatraz. It is claimed that no-one ever successfully escaped from here, although 36 tried. Of those, only five were ultimately unaccounted for and were presumed drowned in the swift currents and shark-infested waters which surround the island. Alcatraz is now a museum and has one of the very best audio tours, narrated by ex-inmates and guards, that I’ve ever used. It is a cold, forbidding place and this view looking back as we were leaving is one many didn’t get.