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San Francisco, Alcatraz - 2004
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We managed to get tickets for one of the evening trips that the National Parks Service, who manage Alcatraz, run just once each month. It costs a little more but is well worth it as you get shown all the usual things but you also get some special tours of places normally out-of-bounds - and there are more Park Rangers available to answer questions and show you what is there than you get during the day
This is the view of the Rock that you get as you approach from San Francisco - it must have been a chilling sight in days gone by And, looking back, all you can see is San Francisco tantalisingly close but across a treacherous channel filled with very cold currents - and a small rock called Little Alcatraz After its days as a Penitentiary it was briefly invaded, and occupied, by native Indians
The main 'avenue' with three levels of cells. There are three other 'avenues'. When Alcatraz was first used as a prison there was a rule of silence - it must have been very spooky Each cell has a toilet and washbasin plus a seat and army-billet style single bed. I'm wearing the audio guide, headsets and a camera - in case you wondered Here's Darryl trying it out for size. This is one of the 'solitory' cells, once the steel door is closed, it is total darkness. Men who were employed in the island's workshops only spent 18 hours a day locked in their cells.The others spent 23!
This is the cell of the one of the men responsible for the loss of Alcatraz's reputation. He, and three others, escaped one evening by putting a dummy head in bed, enlarging the ventilation shaft at the rear of the cell (you can just see it behind the bed) and escaping onto the roof and away - never to be seen again .... ever. Did they perish in the icy bay or live quietly ever after, nobody will ever know In the Hospital wing, normally off-limits for daytime visitors, we were shown around their facilities. They kept a full hospital there so that inmates didn't need to leave the island even for surgery. Here is the cell occupied for many years by Robert Stroud, a psychiatric case if ever there was one - you may know him better as The Birdman of Alcatraz ! And to prove it, here's the old X-Ray facility which was adjacent to the Operating Theater. If surgery was needed, a surgeon was brought from the mainland

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