Talk:Alcatraz Island

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"Often referred to as "The Rock" or simply "Traz" "... I've lived in San Francisco my entire life and I've never once heard anybody refer to it as "Traz".. (talk) 00:00, 25 January 2012 (UTC)

I don't contribute to Wikipedia often, so forgive me if I'm posting incorrectly. In re "also can be called the F shack", incorrect syntax at the very least. Hamburmk (talk) 16:56, 25 January 2012 (UTC)

Inaccurate Google Map Coordinates[edit]

37°49′36″N 122°25′24″W takes you to 99 Fisherman's Wharf ! You have to go to GEOHACK page and get the decimal nates 37.826667, -122.423333 to get an accurate set.

37°49′36″N 122°25′24″W / 37.82667°N 122.42333°W / 37.82667; -122.42333 works for me and is in fact equivalent to 37°49′36″N 122°25′24″W / 37.826667°N 122.423333°W / 37.826667; -122.423333. —Stepheng3 (talk) 00:39, 8 August 2011 (UTC)

Deleted Picture[edit]

The picture isn't showing up -- Zoe 00:43 Oct 13, 2002 (UTC)

I reverted the change made by User: as it appears to be a copyright violation from (EDIT: link was blacklisted.). Angela 16:16, 10 Sep 2003 (UTC)

Oops, sorry about that, I posted way too early. I'm really new to this and I accidently posted that before paraphrasing everything. (new kid) --Geopgeop 14:33, 2 November 2006 (UTC)

Escape attempt.[edit]

The article needs a bit more on the nature of the 1962 escape attempt. Such as the preparatory stuff the prisoners did, like digging their way into the service corridor behind their cells, the stand-in dummies they made, and the construction of the boat on the roof of the cell block. I added the bit about the MythBusters re-creation.--DooMDrat 04:48, Mar 15, 2005 (UTC)

An Alcatraz prisoner tag picture[edit]

Can anyone at all verify that as a genuine article? My reasons for suspicion that it is fake are as follows. 1 - Why would you give a prisoner a brass tag that could be used as a weapon or as a digging implement? 2, and I think this is the clincher - I used to have one just like it. Oh, and one for the Bastille too. It was a novelty key ring. The same Block B etc etc. 3- The user that posted it has history of hoax pictures judging by his talk page at the moment. --LiamE 17:03, 30 August 2005 (UTC)

Origin of the name[edit]

The article suggests a link to the gannet, but I don't think there are any gannets in San Francisco Bay. Local lore has it the name is derived from pelican - and there surely are lots of pelicans around San Francisco. Does anyone have accurate information? --mililani 05:59, 4 September 2005 (UTC)

I don't know from nothin' about gannetts, but here are the names of a couple of birds in Spanish, according to my diccionario:

  • pelican = el pelícano (also spelled without the i accented)
  • gannett = el alcatraz

Presumably, lacking an accent mark, alcatraz should be accented on the TRAZ instead of on the AL as we English speakers do.

Regardless, a Spanish-made movie about a pelican would be una película por un pelícano. Say that several times muy rápido. :) Wahkeenah 06:25, 4 September 2005 (UTC)

'Gannet' is commonly given for alcatraz in Spanish-English dictionaries, though 'Solan goose' and 'booby' are occasional alternatives. However, these are usually dictionaries of modern Castilian Spanish, and I think some allowance should be made for possible older usages - it's not as if Alcatraz was named recently - and for different usages in the Americas compared to Spain.

For example, there are numerous references on ornithological web sites and others that 'alcatraz blanco' and 'alcatraz pardo' are the correct terms in places such as Mexico and Puerto Rico for the white and brown pelican respectively, which supports the pelican argument. 'Local lore' is often worth taking seriously.

It is worth noting that Admiral W H Smyth says in his Sailor's Word Book of1867 (a compendious and usually reliable nautical dictionary): "ALCATRAZ. The pelican. Alcatraz Island is situated in the mouth of the River San Francisco, in California, so named from its being covered with these birds. Also Alcatraz on the coast of Africa, from Pelecanus sula - booby..." So Smyth seems to have been fully aware that more than one species of bird could be called 'alcatraz', but firm on the SF island being named after its pelicans. While this is not 'proof', 1867 is a lot closer to the original naming than we are today.Grubstreet 18:17, 26 February 2006 (UTC)

Guys, there's really nothing to discuss. Mario is Missing clearly stated that the island was named for the Pelican. Who are you going to trust? 15:22, 1 March 2006 (UTC)

No gannets in the Bay Area or California since the Miocene. Pelican wins by default. Tmangray 19:04, 17 July 2007 (UTC)

The right spanish translation of alcatraz it is actually: Lily known in scientific name by:Zantedeschia aethiopica and common names in USA like: Lily of the Nile or Calla lily. this flower is very common in the pacific area of the Americas, in Spain and spanish speaking countries the only words known as Alcatraz it is actually ONLY this kind of flower.

So when the spanish conquistador Juan de Ayala named the isle "la isla de los alcatraces" he refered certainly to the flower be cuase pelicans are not called alcatraces in any spanish speaking country in the entire world AT ALL!!! nor gannets!! By the way Alcatráz has the accent on the last a, due this is an "agudo accent" --Raveonpraghga (talk) 08:08, 26 January 2008 (UTC)

It is ridiculous to have Alcatraz referencing a lily; showing images of flowers is hardly convincing. According to the National Park Service (and they would know), the land was named for the Brown Pelican. [1]. Also the Federal Bureau of Prisons calls it Pelican or Strange Bird [2].

Now, I don't know if there are multiple translations of the word Alcatraz in the various dialects of Spanish language... that may be possible. But all the references I've seen in acceptable literature (such as biographies of the history of the region) discuss it as that the island was named after the bird, which was prevalent and noticeable.

Spanish-English dictionaries I've seen translate Alcatraz as a large sea-bird, too. I've even seen Alcatraz translated as Pelican, with Pelicano as an alternate, thus establishing the connection. This is using such heavy weights as Merriam Webster,, and I've never seen a lily translated as Alcatraz, although I have seen it called Azucena in EACH of these places.

So, if it isn't exactly a Pelican, that may be. But it certainly isn't about a lily.Entirelybs (talk) 20:09, 18 July 2008 (UTC)

So I rephrased it to point out the issue. The problem with the "lily" argument here is that it's all original research. It could be correct and all the documented bird information is apocryphal, but as Wikipedia is a secondary source, original research is not allowed. Ando228 (talk) 15:08, 21 July 2008 (UTC)

Well it seems the researches made by a lot of you guys are based in wrong research since you always do your research from english to spanish and this wrong since we´re talking about the origin of a spanish name!! Alcatraz is not an anglisism. So here some rational research to be considered, most of them were taken from googles and encyclopedias from Mexico and Spain the two most important spanish speaking countries in the world wich most of the vocabulary in spanish is based upon: (you might find "alcatraces" wich is the plural of alcatraz)ía

Pelicans are called simply "Pelecanus or Pelícanos —Preceding unsigned comment added by Raveonpraghga (talkcontribs) 06:42, 4 August 2008 (UTC)

Raveonpraghga, the heart of the issue is that original research is not allowed on Wikipedia. Someone needs to find a reputable citation that the island near San Francisco was named for lilies, not birds. Ando228 (talk) 16:02, 4 August 2008 (UTC)

I just toured Alcatraz and the tour guide said he had never seen a pelican on the island for the 20 years he had worked there. He went on to say it was a breeding ground for western gulls. If you look at a pelican, a gannet or a booby, you will see that western gulls look more like gannets and boobies than pelicans. This could just simply be a misidentification by Ayala who thought he was seeing gannets or boobies instead of a gulls. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 19:58, 11 April 2009 (UTC)

A birding newsletter I received today suggests that Ayala named the island not after pelicans, which don't nest there, but cormorants, which are abundant. 'We know that Don Juan Manual Ayala named the rock for the birds he saw there, but maybe he called it alcatraceo, the Spanish word for "cormorant." ' I don't have enough Spanish to judge, but it's an interesting suggestion. Opinions? -- BPMullins | Talk 18:44, 28 July 2010 (UTC)

Not too bright[edit]

Didn't see it mentioned, but the Rock (I've heard) was, in 1854, site of the first lighthouse on the U.S. West Coast. Al Katraz 05:00, 30 December 2005 (UTC)

I also heard this from the docents last month (2005 December), but not the year. FWIW I added a bit of trivia under The Rock (film)#Trivia that I also heard. 「ѕʀʟ·」 07:42, 3 January 2006 (UTC)

American Indian Occupation[edit]

I have made several corrections to the section on the American Indian occupation of Alcatraz (1969-71). The original article wrongly stated that AIM (American Indian Movement) occupied the island when in fact AIM had nothing to do with the initial occupation.

Anyone wanting more information on the occupation can find numerous online resources - and you can email the park rangers at if you have questions you can't find answered online (note there are way too few rangers on the island these days so please do your research first and only email if you can not locate answers online). A couple of good online resources are:

In addition, if you do a site search on the word ALCATRAZ the following sites have additional worthwhile information:

Ranger Craig, Alcatraz Island

There are also a ton of books on the topic, which is helpful since I'm doing my term paper for my Native Peoples of North America anthropology class on the occupation. Ungovernable ForceGot something to say? 05:22, 13 November 2006 (UTC)
This topic seems to be featured way out of proportion to its notability. It sounds like publicity for one particular pressure-group, and it should be reduced to a fraction of the length. Valetude (talk) 15:04, 12 November 2015 (UTC)
guess it's

removal of nonsense[edit]

...nonsense removed. Kunwon1 18:18, 23 May 2006 (UTC)


Is this a reputable source? Isn't this purely entertainment television?

IMNSHO, Mythbusters, while clearly entertainment, usually tries pretty hard to get the science right.
Atlant 22:45, 23 May 2006 (UTC)

Yeah, and they have fun blowing stuff up too, so I think they're pretty reliable. Shouldn't mess with a guy who can blow a crater in you harder than CHuck norris's dropkick.02:14, 23 January 2007 (UTC)

Union protests[edit]

Ok, this seems like it could be put in the page, but it desperately needs sources and POV checks. Surely if this is that big a deal there's more resources for info than a single site, based in the union? There's gotta be some news --feba 05:34, 20 January 2007 (UTC)

Other Places I've Checked[edit]

I saw on World Book Online that Alcatraz really means pelican in spanish

Nick 16:55, 22 January 2007 (UTC)

Controversy section[edit]

Removed the following text from the article, as it was more tags than text:

<!-- this should include stuff about the prison and it's operation, but for now this is what's going in --feba-->
 {{primarysources|date=January 2007}}
Currently there is a boycott on its ferry operator Alcatraz Cruises[citation needed], as well as parent company Hornblower[citation needed],
due to the latest contract to provide ferry service being granted to the company, despite its lack of experience operating in the
San Fransisco Bay[citation needed]. Supporters of the union which had been handling ferry services before this have attributed this to
Hornblower's funding of George W. Bush's political campaigns[citation needed].

- Jack (talk) 20:38, 28 January 2007 (UTC)

Grosser citations in military history added[edit]

Citation requested for " Uncle Sam's Devil's Island : experiences of a conscientious objector in America during the World War" being written. permalinks to 2 worldcat records added ( cheers! 12:57, 17 February 2007 (UTC)

Merger with "James A. Johnston"[edit]

What does James A. Johnston have to do with Alcatraz? Hallpriest9 23:20, 4 May 2007 (UTC)

he was a notable warden of the prison for a long time. Entirelybs 21:50, 10 May 2007 (UTC)
Do not merge. Notable article on its own. CoolGuy 04:01, 15 May 2007 (UTC)

Please don't merge. J.A. Johnston was arguably the San Franciscan to have climbed higher than any other San Franciscan in the combined arenas of San Francisco, California, and Federal public service. Others were more prominent in one or two of them, but nobody was as notable in all three. ~ ~ ~ ~ —Preceding unsigned comment added by Salty101 (talkcontribs) 19:00, 1 November 2007 (UTC)

Natural History[edit]

Why does this section not discuss any aspect of natural history? It instead mentions discovery by an early explorer; not exactly pertaining to "nature", is it? Turkeylips 17:00, 17 May 2007 (UTC)Turkeylips

You can take a look at the island pretty well with the new Street View mode in Google Maps... Should a link to this view be included for reference?

Lost (Appearances in Popular Culture)[edit]

Added a point about Lost in the 'appearances in popular culture' section. the information was from Mythology of Lost, section 'The Island', but that is the only reference i have.

Shameen 08:21, 23 September 2007 (UTC)


Famous or infamous? Kaeso Dio 21:27, 1 November 2007 (UTC)


" In 1959 he was transferred to the Medical Center for Federal Prisoners in Springfield."

This sentence was found under Famous inmates. From what I can tell, it is the only instance of Springfield in the entire article. Which Springfield is it? I believe there are 33 Springfields in the US. :D <3 Tinkleheimer TALK!! 18:02, 22 January 2008 (UTC)

Proposed Peace Center[edit]

Can someone give me an explanation as to why the peace center section was completely removed from the article? Orracle107 (talk) 00:15, 29 March 2008 (UTC)

If no one cares to explain it, I am going to put it back in the article. I will wait until Friday April 4th for a response. Orracle107 (talk) 03:40, 2 April 2008 (UTC)

I'm for its inclusion as well, but it appears to have been taken out in accordance of two policies wp:weight and wp:recent. You might want to bug Paul.h, as he's the one who did it. (talk) 01:43, 4 April 2008 (UTC)

Magazine template removed[edit]

I've copyedited the section which was tagged as "magazine style" and received confirmation to delete the template at the Milhist assessment page. Section is still covered now by requirement tag for citations at previous heading. LuckyThracian (Talk) 03:28, 4 April 2008 (UTC)

Chronological errors[edit]

The date which the island was given to the Mexican governor to build a lighthouse upon is 1846 in the article, which obviously can't be right. I don't know the real date, so I'll remove it all together and let somebody who does know the date fix this problem. Rudy Breteler (talk) 03:01, 17 April 2008 (UTC)

New images[edit]

I've uploaded Image:Alcatraz Island from Pier39 with 500mm.jpg and Image:Alcatraz full view 210mm.jpg to Commons. In my opinion, they are better than the one currently in the infobox. I was wondering whether or not I should replace the image currently on there with one of these. Any comments? Calvin 1998 (t-c) 01:44, 13 May 2008 (UTC)

Wikiproject Prisons[edit]

If anyone is interested, I have proposed a new Wikiproject concerning prisons here.--Cdogsimmons (talk) 22:43, 13 June 2008 (UTC)

"Federal Prison" section plagiarized?[edit]

The "Federal Prison" section seems to have been taken nearly completely from the Alcatraz History web site at with only slight paraphrasing. It's very nearly a sentence-by-sentence copy! Would someone like to confirm this and suggest a solution? Bishop^ (talk) 13:54, 11 August 2008 (UTC)

Checking back through the history, a user replaced some existing content with a textdump, which matches the site. I will revert it as a copyvio.--Drat (Talk) 14:31, 11 August 2008 (UTC)

Military history links[edit]

A lot of military history and links to further information is available here:


The section under Military History, sub head Military Prison, continues the absolutely unfounded myth of "shark-infested waters of the San Francisco Bay" when this has never been the case and in fact the cite at the end of this paragraph makes no mention of sharks (because it's a myth) but does highlight the cold and strong, unforgiving currents that do in fact exist and are a real hazard to escape. (talk) 04:07, 13 August 2008 (UTC)

The San Francisco Bay has a long history of recreational use by swimmers and boaters. The famous Dolphin Swim and Rowing Club, for example, was founded in 1877 and no members to date have been eaten by sharks. One recently did swim from Alcatraz to the current site of the Club in handcuffs. (talk) 05:54, 13 August 2008 (UTC)

Photo of " Wardens House "[edit]

The burned out shell shown in the picture and listed as " Wardens House " with flowers in the forground is actually the former Alcatraz " Social Hall " The Social Hall had a two lane bowling alley, two pool tables, a ping-pong table and snack bar on the lower floor and a large auditorium with stage on on the upper floor for weekly movies, dances, dinners and parties. this building was burned to the ground, leaving the concrete outer walls, in 1970 during the Indian occupation.--Bdollis (talk) 02:31, 30 October 2008 (UTC)

You are correct. During my recent trip to Alcatraz I took pictures of both the Social Hall and the Warden's House. They are clearly different buildings, and the picture in the article is the Social Hall. I will amend the caption, and might also add my picture of the Warden's House. Logicman1966 (talk) 13:01, 29 November 2008 (UTC)

Lighthouse error[edit]

Alcatraz is the site of the oldest light station on the west coast, not the oldest lighthouse. The original 1854 lighthouse is long gone and the current one dates from 1909. (talk) 20:40, 22 November 2008 (UTC)

Hauntings of Alcatraz[edit]

Hello everyone! This is Jpark3909. I also want Wikipedia to mention the hauntings of Alcatraz. I know that Alcatraz is rumored to be haunted since tourists claimed that they can hear screaming of men and clanging of doors. I request to expand the article. Thank You!!!!

Do you think it is appropriate in this day and age to describe anywhere as haunted? Could we not just have a page of everywhere that claims to be haunted for people who believe in ghosts? Listing it as haunted gives credibility to the idea of ghosts. (talk) 15:15, 7 March 2009 (UTC)

The haunting section needs to go. There is nothing factual about ghosts and it only takes away from the serious nature of Wikipedia to include trivial information regarding hauntings. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 23:41, 26 January 2010 (UTC)

Jpark, you are correct - Alcatraz has been rumored to be haunted in the past. The problem is, we don't deal with rumors on wikipedia unless a significant, notable event occurred as a result of those rumors. Please don't take this as a slight against your efforts, but I have to agree with 108 and 205 on this one: unless significant, irrefutable evidence comes to light about Alcatraz being 'haunted' (or someone claiming to be chased by a ghost falls into the bay and drowns), pandering to such claims is intellectually irresponsible. Shows like Ghosthunters and Othersiders are fictionally produced shows whose contents and claims are not reliable sources for anything beyond their own articles. As such, I'm going to remove the section.
I'm also going to remove an image or two, as the page just looks awful with so many redundant images. Of coure, I'll remove the image in a seperate edit in case someone wants it returned in favor of another's removal.
--K10wnsta (talk) 17:52, 3 April 2010 (UTC)

Prison section is nothing[edit]

How come the part dealing with Alcatraz as a jail is just one short, almost non-existent paragraph? That was the most famous period of its history so surely there must be more: details of day-to-day life and the policies of the various wardens for instance.--Marktreut (talk) 20:44, 27 July 2009 (UTC)

I was thinking the exact same thing, Alcatraz was quite overkill and fascinating in that sense. If there's someone who can write more about how it was built, more about all the different kind of blocks there were and pretty much some overall information then by alls means, please do! / (talk) 21:49, 7 September 2009 (UTC)

"Fortress Alcatraz"?[edit]

I've never seen this nomenclature used. US army bases are normally called "forts", and when I first contributed to this article I actually referred to "Fort Alcatraz", but realized this was apparently wrong when my research only turned up references to "Point Alcatraz". My conclusion is that the army referred to ordinary bases as "forts" while coastal defence installations were designated "points" (as in West Point). Lexington50 (talk) 05:45, 19 March 2010 (UTC)

Sweeping Adjustments[edit]

I just completed a rather thorough rearrangement of the article. Initially, almost all the images (and there were a lot of them) ran straight down the right side of the page. I staggered and removed a couple of the less useful ones (for reasons stated in the edit summaries). While the page is by no means perfect, it looks a great deal more encyclopedic now. Hopefully, another editor will be able to look at it with fresh eyes and further enhance it's overall quality - I mean, it has the content, so there's no reason not to shoot for good article status.
--K10wnsta (talk) 19:01, 3 April 2010 (UTC)

Number of Prisoners Attempting Escape[edit]

The piece says, in the section on Escape Attempts, that 36 prisoners were involved in escape attempts, two trying twice. It goes on to say that 23 were caught, 6 shot, 3 lost at sea. I just can't make 23, 6, and 3, add up to 36, no matter how I interpret the multiple escape attempts. What am I missing? -- Britishisles (talk) 03:47, 8 June 2010 (UTC)

Well, to add my two cents worth, an additional two were lost at sea in 1937. And in another attempt in 1962, one of two escapees actually made it to shore. Albeit suffering from exhaustion and hypothermia. (anonymous) 10:05, 23 June 2010 (UTC)

Dates are mixed up here.[edit]

"In 1898, the Spanish-American war increased the prison population from 26 to over 450. After the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, civilian prisoners were transferred to Alcatraz for safe confinement. By 1912 there was a large cell house, and in the 1920s a large 3-story structure was nearly at full capacity.[20] On March 21, 1907, Alcatraz was officially designated as the Western U.S. Military Prison, later Pacific Branch, U.S. Disciplinary Barracks, 1915.[21] In 1909 construction began on the huge concrete main cell block, designed by Major Reuben Turner, which remains the island's dominant feature. It was completed in 1912. To accommodate the new cell block, the Citadel, a three-story barracks, was demolished down to the first floor, which was actually below ground level. The building had been constructed in an excavated pit (creating a dry "moat") to enhance its defensive potential. The first floor was then incorporated as a basement to the new cell block, giving rise to the popular legend of "dungeons" below the main cell block. The Fortress was deactivated as a military prison in October 1933, and transferred to the Bureau of Prisons.[21]"

Dates are mixed up here. Doesn't follow chronological order, in the article. Can't edit. So please? Some help here? —Preceding unsigned comment added by Kwolffsc (talkcontribs) 13:30, 12 June 2010 (UTC)

I don't see a problem here. Is there a specific change you want made? --Stepheng3 (talk) 16:39, 13 June 2010 (UTC)

Mickey Cohen[edit]

In the section "Notable Prisoners" Mickey Cohen is described as being "parallelized". Should that be paralyzed? Gmaann (talk) 21:49, 14 June 2010 (UTC)gmaann 6/14/2010

Fixed. --Stepheng3 (talk) 23:40, 15 June 2010 (UTC)

Defining fact?[edit]

Is "In 2008 the nation's first hybrid propulsion ferry started serving the island" really a defining fact about the island that should be in the intro? I don't think so and I honeslty think it is out of place.-- (talk) 10:38, 12 February 2011 (UTC)

Arriving by boat: picture[edit]

The picture of "arriving by boat" is of a tug boat. Tugs do not dock on the island. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 06:21, 14 November 2011 (UTC)

The picture has now vanished from the article. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Blue641red65537 (talkcontribs) 12:55, 5 August 2014 (UTC)

The Rock[edit]

The usage of The Rock (edit | talk | history | protect | delete | links | watch | logs | views) is under discussion, see RfD for the discussion. It is suggested that it be repointed. -- (talk) 06:34, 28 July 2014 (UTC)

Sewage complaints ?[edit]

Lived in Marin for decades, during which time Alcatraz was a prison, Mom was born in SF in 1925, grandparents in the 1800's, I read the SF Comical religiously, everyone in the area was fascinated with Alcatraz when it was a prison, never I mean never did I hear of any "In addition, citizens were increasingly protesting the environmental effects of sewage released into San Francisco Bay from the approximately 250 inmates and 60 Bureau of Prisons families on the island."

The cost of dealing with the septic system may very well have been a part of the economic reason for shutting the prison (but I suspect the successful escape had more to do with it) but no one I know remembers hearing any citizen complaints about sewage. The hill people in Sleazalito did use that trumped-up excuse to remove the houseboaters by force (every city on the Bay has an exemption from BCDC for a few hundred thousand gallons per year of untreateed sewage releases) but that was in the seventies.

Could someone reference this claim, please ? Otherwise, it should go. (talk) 12:33, 25 July 2016 (UTC)

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