Shrimpin Time in Alcatraz

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Day one in San Francisco was a blast!!!!!! I can’t believe it’s only been a day because we’ve done so much already.

I mean it’s only day one but we’ve already had something lost (Stephens luggage), people left (#notenoughroomonthebus), almost a fight with a skate border (still don’t know why, but this skateboarder looked like he was about to go at it with one of the guys), someone run into a pole (this doesn’t really need further explanation), and some freshman needing to be talked to about appropriate behavior (I don’t even know what they were doing to need this).

Plus awesome moments with the chaperones dancing and catch phrases like “come on down it’s shrimpin time”.

But you know the biggest mistakes often make the best stories, and we have some awesome ones after today.

Anyway, besides the random side stories/adventures, today we went to Alcatraz and I learned a bunch and had a ton of fun!

To start we decided that the seagull on top of our ferry was named Michael. Alcatraz island is actually one of a mere 200 places where it is actually safe for gulls like Michael to nest, and it signifies how the island’s uses has really come full circle over the years.

(Keep in mind this is all based from notes I was taking, so hopefully this is accurate, but some of the years may be a little off.)

In 1849 the gold rush was happening in California. Once gold was found it became much more meaningful to America for them to keep control of California. Whoever controlled the bay was really in control of the entire coast as it was explained to us by our tour guide who said that their goal was to “challenge and inspire people’s thoughts about Alcatraz”.

To keep control of the coast, the US set up a military post in Alcatraz in 1950, and this stayed for a while.

Then in 1934 the island was opened up as a prison for some of the worst criminals at the time such as Al Capone. However, this island wasn’t just home to prisoners. What I hadn’t realized before was that the workers actually lived on the island with their families as well.

There were about 85 children living on the island with 12 boat trips a day going over to the bay. All of the kids went to school on the main land and then came back after school. Interviews of former children living on the island tell us that they never even thought about the prisoners and it was nice to be on the quite little island with no cars to get in the way of the children playing.

The prison was eventually shut down, and in 1971 it was claimed by Native Americans trying to make a statement about the poor life they lead on reservations. The island wasn’t getting used anyway, so rather than going to a reservation, Native American’s from several different tribes joined together on this little island with no running water  or natural resources to protest reservations.

Then in 1981 the island became a national park, and the park, including it’s species of gulls, plants, and sea lions are all federally protected. The island has come full circle now and has reverted to “The Island of the Strange Sea Birds” (I think there was some fancy name for this in another language, but all I have now is the translation.)

From our tour I was amazed with how many prison cells there were. Some of us even got to experience what it would be like in solitude. One of the workers closed us in a cell in pitch dark expect for the slight shimmer of light coming from under the door.

One of the ladies with us in the room was claustrophobic and scared of the dark, so she was talking the entire time and kind of ruined the experience for me. She was amusing though. The worker told us people could be trapped in their for up to 14 days and the only thing they had was darkness and their thoughts, which I can imagine would get pretty stressful.

We kind of skipped the second half of the audio tour, because we were notified that a section of the island where the laundry room was, that is typically not open, was going to be open until 6 today. So we went and saw this cool art exhibit that contained a giant dragon, and drawings of people made out of 1.2 million Legos total. It was really impressive.

The night ended strong with us  walking down the pier to get some dinner and doing a ton of laughing along the way.

It was a great night one on the Innovation Tour!!!


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