Alcatraz Island is located in the San Francisco Bay, 1.5 miles (2.4 km) offshore from San Francisco, California, United States. Often referred to as "The Rock", the small island was developed with facilities for a lighthouse, a military fortification, a military prison (1868), and a federal prison from 1933 until 1963. Beginning in November 1969, the island was occupied for more than 19 months by a group of Aboriginal peoples from San Francisco who were part of a wave of Native activism across the nation with public protests through the 1970s. In 1972, Alcatraz became a national recreation area and received designation as a National Historic Landmark in 1986.
Today, the island's facilities are managed by the National Park Service as part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area; it is open to tours. Visitors can reach the island by ferry ride from Pier 33, near Fisherman's Wharf, San Francisco. Hornblower Cruises and Events, operating under the name Alcatraz Cruises, is the official ferry provider to and from the island. Hornblower launched the nation's first hybrid propulsion ferry in 2008, the Hornblower Hybrid, which now serves the island, docking at the Alcatraz Wharf.
Native Americans kept well away from the island, calling it "Evil Island" and believing it to be cursed. The first Spaniard to document the island was Juan Manuel de Ayala in 1775, who charted San Francisco Bay and named one of the three islands he identified as the "La Isla de los Alcatraces," which translates as "The Island of the Pelicans," from the archaic Spanish alcatraz (in English: "pelican"), a loan word from Arabic القطرس al-qaṭras, meaning Albatross. Over the years, the English version "Alcatraz" became popular and is now widely used. In August 1827, French Captain Auguste Bernard Duhaut-Cilly wrote "...running past Alcatraces (Pelicans) Island...covered with a countless number of these birds. A gun fired over the feathered legions caused them to fly up in a great cloud and with a noise like a hurricane." The California Brown Pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis californicus) is not known to nest on the island today. The Spanish put a few small buildings on the island, little else.
The earliest recorded owner of the island of Alcatraz is Julian Workman, to whom it was given by Mexican governor Pio Pico in June, 1846, with the understanding that Workman would build a lighthouse on it. Julian Workman is the baptismal name of William Workman, co-owner of Rancho La Puente and personal friend of Pio Pico. Later in 1846, acting in his capacity as Military Governor of California, John C. Fremont, champion of Manifest Destiny and leader of the Bear Flag Republic, bought the island for $5,000 in the name of the United States government from Francis Temple. In 1850, President Millard Fillmore ordered that Alcatraz Island be set aside specifically as a United States military reservation, for military purposes based upon the U.S. acquisition of California from Mexico following the Mexican-American War. Fremont had expected a large compensation for his initiative in purchasing and securing Alcatraz Island for the U.S. government, but the U.S. government later invalidated the sale and paid Fremont nothing. Fremont and his heirs sued for compensation during protracted but unsuccessful legal battles that extended into the 1890s.
In popular culture
Alcatraz Island appears often in media and popular culture, including films dating from 1962 The Book of Eli (2010), X-Men: The Last Stand (2006), Catch Me If You Can (2002), The Rock (1996), Murder in the First (1995), Escape from Alcatraz (1979), Birdman of Alcatraz (1962), and J. J. Abrams' 2012 television series Alcatraz. It also was featured in the animated series Yu-Gi-Oh!, in the book "Al Capone Does My Shirts" and in the video game Call of Duty: Black Ops II in a downloadable zombie survival map called "Mob of the Dead." it is also featured as a playable racetrack in the 1996 arcade racing video game San Francisco Rush: The Rock. Alcatraz has also been often portrayed as a safe haven or base of operations in many post-apocalyptic movies, such as The Book of Eli. Alcatraz gets flattened by the crashing Starship Vengeance in Star Trek Into Darkness (2013).