Alcatraz Island, known to many as the most notorious prison in America, has begun to reveal its secrets. More than just a federal penitentiary, the island which is often referred to as The Rock was a lighthouse, a military fortress, a military prison, a maximum security federal penitentiary, an Indian Land, and is currently a national recreation area. It was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1986. Now researchers have found that the island of Alcatraz hides a secret fortress.
Researchers from Texas A&M have used radar technology to send electromagnetic waves through the earth. These waves reflect off any underground structures and data is sent back to a receiver to be analyzed. Using the instrument to make a scan of the grounds beneath what is known as the prison’s recreation yard, a surprising discovery was found.
The research team located an old military fortress which was believed to have been destroyed. The fortress which would date back to the 1800s is evidenced by both tunnels and the presence of magazine buildings. It also appears that there is another find under the parade ground. This part of the fortress may be the biggest secret that was hidden on Alcatraz Island.
The team has found what they believe to be a caponier. A caponier is generally a covered structure used for fortification, defense, and oblique fire. The caponier at Alcatraz, located at the southern part of the island, is large and would have been built for defensive cover. It is visible in old photographs, jutting out into the bay, but can no longer be seen.
Alcatraz Island was thought to be of strategic value at the beginning of the civil war and was outfitted as a military installation. The installation did not see action during the war and there were no offensive shots fired from the garrison. Soon after, the island was reconfigured as a prison for the military. Most of the fortress was simply destroyed to make way for the prison. The areas which were not destroyed or used for the new prison were simply built over. In this manner, much of the history of the island was lost.
With the discovery of the underground tunnels, magazine buildings, and especially the caponier, archeologists are hoping to shortly reclaim some of the history of Alcatraz Island. Another person looking for lost history is the director of the Concrete Preservation Institute, Dr. Tanya Wattenburg Komas. It seems that some of the oldest surviving concrete in the United States is located beneath the island’s recreation yard.
What makes the discovery of the concrete more interesting to researches is the fact that concrete was not being made in the United States at the time. The cement most likely came over from Europe in barrels. And while the tough environmental conditions of Alcatraz are infamous in their destructive powers, the concrete has survived. One of the goals of the Concrete Preservation Institute will be to determine how to continue to preserve the concrete in the face of the notorious elements.
Throughout the years, many hidden things have been discovered about Alcatraz and its history. The radar technology used by the team from Texas A&M has now uncovered more of the island’s history. The historical yet secret remains of the fortress that hides beneath the island of Alcatraz have now been revealed. Archeologists hope to find even more structures and history under the grounds of this infamous island.
By Dee Mueller