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Farallon Islands

Farallon Islands

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The Farallon Islands, or Farallones (from the Spanish farallón meaning "pillar" or "sea cliff"), are a group of islands and sea stacks
Stack (geology)
A stack is a geological landform consisting of a steep and often vertical column or columns of rock in the sea near a coast, isolated by erosion. Stacks are formed through processes of coastal geomorphology, which are entirely natural. Time, wind and water are the only factors involved in the...

 in the Gulf of the Farallones
Gulf of the Farallones
Gulf of the Farallones is a gulf of the Pacific Ocean off the northern California coast. It extends westward from the opening of the San Francisco Bay and Drakes Bay to the Farallon Islands. There is nuclear waste abandoned at the bottom of the gulf, lost from a shipwreck...

, off the coast of San Francisco, California
California
California is a state located on the West Coast of the United States. It is by far the most populous U.S. state, and the third-largest by land area...

, USA. They lie 27 miles (43.5 km) outside the Golden Gate
Golden Gate
The Golden Gate is the North American strait connecting San Francisco Bay to the Pacific Ocean. Since 1937 it has been spanned by the Golden Gate Bridge...

 and 20 miles (32.2 km) south of Point Reyes
Point Reyes
Point Reyes is a prominent cape on the Pacific coast of northern California. It is located in Marin County approximately WNW of San Francisco. The term is often applied to the Point Reyes Peninsula, the region bounded by Tomales Bay on the northeast and Bolinas Lagoon on the southeast...

, and are visible from the mainland on clear days. The islands are officially part of the City and County of San Francisco, California
San Francisco, California
San Francisco , officially the City and County of San Francisco, is the financial, cultural, and transportation center of the San Francisco Bay Area, a region of 7.15 million people which includes San Jose and Oakland...

. The only inhabited portion of the islands is on Southeast Farallon Islands (SEFI), where research residents (PRBO) stay.

The Farallon National Wildlife Refuge is one of 66 National Wildlife Refuges that have congressionally designated wilderness status. In 1974 the Farallon Wilderness was established (Public Law
Public law
Public law is a theory of law governing the relationship between individuals and the state. Under this theory, constitutional law, administrative law and criminal law are sub-divisions of public law...

 93-550) and includes all islands except the Southeast Island for a total of 141 acres (57.1 ha).

History



The islands were long known to the American Indians who lived in the Bay Area prior to the arrival of Europeans, but they are not thought to have traveled to them. The first European to record the islands was the English
England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

 privateer
Privateer
A privateer is a private person or ship authorized by a government by letters of marque to attack foreign shipping during wartime. Privateering was a way of mobilizing armed ships and sailors without having to spend public money or commit naval officers...

 Sir Francis Drake
Francis Drake
Sir Francis Drake, Vice Admiral was an English sea captain, privateer, navigator, slaver, and politician of the Elizabethan era. Elizabeth I of England awarded Drake a knighthood in 1581. He was second-in-command of the English fleet against the Spanish Armada in 1588. He also carried out the...

, who landed on the islands on 24 July 1579, in order to collect seal
Pinniped
Pinnipeds or fin-footed mammals are a widely distributed and diverse group of semiaquatic marine mammals comprising the families Odobenidae , Otariidae , and Phocidae .-Overview: Pinnipeds are typically sleek-bodied and barrel-shaped...

 meat and bird eggs for his ship. He named them the Islands of Saint James, a name that survives only in one of the rocky islet
Islet
An islet is a very small island.- Types :As suggested by its origin as islette, an Old French diminutive of "isle", use of the term implies small size, but little attention is given to drawing an upper limit on its applicability....

s of the North Farallones. The islands were given the name "Farallones" (literally, "rocks
Islet
An islet is a very small island.- Types :As suggested by its origin as islette, an Old French diminutive of "isle", use of the term implies small size, but little attention is given to drawing an upper limit on its applicability....

 out of the sea") by Spanish
Spain
Spain , officially the Kingdom of Spain languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Spain's official name is as follows:;;;;;;), is a country and member state of the European Union located in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula...

 explorer Sebastián Vizcaíno
Sebastián Vizcaíno
Sebastián Vizcaíno was a Spanish soldier, entrepreneur, explorer, and diplomat whose varied roles took him to New Spain, the Philippines, the Baja California peninsula, the California coast and Japan.-Early career:...

, who first charted them in 1603.

In the years following their discovery, during the Maritime Fur Trade
Maritime Fur Trade
The Maritime Fur Trade was a ship-based fur trade system that focused on acquiring furs of sea otters and other animals from the indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest Coast and natives of Alaska. The furs were mostly sold in China in exchange for tea, silks, porcelain, and other Chinese...

 era, the islands were exploited by seal hunters, first from New England
New England
New England is a region in the northeastern corner of the United States consisting of the six states of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut...

 and later from Russia
Russia
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

. The Russians maintained a sealing station in the Farallones from 1812 to 1840, taking 1,200 to 1,500 fur seals annually, though American ships had already exploited the islands. The first American ships Albatross, captained by Nathan Winship, and the O'Cain, captained by his brother Jonathan Winship, were sent from Boston in 1809 to establish a settlement on the Columbia River. In 1810, they met up with two other American ships at the Farallon Islands, the Mercury and the Isabella, and at least 30,000 seal skins were taken. By 1818 the seals diminished rapidly until only about 500 could be taken annually and within the next few years, the fur seal was extirpated from the islands. It is not known whether the Northern Fur Seal
Northern Fur Seal
The Northern fur seal is an eared seal found along the north Pacific Ocean, the Bering Sea and the Sea of Okhotsk. It is the largest member of the fur seal subfamily and the only species in the genus Callorhinus.-Physical description:Northern fur seals have extreme sexual dimorphism, with males...

 or the Guadalupe Fur Seal
Guadalupe Fur Seal
The Guadalupe fur seal is one of six members of the fur seal genus Arctocephalus. Sealers reduced the population to just a few dozen by the late 19th century, but the species had recovered to 10,000 in number by the late 1990s...

 were the islands' native fur seal, although the Northern Fur Seal is the species that began to recolonize the islands in 1996.

On July 17, 1827, French sea captain, Auguste Duhaut-Cilly, sailed by the southernmost Farallon Island and counted the "crude dwellings of about a hundred Kodiaks stationed there by the Russians of Bodega
Bodega Bay, California
Bodega Bay is a town and census-designated place in Sonoma County, California, United States. The population was 1,077 at the 2010 census. The town is on the eastern side of Bodega Harbor, an inlet of Bodega Bay on the Pacific coast....

...the Kodiaks, in their light boats, slip into San Francisco Bay by night, moving along the coast opposite the fort, and once inside this great basin they station themselves temporarily on some of the inner islands, from where they catch the sea otter
Sea Otter
The sea otter is a marine mammal native to the coasts of the northern and eastern North Pacific Ocean. Adult sea otters typically weigh between 14 and 45 kg , making them the heaviest members of the weasel family, but among the smallest marine mammals...

 without hindrance."

After Alta California
Alta California
Alta California was a province and territory in the Viceroyalty of New Spain and later a territory and department in independent Mexico. The territory was created in 1769 out of the northern part of the former province of Las Californias, and consisted of the modern American states of California,...

 was ceded by Mexico
Mexico
The United Mexican States , commonly known as Mexico , is a federal constitutional republic in North America. It is bordered on the north by the United States; on the south and west by the Pacific Ocean; on the southeast by Guatemala, Belize, and the Caribbean Sea; and on the east by the Gulf of...

 to the US in 1848, the islands' environment became linked to the growth of the city of San Francisco. Beginning in 1853, a lighthouse
Lighthouse
A lighthouse is a tower, building, or other type of structure designed to emit light from a system of lamps and lenses or, in older times, from a fire, and used as an aid to navigation for maritime pilots at sea or on inland waterways....

 was constructed on SEFI. As the city grew, the seabird colonies came under severe threat as eggs were collected in the millions for the markets of San Francisco. The trade, which in its heyday could yield 500,000 eggs a month, was the source of conflict between the egg collecting companies and the lighthouse keepers. This conflict turned violent in a confrontation between rival companies in 1863. The clash between two rival companies, known as the Egg War
Egg War
The Egg War is the name given to an 1863 conflict between rival egging companies on the Farallon Islands, 25 miles off San Francisco. It was the culmination of several years of tension between the Egg Company, which claimed the right to collect the eggs on the islands, and several rival firms...

, left two men dead and marked the end of private companies on the islands, although the lighthouse keepers continued egging. This activity, combined with the threat of oil spills from shipping in San Francisco's shipping lanes, prompted President
President
A president is a leader of an organization, company, trade union, university, or country.Etymologically, a president is one who presides, who sits in leadership...

 Theodore Roosevelt
Theodore Roosevelt
Theodore "Teddy" Roosevelt was the 26th President of the United States . He is noted for his exuberant personality, range of interests and achievements, and his leadership of the Progressive Movement, as well as his "cowboy" persona and robust masculinity...

 to sign Executive Order No. 1043 in 1909, creating the Farallon Reservation, protecting the northern islands of the chain. This was expanded to all the islands in 1969 when it became a National Wildlife Refuge
National Wildlife Refuge
National Wildlife Refuge is a designation for certain protected areas of the United States managed by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. The National Wildlife Refuge System is the world's premiere system of public lands and waters set aside to conserve America's fish, wildlife and plants...

.

The islands are the site of many shipwreck
Shipwreck
A shipwreck is what remains of a ship that has wrecked, either sunk or beached. Whatever the cause, a sunken ship or a wrecked ship is a physical example of the event: this explains why the two concepts are often overlapping in English....

s, including the liberty ship
Liberty ship
Liberty ships were cargo ships built in the United States during World War II. Though British in conception, they were adapted by the U.S. as they were cheap and quick to build, and came to symbolize U.S. wartime industrial output. Based on vessels ordered by Britain to replace ships torpedoed by...

 SS Henry Bergh, a converted troop carrier that hit West End in 1944, pieces of which can still be seen from the island today (all hands were saved). The United States Coast Guard
United States Coast Guard
The United States Coast Guard is a branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the seven U.S. uniformed services. The Coast Guard is a maritime, military, multi-mission service unique among the military branches for having a maritime law enforcement mission and a federal regulatory agency...

 maintained a manned lighthouse until 1972, when it was automated. The islands are currently managed by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service
United States Fish and Wildlife Service
The United States Fish and Wildlife Service is a federal government agency within the United States Department of the Interior dedicated to the management of fish, wildlife, and natural habitats...

, in conjunction with the Marin
Marin
-Places:*Marin, Haute-Savoie, a commune in France*Le Marin, a commune in the French overseas department of Martinique*Marín, Nuevo León, a town and municipality in Mexico*Marín, Pontevedra, a municipality in Galicia, Spain*Marin County, California...

-based PRBO Conservation Science
PRBO Conservation Science
PRBO Conservation Science, founded as the Point Reyes Bird Observatory, is a California based wildlife conservation and research non-profit organization...

 (formerly Point Reyes Bird Observatory - PRBO). The islands are currently the subject of long term ecological
Ecology
Ecology is the scientific study of the relations that living organisms have with respect to each other and their natural environment. Variables of interest to ecologists include the composition, distribution, amount , number, and changing states of organisms within and among ecosystems...

 research. Today, the Farallones are closed to the public, although birders and wildlife enthusiasts can approach them on whale watching
Whale watching
Whale watching is the practice of observing whales and other cetaceans in their natural habitat. Whales are watched most commonly for recreation but the activity can also serve scientific or educational purposes. A 2009 study, prepared for IFAW, estimated that 13 million people went whale watching...

 boats and the sail-training vessel Seaward out of Sausalito.

For about eleven years, from 1902 to 1913, the former U.S. Weather Bureau maintained a weather station on the southeast island, which was connected by cable with the mainland. The results of the meteorology study were later published in a book on the California climate. Temperatures during those years never exceeded 90 °F (32.2 °C) or dropped to 32 °F (0 °C). Years later, the National Weather Service
National Weather Service
The National Weather Service , once known as the Weather Bureau, is one of the six scientific agencies that make up the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration of the United States government...

 provided some weather observations from the lighthouse on its local radio station.

Geology


The Farallon Islands are outcroppings of the Salinian Block
Salinian Block
The Salinian Block or Salinian terrane is a geologic terrane which lies west of the main trace of the San Andreas Fault system in California. It is bounded on the south by the Big Pine Fault in Ventura County, and on the west by the Nacimiento Fault...

, a vast geologic province of granitic
Granite
Granite is a common and widely occurring type of intrusive, felsic, igneous rock. Granite usually has a medium- to coarse-grained texture. Occasionally some individual crystals are larger than the groundmass, in which case the texture is known as porphyritic. A granitic rock with a porphyritic...

 continental crust sharing its origins with the core of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The block was torn off far to the south of its present position and rifted north by the movement of the Pacific Plate
Pacific Plate
The Pacific Plate is an oceanic tectonic plate that lies beneath the Pacific Ocean. At 103 million square kilometres, it is the largest tectonic plate....

 on which the islands rest. Other nearby examples of the Salinian Block include the Point Reyes Peninsula and Bodega Head
Bodega Head
Bodega Head is a small promontory on the Pacific coast of northern California in the United States. It is located in Sonoma County at , approximately 40 mi northwest of San Francisco and approximately 20 mi west of Santa Rosa....

. The San Andreas Fault
San Andreas Fault
The San Andreas Fault is a continental strike-slip fault that runs a length of roughly through California in the United States. The fault's motion is right-lateral strike-slip...

, marking a boundary zone between the Pacific and North American Plates, passes a few miles east of the islands.

The historic Farallon Plate
Farallon Plate
The Farallon Plate was an ancient oceanic plate, which began subducting under the west coast of the North American Plate— then located in modern Utah— as Pangaea broke apart during the Jurassic Period...

 is named after the islands.

Geography



Overview


The islands string northwestward from Southeast Farallon Island for 5 miles (8 km). Their total land area is 0.16 square mile (0.4143980976 km²). The islands were initially exploited for bird eggs and fur seal
Fur seal
Fur seals are any of nine species of pinnipeds in the Otariidae family. One species, the northern fur seal inhabits the North Pacific, while seven species in the Arctocephalus genus are found primarily in the Southern hemisphere...

 skins, then used as a lighthouse
Lighthouse
A lighthouse is a tower, building, or other type of structure designed to emit light from a system of lamps and lenses or, in older times, from a fire, and used as an aid to navigation for maritime pilots at sea or on inland waterways....

 station and a radio station. They have been protected in the Farallon National Wildlife Refuge, first established in 1909 with the Southeast Farallons added in 1969, and contain the largest seabird
Seabird
Seabirds are birds that have adapted to life within the marine environment. While seabirds vary greatly in lifestyle, behaviour and physiology, they often exhibit striking convergent evolution, as the same environmental problems and feeding niches have resulted in similar adaptations...

 colony in the U.S. outside of Alaska
Alaska
Alaska is the largest state in the United States by area. It is situated in the northwest extremity of the North American continent, with Canada to the east, the Arctic Ocean to the north, and the Pacific Ocean to the west and south, with Russia further west across the Bering Strait...

 and Hawaii
Hawaii
Hawaii is the newest of the 50 U.S. states , and is the only U.S. state made up entirely of islands. It is the northernmost island group in Polynesia, occupying most of an archipelago in the central Pacific Ocean, southwest of the continental United States, southeast of Japan, and northeast of...

. The islands are part of the City and County of San Francisco, and are considered part of Supervisorial District One (Northwest), also called Richmond District
Richmond District, San Francisco, California
The Richmond District is a neighborhood in the northwest corner of San Francisco, California.-Location:Lying directly north of Golden Gate Park, "the Richmond" is bounded roughly by Fulton Street to the south, Arguello Boulevard and Laurel Heights to the east, The Presidio National Park and Lincoln...

.
Block
Census block
A census block is the smallest geographic unit used by the United States Census Bureau for tabulation of 100-percent data . Several blocks make up block groups, which again make up census tracts. There are on average about 39 blocks per block group, but there are variations...


Nr.1
Island
Island
An island or isle is any piece of sub-continental land that is surrounded by water. Very small islands such as emergent land features on atolls can be called islets, cays or keys. An island in a river or lake may be called an eyot , or holm...

(s) or Bank
Bank (topography)
A bank, sometimes referred to as a fishing bank, is an area on the continental shelf which is shallow compared to its surrounding area, such as a shoal or the top of an underwater hill. Somewhat like continental slopes, ocean banks slopes can upwell as tidal and other flows intercept them,...

 
Area
(m²)
height
(m)
Coordinates
Geographic coordinate system
A geographic coordinate system is a coordinate system that enables every location on the Earth to be specified by a set of numbers. The coordinates are often chosen such that one of the numbers represent vertical position, and two or three of the numbers represent horizontal position...

2000 South Farallon Islands 387,688 109 37°41′49"N 123°00′07"W
2001 Middle Farallon Island 3,362 6 37°43′37"N 123°01′52"W
2002 North Farallon Islands 28,270 47 37°45′37"N 123°05′49"W
- Fanny Shoal - -4 37°46′40"N 123°10′19"W
2999 2 Farallon Islands 419,320 109  
1 of Block group
Census block group
A census block group is a geographical unit used by the United States Census Bureau which is between the census tract and the census block. It is the smallest geographical unit for which the bureau publishes sample data, i.e data which is only collected from a fraction of all households.Census...

 2, Census tract
Census tract
A census tract, census area, or census district is a geographic region defined for the purpose of taking a census. Usually these coincide with the limits of cities, towns or other administrative areas and several tracts commonly exist within a county...

 604, San Francisco County, California http://factfinder.census.gov/servlet/DTTable?_bm=y&-show_geoid=Y&-tree_id=4001&-_caller=geoselect&-context=dt&-errMsg=&-all_geo_types=N&-mt_name=DEC_2000_SF1_U_P001&-redoLog=true&-transpose=N&-search_map_config=|b=50|l=en|t=4001|zf=0.0|ms=sel_00dec|dw=0.382963345650033|dh=0.22400013436671792|dt=gov.census.aff.domain.map.EnglishMapExtent|if=gif|cx=-123.00994068709825|cy=37.70074117751026|zl=5|pz=5|bo=318:317:316:314:313:323:319|bl=362:393:358:357:356:355:354|ft=350:349:335:389:388:332:331|fl=403:381:204:380:369:379:368|g=15000US060750604002&-PANEL_ID=p_dt_geo_map&-_lang=en&-geo_id=100$10000US060750604002000&-geo_id=100$10000US060750604002001&-geo_id=100$10000US060750604002002&-geo_id=100$10000US060750604002999&-CONTEXT=dt&-format=&-search_results=14000US06075060400&-CHECK_SEARCH_RESULTS=N&-ds_name=DEC_2000_SF1_U]
2
Block Number of Territorial Waters
Territorial waters
Territorial waters, or a territorial sea, as defined by the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, is a belt of coastal waters extending at most from the baseline of a coastal state...

, with an area of 247,530,823 m²

South Farallon Islands



  • Southeast Farallon Island (SEFI) is the largest island, with an area of 0.11985 square mile (0.3104100749835 km²), and is the only inhabited one. The island is pyramidal in shape and 357 feet (108.8 m) high. The peak, Tower Hill (actually a double peak consisting of Lighthouse Hill and Little Lighthouse Hill), is the location of a lighthouse, the Farallon Island Light
    Farallon Island Light
    Farallon Island Light is a lighthouse on Southeast Farallon Island, California. One of the highest lights in California, it was constructed in 1855 to warn ships approaching San Francisco from the...

    . The large flat area in the southeast of the island is called Marine Terrace. Immediately south of it is Mussel Flat, about 100 feet (30.5 m) by 400 feet (121.9 m), which is cut off from the main island only during high tide.
  • Seal Rock (Saddle Rock), about 800 feet (243.8 m) south of SEFI, is about 350 feet (106.7 m) by 800 feet (243.8 m) in size and 80 feet (24.4 m) high.
  • Maintop Island (West End) is immediately to the west of SEFI, separated by a narrow impassable gorge, The Jordan (Jordan Channel), which connects Mirounga Bay in the south to Maintop Bay in the north. It is the second largest island, and 220 feet (67.1 m) high at Main Top hill in its eastern part. The Great West Arch, a rock formation, is in the west of the island, and Indian Head in the south.
  • The Drunk Uncle Islets are a group of small rocks just northwest off Maintop Island.
  • Aulone Island and smaller Great Arch Rock (Arch Rock) are immediately north of the northern tip of SEFI, and together about 200 feet (61 m) by 350 feet (106.7 m) in size. They are barely separated by a narrow gorge. Great Arch Rock is not to be confused with Great West Arch, a rock formation in the west of Maintop Island.
  • Sugarloaf Island (usually just referred to as Sugarloaf) is northeast of Great Arch Rock, and just slightly larger in size, with a height of 80 feet (24.4 m). Southwest of Aulon Island, Great Arch Rock and Sugarloaf Island, and in the northeast of SEFI, is protected Fisherman Bay.
  • Sea Lion Rock is just northwest of Aulon Island, diameter approximately 130 feet (39.6 m).
  • Hurst Shoal is located about one kilometer southeast of the southeastern corner of SEFI. It has a least depth of 20 feet (6.1 m).

Middle Farallon Island


Middle Farallon Island, 2 miles (3.2 km) northwest of SEFI, is a 20 feet (6.1 m) high guano
Guano
Guano is the excrement of seabirds, cave dwelling bats, and seals. Guano manure is an effective fertilizer due to its high levels of phosphorus and nitrogen and also its lack of odor. It was an important source of nitrates for gunpowder...

-covered black rock about 65 meters in diameter, with an area of 3,362 m². This island is informally known as "the pimple."

North Farallon Islands


North Farallon Islands, about 7 km further northwest, consist of two clusters of bare precipitous islets and rocks 31 to 85 meters high, with an aggregate area of 28,270 m²
  • North Farallon Island, 31 meters high, about 150 meters long north-south, 9,260 m²
  • Island of St. James, 47 meters high, about 125 meters in diameter, 12,380 m²
  • unnamed rock, about 85 meters in diameter, and 5,640 m² in area
  • four smaller unnamed rocks, diameter 20 meters and less

Some of those unnamed rocks however have Spanish
Spanish language
Spanish , also known as Castilian , is a Romance language in the Ibero-Romance group that evolved from several languages and dialects in central-northern Iberia around the 9th century and gradually spread with the expansion of the Kingdom of Castile into central and southern Iberia during the...

 names, such as Piedra Guadalupe, Peñasco Quebrado and Farallón Vizcaíno.

Fanny Shoal


5 km WNW of the North Farallones is Fanny Shoal, a bank
Bank (topography)
A bank, sometimes referred to as a fishing bank, is an area on the continental shelf which is shallow compared to its surrounding area, such as a shoal or the top of an underwater hill. Somewhat like continental slopes, ocean banks slopes can upwell as tidal and other flows intercept them,...

 3 km in extent, with depth less than 55 meters, marking the northernmost and westernmost feature of the group, albeit entirely submerged.
Noonday Rock, which rises abruptly from a depth of 37 meters, with a least depth of 4 meters (13 ft) over it at low tide, is the shallowest point of Fanny Shoal. There is a lighted bell buoy
Buoy
A buoy is a floating device that can have many different purposes. It can be anchored or allowed to drift. The word, of Old French or Middle Dutch origin, is now most commonly in UK English, although some orthoepists have traditionally prescribed the pronunciation...

 about 1 km west of Noonday Rock. Noonday Rock derives its name from the clipper ship that struck it on January 1, 1863 and sank within one hour.

Banks northwest of Fanny Shoal


The banks
Bank (topography)
A bank, sometimes referred to as a fishing bank, is an area on the continental shelf which is shallow compared to its surrounding area, such as a shoal or the top of an underwater hill. Somewhat like continental slopes, ocean banks slopes can upwell as tidal and other flows intercept them,...

 northwest of Fanny Shoal are not considered part of the Farallon Islands anymore, and they are outside of U.S. territorial waters
Territorial waters
Territorial waters, or a territorial sea, as defined by the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, is a belt of coastal waters extending at most from the baseline of a coastal state...

. About 25 km northwest of Fanny Shoal is Cordell Bank
Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary
Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary is a marine sanctuary located of the coast of California, at . It protects an area of of marine wildlife. The administrative center of the sanctuary is on an offshore granite outcrop by , located on the continental shelf off of California...

, a significant marine habitat
Habitat (ecology)
A habitat is an ecological or environmental area that is inhabited by a particular species of animal, plant or other type of organism...

 (38°01′N 123°25′W). About halfway between Fanny Shoal and Cordell Bank is Rittenburg Bank, with depths of less than 80 meters (37°53′N 123°18′W).

Fauna and flora



Seabirds


The Farallon Islands are an important reserve protecting a huge seabird colony. The islands' position in the highly productive California Current
California Current
The California Current is a Pacific Ocean current that moves south along the western coast of North America, beginning off southern British Columbia, and ending off southern Baja California. There are five major coastal currents affiliated with upwelling zones...

 and Eastern Pacific upwelling
Upwelling
Upwelling is an oceanographic phenomenon that involves wind-driven motion of dense, cooler, and usually nutrient-rich water towards the ocean surface, replacing the warmer, usually nutrient-depleted surface water. The increased availability in upwelling regions results in high levels of primary...

 region, as well as the absence of other large islands that would provide suitable nesting grounds, result in a seabird population of over 250,000. Twelve species of seabird and shorebird nest on the islands; Western Gull
Western Gull
The Western Gull, Larus occidentalis, is a large white-headed gull that lives on the western coast of North America. It was previously considered conspecific, the same species, with the Yellow-footed Gull of the Gulf of California...

, Brandt's Cormorant
Brandt's Cormorant
The Brandt's Cormorant is a strictly marine bird of the cormorant family of seabirds that inhabits the Pacific coast of North America. It ranges, in the summer, from Alaska to the Gulf of California, but the population north of Vancouver Island migrates south during the winter...

, Pelagic Cormorant
Pelagic Cormorant
The Pelagic Cormorant , also known as Baird's Cormorant, is a small member of the cormorant family Phalacrocoracidae. Analogous to other smallish cormorants, it is also called Pelagic Shag occasionally...

, Double-crested Cormorant
Double-crested Cormorant
The Double-crested Cormorant is a member of the cormorant family of seabirds. It occurs along inland waterways as well as in coastal areas, and is widely distributed across North America, from the Aleutian Islands in Alaska down to Florida and Mexico...

, Pigeon Guillemot
Pigeon Guillemot
The Pigeon Guillemot is a medium-sized alcid endemic to the Pacific. They closely resemble the other members of the genus Cepphus, particularly the Black Guillemot, which is slightly smaller....

, Common Murre, Cassin's Auklet
Cassin's Auklet
The Cassin’s Auklet is a small, chunky seabird that ranges widely in the North Pacific. It nests in small burrows and because of its presence on well studied islands in British Columbia and off California it is one of the better known auks...

, Tufted Puffin
Tufted Puffin
The Tufted Puffin also known as Crested Puffin, is a relatively abundant medium-sized pelagic seabird in the auk family found throughout the North Pacific Ocean....

, Black Oystercatcher
American Black Oystercatcher
The Black Oystercatcher, Haematopus bachmani, is a conspicuous black bird found on the shoreline of western North America. It ranges from the Aleutian Islands of Alaska to the coast of the Baja California peninsula....

, Rhinoceros Auklet
Rhinoceros Auklet
The Rhinoceros Auklet is a seabird and a close relative of the puffins. It is the only living species of the genus Cerorhinca. Given its close relationship with the puffins, the common name Rhinoceros Puffin has been proposed for the species.It ranges widely across the North Pacific, feeding on...

, Ashy Storm-petrel
Ashy Storm-petrel
The Ashy Storm Petrel is a small, scarce seabird of the storm-petrel family Hydrobatidae. It breeds colonially on islands off the coasts of California and Mexico, and is one of six species of storm petrel that live and feed in the rich California Current system.-Taxonomy:The Ashy Storm Petrel was...

, and Leach's Storm-petrel
Leach's Storm-petrel
The Leach's Storm Petrel or Leach's Petrel is a small seabird of the tubenose family. It is named after the British zoologist William Elford Leach....

. Since the islands were protected, Common Murres, which once numbered nearly 500,000 pairs but suffered from the egg collecting, oil spills and other disturbances which had greatly reduced their numbers, recovered and climbed from 6,000 birds to 160,000. Additionally, since protection, the locally extinct Rhinoceros Auklet has begun to breed on the islands again. The island has the world's largest colonies of Western Gulls and Ashy Storm-petrels, the latter species being considered endangered
Endangered species
An endangered species is a population of organisms which is at risk of becoming extinct because it is either few in numbers, or threatened by changing environmental or predation parameters...

 and a conservation priority. The island also is the wintering ground of several species of migrants
Bird migration
Bird migration is the regular seasonal journey undertaken by many species of birds. Bird movements include those made in response to changes in food availability, habitat or weather. Sometimes, journeys are not termed "true migration" because they are irregular or in only one direction...

, and regularly attracts vagrant
Vagrancy (biology)
Vagrancy is a phenomenon in biology whereby individual animals appear well outside their normal range; individual animals which exhibit vagrancy are known as vagrants. The term accidental is sometimes also used...

 birds (about 400 species of bird have been recorded on or around the island).

Seals


Five species of pinniped
Pinniped
Pinnipeds or fin-footed mammals are a widely distributed and diverse group of semiaquatic marine mammals comprising the families Odobenidae , Otariidae , and Phocidae .-Overview: Pinnipeds are typically sleek-bodied and barrel-shaped...

 come to shore on the islands, and in some cases breed. These are the Northern Elephant Seal
Northern Elephant Seal
The northern elephant seal is one of two species of elephant seal . It is a member of the family Phocidae . Elephant seals derive their name from their great size and from the male's large proboscis, which is used in making extraordinarily loud roaring noises, especially during the mating...

, Harbor Seal, Steller's Sea Lion
Steller's Sea Lion
The Steller sea lion also known as the northern sea lion, is a threatened species of sea lion in the northern Pacific. It is the sole member of the genus Eumetopias and the largest of the eared seals . Among pinnipeds, it is inferior in size only to the walrus and the two elephant seals...

, California Sea Lion
California Sea Lion
The California sea lion is a coastal sea lion of western North America. Their numbers are abundant , and the population continues to expand about 5% annually. They are quite intelligent and can adapt to man-made environments...

, and the Northern Fur Seal
Northern Fur Seal
The Northern fur seal is an eared seal found along the north Pacific Ocean, the Bering Sea and the Sea of Okhotsk. It is the largest member of the fur seal subfamily and the only species in the genus Callorhinus.-Physical description:Northern fur seals have extreme sexual dimorphism, with males...

 (the last of which, like the Rhinoceros Auklet, began to return to the island again after protection).

Whales


Several species of cetaceans are found near the Farallon Islands, most frequently Gray whale
Gray Whale
The gray whale, Eschrichtius robustus, is a baleen whale that migrates between feeding and breeding grounds yearly. It reaches a length of about , a weight of , and lives 50–70 years. The common name of the whale comes from the gray patches and white mottling on its dark skin. Gray whales were...

s, Blue whales, and Humpback whales. Blue whales and Humpback whales are most frequently found near the islands in the summer and fall, when strong upwelling may support a rich pelagic food web. Killer whales are also found around the islands. Gray whales are reliably found near the Farallones during their spring migration north and the fall/winter migration
Animal migration
Animal migration is the relatively long-distance movement of individuals, usually on a seasonal basis. It is a ubiquitous phenomenon, found in all major animal groups, including birds, mammals, fish, reptiles, amphibians, insects, and crustaceans. The trigger for the migration may be local...

 south. Some Gray whales may also be found during the summer, when a few whales skip the trip north to Alaska
Alaska
Alaska is the largest state in the United States by area. It is situated in the northwest extremity of the North American continent, with Canada to the east, the Arctic Ocean to the north, and the Pacific Ocean to the west and south, with Russia further west across the Bering Strait...

 and spend the summer months off the coast of Canada
Canada
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...

 and the continental United States

In December 2005 one Humpback was rescued from netting entanglement east of the Farallones by staff of The Marine Mammal Center
The Marine Mammal Center
The Marine Mammal Center is a private non-profit U.S. organization centered established in 1975 on rescuing, rehabilitating, and releasing injured marine mammals. It also serves as a center for environmental research and education regarding marine mammals, namely cetaceans and pinnipeds...

. The last sighting of another famous humpback, named Humphrey
Humphrey the Whale
Humphrey the Whale is arguably the most widely publicized humpback whale in history, having errantly entered San Francisco Bay twice, departing from his Mexico to Alaska migration. This behavior is not normal for any Humpback whale, and Humphrey became well known on national television and press...

, was near the Farallones in 1991. The islands are in the Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary
Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary
The Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary is one of 13 marine sanctuaries in the U.S., found outside San Francisco's Golden Gate surrounding the Gulf of the Farallones-History:...

, which protects the feeding grounds of the wildlife of the refuge.

Sharks


The elephant seal population attracts a population of Great White Shark
Great white shark
The great white shark, scientific name Carcharodon carcharias, also known as the great white, white pointer, white shark, or white death, is a large lamniform shark found in coastal surface waters in all major oceans. It is known for its size, with the largest individuals known to have approached...

s to the islands. In 1970 Farallon biologists witnessed their first shark attack, on a Steller’s sea lion. During the next fifteen years, more than one hundred attacks on seals and sea lions were observed at close range. By the year 2000, biologists were logging almost eighty attacks in a single season.

While the males return annually, the females return only every other year, often with fresh, deep bites around their heads. The seasonal shark population at the Farallones is unclear, with estimates from thirty to one hundred. The Farallones are unique in the size of the Great Whites that are attracted. The average length of a full-grown great white shark is 4 to 4.8 metres (13.3 to 15.8 ft), with a weight of 680 to 1,100 kilograms (1,500 to 2,450 lbs), females generally being larger than males. Farallon Great Whites range between the "smaller" males at 13 ft (4 m) to the females which generally range between 17 ft (5.2 m) to 19 ft (5.8 m) — the largest accurately measured great white shark was a female caught in August 1988 at Prince Edward Island off the North Atlantic coast and measured 20.3 ft (6.2 m). A Killer Whale has been recorded on tape killing a Great White shark.

Some individual sharks have been tagged and found to roam the Pacific as far as Hawaii
Hawaii
Hawaii is the newest of the 50 U.S. states , and is the only U.S. state made up entirely of islands. It is the northernmost island group in Polynesia, occupying most of an archipelago in the central Pacific Ocean, southwest of the continental United States, southeast of Japan, and northeast of...

, returning regularly to the Farallones every year in the autumn.

Nuclear waste dump


From 1946 to 1970, the sea around the Farallones was used as a nuclear dumping site for radioactive waste
Radioactive waste
Radioactive wastes are wastes that contain radioactive material. Radioactive wastes are usually by-products of nuclear power generation and other applications of nuclear fission or nuclear technology, such as research and medicine...

 under the authority of the Atomic Energy Commission
United States Atomic Energy Commission
The United States Atomic Energy Commission was an agency of the United States government established after World War II by Congress to foster and control the peace time development of atomic science and technology. President Harry S...

 at a site known as the Farallon Island Nuclear Waste Dump. Most of the dumping took place before 1960, and all dumping of radioactive wastes by the United States was terminated in 1970. By then, 47,500 55 gallon steel drum containers had been dumped in the vicinity, with a total estimated radioactive activity of 14,500 Ci. The materials dumped were mostly laboratory materials containing traces of contamination. Much of the radioactivity had decayed by 1980.

44,000 containers were dumped at 37°37′N 123°17′W, and another 3,500 at 37°38′N 123°08′W.

The exact location of the containers and the potential hazard the containers pose to the environment are unknown. Attempts to remove the barrels would likely produce more of a risk than leaving them undisturbed.

Waste containers were shipped to Hunters Point Shipyard, then loaded onto barges for transportation to the Farallones. Containers were weighted with concrete. Those that floated were sometimes shot with rifles to sink them.

See also


  • Case of the Channel Islands of California
    Channel Islands of California
    The Channel Islands of California are a chain of eight islands located in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Southern California along the Santa Barbara Channel in the United States of America...

     (History).

Further reading

  • White, Peter; (1995), The Farallon Islands: Sentinels of the Golden Gate, San Francisco: Scottwall Associates, ISBN 0-942087-10-0
  • Casey, Susan; (2005), The Devils Teeth: A True Story of Obsession and Survival Among America's Great White Sharks, New York: Henry Holt and Co., ISBN 0-8050-7581-X

External links