IN 1934, THE federal penitentiary on Alcatraz Island was established to house the “worst of the worst” of America’s criminals. And over its nearly 30 years of existence, no one ever escaped from “The Rock.” Officially, that is. Recently, Dutch scientists, using hydraulic modeling software to analyze San Francisco Bay’s capricious currents, cast doubt on Alcatraz’s supposedly unblemished record of having no convicts ever successfully escape and elude capture. The incident they analyzed occurred on June 11, 1962, and involved three men, four dummies, 15 months of planning, 52 raincoats and, over a decade later, Clint Eastwood. Eastwood played inmate Frank Morris in Escape from Alcatraz, a 1979 film that told how lifetime criminals Morris and brothers John and Clarence Anglin tunneled through cell block walls, created dummies with real hair, built rafts out of raincoats and one dark night set off in search of freedom. Their plan, according to a 2014 article in the Marin Independent Journal, was to paddle to Tiburon via Angel Island, then steal clothing and possibly a car and slip away. But, say the Dutch engineers, the bay’s formidable tides had other plans for the trio of convicts. “If they’d left before 11 p.m. on June 11, tides would have swept them under the Golden Gate Bridge and far out to sea,” said one engineer. “They’d never have survived.” “But if they’d left after 11 p.m. and before midnight,” countered a fellow analyst, “the currents would have deposited them safely in Horseshoe Cove near Fort Baker Beach in Sausalito.” Either way, neither convicts Frank Morris nor John or Clarence Anglin were ever seen again. Except, that is, as characters in the movie.
From top: John and Clarence Anglin and Frank Morris