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Tunnels Discovered Under Alcatraz Prison

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March 3, 2014

Scientists have discovered a series of tunnels under Alcatraz, the fabled prison situated on an island off San Francisco.

The scientists, from Texas A&M University, found the 150-year-old tunnels using ground-penetrating radar to perform a scheduled scan of the former prison's recreation yard. But the tunnels were not a planned escape for gangster Al Capone or any of the other famous residents of Alcatraz. Rather, the tunnels, made primarily of dirt but reinforced in places with concrete, were a holdover from before the days of the prison, when the island was a military fort. The significance of the concrete in the tunnels is that it wasn't being made in America at the time and, therefore, must have come from Europe.

Alcatraz Island was a holding place for West Coast sympathizers with the Confederate cause during the Civil War. No battles took place nearby, however.

The radar scans also produced images that researchers think are ammunition storage buildings. The researchers conducted the scans as part of a search for Civil War-era artifacts.after the Civil War and then a federal penitentiary in the early decades of the 20th Century. After providing "homes" for some of America's most infamous criminals, the prison was shuttered in 1963.

The island prison is now a major tourist destination, with more than 1.3 million visitors touring the facilities each year.

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