i went on a Farallon Island cruise ship, got so sea sick didn't enjoy it at all, & you can't even get on the island! So bogus.
By Anna Pulley
By Erin Sherbert
By Chris Roberts
By Erin Sherbert
By Rachel Swan
By Joe Eskenazi
By Erin Sherbert
By Erin Sherbert
The looming fallout remains ominously uncertain. Suffice to say it could leave more of a mark on the islands than bullet holes and broken eggs.
A looming sense of disaster has long pervaded this city. And yet, for centuries, San Francisco has served as a beacon and a refuge.
Perhaps this is fitting. It's been happening on the Farallones since the dawn of time.
Most days, one bird more or fewer tallied during a survey won't make a world of difference. Yet, on April 25 of last year, a most notable bird soared onto the island. With a wingspan approaching 6 feet, sleek white plumage, and a face like a Seattle totem pole, a northern gannet stands out most anywhere.
This is an extreme case, but hardly atypical; hundreds of bird species have been spotted on the Farallones that really should have turned left at Albuquerque. Disoriented birds heading over the open ocean alight on the Farallones, the only visible land for miles in any direction. A wayward golden-cheeked warbler (the only species of bird to breed, exclusively, in Texas) in a San Francisco backyard might be hard to spot — but, on the Farallones, there are only two trees and, rest assured, a scientist will be counting the birds in them, several times a day.
The gannet has been thriving in its Scotland-away-from-Scotland roost for 16 months (though, like so many San Franciscans, it's struggling romantically).
Evolutionarily, it makes sense for a small percentage of birds to instinctively migrate in the wrong direction. If just a small percentage of this small percentage can establish new colonies, the species will be well-served. On an individual level, however, most such birds are ill-served.
After being spotted on the Farallones, they will pass through, to oblivion.
Just a day after the northern gannet was sighted on the Farallones, the occasion was thoroughly and professionally documented, complete with high-resolution photos, on the blog maintained by the on-island researchers. Everyone really does have a blog these days.
High-speed Internet on the Farallones is a far cry from the conditions facing Clift and his Amber Spring-sipping colleagues. Yet, to the modern observer, the privations of hapless 19th-century folk actually seem less antiquated than the technology Bradley, Warzybok, and others suffered through in the primeval days of the 1990s and early 2000s. They had a single, text-based e-mail account serving every researcher on the island, operated via the nostalgically archaic Pine system.
Calls to the mainland required a VHF radio connection to the marine operator. Intimate talk was made at your own discretion, as anyone with a VHF radio could listen in.
This month, a call to biologist Ryan Berger on the island's satellite phone was clear enough to catch shrieking gulls in the background. "A lot of people here have iPhones now," he says in a voice that, but for the din of seabirds, could have come from the next room. "You can be anywhere and check on your little device." Researchers coping all day with angry birds can now spend evenings playing Angry Birds.
Here, as in the city 28 miles east, inhabitants are forced to accept the mixed blessing of connectivity on demand. The lamentations of the islands' earlier residents provide a check against romanticizing a pre-technological age, as does the satisfaction of Skyping loved ones without an audience. But a place demanding constant focus doesn't mesh well with a constantly updating Twitter feed. And on an esoteric isle drawing like-minded, esoteric people — "the Island of the Misfit Toys," says Bradley with a grin — something is definitely being lost.
"There were more face-to-face conversations. We tend to stream Netflix now," says Berger. "The stimulating conversations that used to happen back in the day, they don't happen now." Adds Warzybok, "After dinner, instead of us all telling stories and talking about life experiences, people scatter and look at YouTube videos or update Facebook." A place like no other is becoming that much more like everywhere else.
On the Farallones these days, every man really is an island unto himself.
Slaughtering native island creatures has gone out of vogue among the Farallones' human denizens. But for the thriving non-native species that long ago infiltrated the islands, it never got old.
In the 1970s, scientists on the Farallones managed to do what a troop of club-wielding Navy men 50 years prior could not — the last invasive rabbit on the islands was killed in January of '75. This was done with virtually no public input, unimaginable in the present era. "You'd go out with a rifle," says biologist Ron LeValley, a volunteer on the island in 1968 who returned as a staffer in the '70s. "One of our old biologists was really good at that. The Coast Guard helped us, too."
The current scourge of the Farallones is mice. But even if the rodents could be dispatched via firearms, research biologists are no longer encouraged to strafe the landscape. Instead, this month, the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife released an Environmental Impact Statement. It's quite a statement: It required a decade of effort and clocks in at nearly 900 pages. "This is," touts Bradley, "one of the most, if not the most, intensive environmental planning processes for rodent eradication in world history." Yet, for all that, the options presented are limited: Inundate the island with poison pellets or cohabitate with mice.