Tags: Alcatraz | Escapees | 1962 | survived

Study: 'Ingenious' Alcatraz Escapees Could Have Survived

Tuesday, 16 December 2014 02:09 PM

The three men who famously escaped from Alcatraz in 1962 on a raft made from raincoats may have survived and could even still be alive today, a new study shows.

Dutch scientists who conducted a series of copycat escape attempts as part of their research on flooding danger were due to present their findings on Tuesday at the 47th annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco, according to Yahoo News.

Alcatraz, which opened in 1934 and was shut down a year after the great escape, was a maximum high-security federal prison and housed such notorious gangsters as Al Capone, Mickey Cohen and Whitey Bulger.

Located on a rocky island in the middle of San Francisco Bay, Alcatraz had only 14 escape attempts involving 36 men, who were mostly either caught or died, according to the FBI.

But on a June night in 1962, three inmates broke out of the jail and were never heard from again and the FBI still calls the plan "ingenious" on its website.

After John Anglin, his brother, Clarence, and Frank Morris placed dummy heads on their beds, they escaped by boring crude holes through their cells into an unused utility room.

They made their way to the prison roof, climbed down the bakery smoke stack and clambered over the fence. Then they paddled away to possible freedom on rafts made up of 50 stolen raincoats that were inflated with a musical instrument converted into a pump.

Federal authorities eventually ruled after a 17-year probe that the men had probably drowned, and the FBI says it has no evidence that they are alive. But the TV show "Mythbusters" did its own investigation and claimed that there was a chance that they could have reached safety.

A group of Dutch hydraulic experts recently simulated the daring escape from Alcatraz, now a tourist attraction, while studying flood risk and the impact of a rise in sea level in the bay, corresponding to the dangers facing the Netherlands.

"We didn't know exactly when the inmates launched their boats, or their precise starting point, and so we decided to release 50 'boats' every 30 minutes between [11 p.m. and 4 a.m.] from a range of possible escape spots at Alcatraz to see where they would end up," said Fedor Baart, of the Netherlands-based research institute Deltares.

"We added a paddling effect to the 'boats,' as we assumed the prisoners would paddle as they got closer to land."

He said that if the escapees left earlier than 11:30 that night, they would have been swept out to sea by the strong currents. But after that time it was likely they reached safety on a small outcrop of land in Horseshoe Bay near the Golden Gate Bridge.

The scientists also believe that the any debris in the boats would have ended up on nearby Angel Island, where the FBI found a paddle and personal items linked to the men, Yahoo News reported.

Rolf Hut, of Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands, who also took part in the study, said, "This doesn't prove this was what really happened, but the latest and best hydraulic modeling information indicates that it was certainly possible."

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The three men who famously escaped from Alcatraz in 1962 on a raft made from raincoats may have survived and could even still be alive today, a new study shows.
Alcatraz, Escapees, 1962, survived
Tuesday, 16 December 2014 02:09 PM
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