Returning Home to Farallon Islands

October 14, 2008 8:03:35 PM PDT
Twenty-six miles from the Golden Gate Bridge is the most remote area of the city of San Francisco. They may be surrounded by ocean but the Farallon islands are actually part of that city.The inhabitants, however, don't pay taxes, worry about having a job or taking public transit to work. Some years back things were different; there were people on one of the islands including a Valley woman and her parents who once called this desolate place their home.

Today the Farallons and the waters around them are a marine sanctuary home to endangered or threatened species of sea lions, marine life and sea birds.

In the last century the southeast island was an outpost of the U.S. coast guard maintaining a lighthouse. And for 13 months, home to the Jackson family in the 1950's. Linda Jackson Murray told us were their house was, "Looking down from the lighthouse, that's the houses that were there built on the rocks." There was just one tree, the only tree of around a hundred that were planted that survived among the craggy surroundings.

55 years ago the Lighthouse was ever present above Linda Jackson Murray's home. She was four years old when her dad, a Coast Guard engineer, was stationed there.

Her mom was a housewife and their daughter the oldest child on the island. She had no playmates so the limited types of creatures were her friends, "I remember the birds. There were a lot of birds and mom used to make extra pancakes and after breakfast we'd go out and feed 'em." She also had a pet rabbit. Someone had brought some rabbits to this remote island and before long they were everywhere.

In late summer this year the family was invited by the oceanic society to visit their former home as part of a documentary film. Linda's mom had a little trouble getting into first one than a second boat to take them to their old home in the Farallons, "I must be nuts." Linda told us the choppy boat ride was familiar to the whole family, "Dad, he just zipped right over the side of that boat, mom had a little help but she did fine and off they went."

The islands are completely rocky; there are no beaches for a boat to dock so a crane must haul visitor boats onto the island. Only a few visitors a year are allowed here and our staff and TV cameras were not among them on this trip. The family was followed by a documentary crew as they took time for lunch, Linda: We sat out on the Farallon Island and ate peanut butter sandwiches", she laughed, "It was fun though, we enjoyed it."

Linda's husband, Jim, took dozens of photographs during their 2 hour visit as she and her parents toured the island. One of the few remaining buildings is their old home, now newly remodeled for wildlife researchers who study the wildlife a few weeks every year here.

Del Jackson called the visit the opportunity of lifetime, "Being on the island itself brought back some good memories." Linda's Dad, Lucky Jackson agreed but being a retired engineer he was thinking about what I might be like if they'd lived here today, "I wish we'd had solar power when we were out here. We had to run the generator 24 hours a day." Linda's husband, Jim remarked that the weather was no roadblock to a great day, Even if it was gloomy and overcast, they still really enjoyed it was a trip of a lifetime for 'em."

Both the Coast Guard and the Lighthouse are long gone, existing today only in old photos and the whimsical decor that fills the Linda and Jim Murray's Fresno home.

Linda too was glad to have seen her parents there, "It was really nice to see them so happy. They just had a ball." The trip may have been a nod to another time but the place is never very far away in her home or in her heart, "I think everybody loves lighthouses, maybe not as much as I do."

Perhaps not but her families' history links us to California's past and the 117 years when the Farallons' Lighthouse guided seafarers to safe harbor in the San Francisco bay.

Related Links:
http://www.farallones.org
http://www.lighthousefriends.com
http://farallones.noaa.gov

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