The Explorers Club, Northern California Chapter


Spring Garden Party

Angel Island State Park, San Francisco Bay

Saturday June 27, 1998
10:00 AM - 5:00 PM
cost: $20 or $25 if received after (June 20)

Costs include all food, beer, wine and soft drinks for the picnic and barbecue. Come prepared for any kind of weather and wear layered clothes. Situated as it is in San Francisco Bay in close proximity to Tiburon and the Southern Marin Coast, Angel Island may be fog-cooled, windy, warm, balmy or all of those conditions in any one day.

Courtesy of California Department of Parks and Recreation.

This year, we will repeat the successful picnic party on Angel Island to wrap up the lecture year and begin the field season. Here are photos from last year's Angel Island trip: The first four are from Charlie Geraci and other 11 are from Jerry Athearn.


Your Officers felt last year's outing was so successful that they decided to repeat it. Angel Island is both a spectacular visual sight and an important historic site. It has excellent picnic facilities within easy walk of the dock, and is appropriate for elderly and handicapped guests. We will provide all the food, drink, and even part of the transportation, if you wish to depart from and return to the Berkeley Marina. If you have a favorite folding chair, bring it. We even will transport it to Angel Island if you deliver it to the Cordell Explorer.

Getting to Angel Island on Saturday, June 27, 1998

You arrive at Angel Island by ferry. All ferry prices below are round trip, and include the park entry fee. In addition, Chairman Bob Schmieder will take his boat, the Cordell Explorer, and you are welcome to ride with him. Arrive any time. We will serve lunch at 12:30 PM. The picnic area is located on the lawn area inside Ayala Cove, where the ferry will drop you off. We will fly the Golden GateAway Flag, so you easily can find your way to our tables.

What to do on Angel Island before and after the Explorers Club lunch (12:30 to 2:30.)

Open-air tram tours of Angel Island are available, at 11:15, 12:30. 2:00, and 3:15 PM $10 for adults, $9 for seniors ages 62 and up, $7 for children age 6-12, and free under 6. This tour is highly recommended for its postcard views of the island, the visit to Fort McDowell, Camp Reynolds, and the "Ellis Island of the West."

You may bring your own bike on the ferries, or you may rent one on the island. Mountain bike rental is $10/hr, $25/day. Tandem bikes rent for $20/hr, or $45/day. Junior bikes and child trailers are also available. All bike rental prices include a helmet.

The Cove Café on the Island provides sandwiches, soup, salad, coffee and ice cream, all at moderate prices in case you decide to stay late. For more information on Angel Island, please call (415) 435-1915, for general information recorded by the park rangers, or (415) 897-0715, for recorded concession information.

San Francisco Ferry to Angel island (Blue and Gold Fleet) (415) 705-5444, or (415) 705-5555.

  • Ferry departs from Fisherman's Wharf, Pier 41. Trip is approximately 40 minutes.
  • Leave SF: 9:30 AM, 11:30 AM, 2:00 PM.
  • Leave Angel Is.: 10:05 AM, 12:10 PM, 3:00 PM, 4:40 PM.
  • Adults $10, round trip, age 12-18 $9, age 5-11 $5.50, age 5 and under free. Limited space for bicycles.

    Tiburon Ferry to Angel Island. (415) 435-2131 (The best deal for ferry prices.)

  • Ferry departs 21 Main St., Tiburon.
  • Leave, every hour on the hour from 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM
  • Leave Angel Island 20 min. past the hour, from 10:20 AM to 5:20 PM
  • Adults $6, children 6-11 $4, age 5 and under free.
  • $1 for each bicycle.

    Oakland Ferry to Angel Island. (510) 522-3300

  • Ferry departs Jack London Sq., Oakland.
  • Leave Oakland 10:50 AM, Arrive Angel Island 11:50 AM ONLY.
  • Leave Angel Island 4:45 PM, arrive Jack London Sq. 5:45 PM ONLY
  • Adults $13, ages 13-18 and 62 and up $9, age 5-12 $6, age 5 and under free.
  • Limited space for bicycles.

    Alameda Ferry to Angel Island (510) 522-3300

  • Leave Main St. Ferry Term. 11:00 AM, arrive Angel Island 11:50 AM ONLY.
  • Leave Angel Is. 4:45 PM, arrive Main St. Term. 5:35 PM ONLY.
  • Adults $13, age 13-18 and 62 and up $9, age 6-12 $6, 5 and under free.
  • Limited space for bicycles.

    The Cordell Explorer: Berkeley Marina to Angel Island. (925) 934-3735

  • Departs Dock L at Berkeley Marina, located at end of University Ave., Berkeley.
  • Leave: 8:45 AM, arrive Angel Island 10:00 AM.
  • Leave Angel Island 6:00 PM, arrive Berkeley Marina 7:00 PM. No charge.
  • Limited space for bicycles.


    Natural History

    Before the influence of humans the flora and fauna of Angel Island were very similar to those of nearby mainland areas in Marin County. Perhaps this is because up to 10,000 years ago, during the last Ice Age, the coastline was out at the Farallons and Angel Island was actually a part of the Marin shore of the Sacramento River. North and east facing slopes were covered with oak woodland, while native grasses and north coast scrub were predominant on the west and east facing slopes. In recent prehistoric and historic times the Indians' use of fire almost certainly accounts for the extension of the grassland and the restriction of forest and brush that is apparent in the first paintings and photos of the island.

    In the nineteenth century a number of highly aggressive European grasses, mostly annuals, began to replace the perennial native grasses, while firewood cutters chopped down much of the oak forest on the northeast side of the island. Native trees and shrubs have now recovered and are prospering along with a wide variety of the introduced plants brought to the island by military personnel and others during the last century.

    Oak, bay, madrone trees, sagebrush, chamise, manzanita, toyon, elderberry, and coyote bush are native to the island. The eucalyptus, Monterey pine, Douglas fir, Monterey cypress, black locust, Australian tea, Portuguese cork oak, and other trees and shrubs were planted by the military. Wildflowers are abundant.

    Animal and bird life is wonderfully diverse; both land and seashore species can be seen. Seals and sea lions are frequently seen and heard, deer and raccoons also live on the island. Frequently seen birds include robins, scrub jays, sparrows, juncos, hummingbirds, flickers, hawks, owls, gulls, ducks, egrets, scoters and kingfishers. Blue herons, brown and white pelicans, and many other waterfowl can be seen feeding offshore or flying over the island on their way to feeding grounds in other parts of the bay. Salmon, striped bass, and other game fish migrate between the ocean and the Sacramento River through Raccoon Strait on the north side of the island.

    The island is notable, also, for the animals not found there. There are no squirrels, rabbits, foxes, skunks, opossums or coyotes.

    Trails on the Island

    Foot trails and fire roads circle the island, and climb the 781-foot-high summit of Mount Caroline Livermore. Special caution should be used around the unmaintained historic buildings, and in the vicinity of the bluffs, which erode easily and provide unreliable footing. The main trails are well marked and designed to avoid most hazards, including the native poison oak.

    Bicycles may be used on the island-circling system of main roads. Foot trails and the road to Mount Livermore are closed to bicycles for safety and resource protection. A concessionaire operates a snack bar and limited bus service during the summer.

    Beaches on the Island

    The beaches at Quarry Point and Ayala Cove are both sandy and protected from the afternoon breezes that blow in from the ocean through the Golden Gate. Quarry Beach is especially pleasant for sunbathing. There are no lifeguards, however, and swimming can be hazardous because of poor water quality and the very strong currents that run past the island with each change of tide. The water at Perle's Beach is considerably rougher, and this beach is more exposed to wind and weather. The view, however, is spectacular, and Perle's Beach is therefore a delightful place for walking and general beachcombing.

    The Indian Era

    Native American use of the island began some 2500 or more years ago, when people first began to live in the Bay Area. The coast Miwok Indians, who lived in what is now Marin County, reached the island in tule-reed boats. Some of these boats could that carry eight to ten people. Though they became waterlogged after prolonged use, these boats were adequate for short trips because their lightness made them fast and maneuverable. Long poles were used to propel them in shallow water; double-ended paddles were used in deep water.

    The Miwok Indians established camps at what we now know as Ayala Cove, Camp Reynolds, Fort McDowell, and the Immigration Station. Expert at fishing, they also hunted deer, seals, sea lions, and sea otters. Several kinds of fish and shellfish were available year-round, and salmon and other highly prized fish were seasonally plentiful. The annual spawning runs were made through Raccoon Strait, just north of the island. The Indians also hunted ducks and other water fowl, and gathered acorns, buckeyes and other seed crops, as well as certain roots and leaves in order to round out their varied diet.

    The Spanish Era

    In August, 1775, Lt. Juan Manuel de Ayala brought his sailing ship, the San Carlos, into the Bay, and anchored in what is now Ayala Cove. His mission was to develop an accurate description of the bay that future Spanish ship captains could rely upon. Ayala's pilot, don Jose de Canizares, explored the bay in the ship's launch, and drew the first maps ever made of this magnificent and now world-famous harbor. The San Carlos remained at anchor beside the Isla de los Angeles. Christened by Ayala who followed the common Catholic explorer practice of naming a sites for the religious feast day nearest to the time of the discovery.

    In the early years of the nineteenth century the island was probably uninhabited. The Indians had all been drawn into the Mission San Francisco de Asis (Mission Dolores in San Francisco), or driven out of the region. After 1808, Russian sea-otter hunting expeditions visited the island and established a storehouse there. In 1814 the British 16-gun sloop-of-war, the HMS Raccoon, was damaged off the coast of northern California, but reached San Francisco Bay and was repaired on the beach at Ayala Cove. Today the deep-water channel between Tiburon and Angel Island is named Raccoon Strait, in honor of the old British sailing ship.

    In 1837, Antonio Maria Osio petitioned California Governor General Vallejo for Angel Island for use as a cattle ranch. The governor approved Osio's grant in 1839 with the proviso that some of the island be retained for harbor defense. Osio kept up to 500 cattle on the island and built several houses for the use of his herders though he himself never lived on the island.

    U.S. Development of the Island

    After 1856 and the war between Mexico and the United States, Osio's title was disputed and squatters took up residence on the island. A quarry was developed on the island's east shore, and high-quality sandstone was taken from the cliffs above what is now Quarry Point for use at Mare Island and elsewhere. San Francisco's original Bank of California, for example, was made of stone from this Angel Island quarry. The quarry continued in operation until the 1920s; the former cliff is now the parade ground at Fort McDowell.

    The Quarantine Station

    A quarantine station was opened in 1892 at Ayala Cove, then known as Hospital Cove. There ships from foreign ports could be fumigated, and immigrants suspected of carrying diseases could be kept in isolation. The boilers of the warship USS Omaha, borrowed from the Navy in 1893, were used to supply superheated steam for the fumigation. The 40 buildings at the cove included a 400-bed detention barracks, a disinfection plant, laboratories, and quarters for employees.

    As years passed, use of the quarantine station diminished. Better medical examinations were made at ports of embarkation, and improved medical practices made lengthy quarantines unnecessary. Isolated from the mainland, the island station was inconvenient and expensive to maintain. It was abandoned when the U.S. Public Health Service, moved its headquarters to San Francisco. Most of the quarantine buildings were torn down in the late 1950s after Ayala Cove area became a State Park. Those remaining include the former bachelor officers' quarters (now a park museum) and several State-Park employee residences.

    The Immigration Station

    In 1905, construction of an Immigration Station began in the North Garrison area. Surrounded by public controversy from its inception, the station began partial operation in 1910. It was designed to handle the expected flood of European immigrants when the Panama Canal was opened. The outbreak of World War I changed this, but Asians continued to arrive on the West Coast. More than 97% of the immigrants processed on Angel Island were Chinese. Restrictive immigration laws allowed entry only to those who had husbands or parents who were citizens.

    This new facility was modern and ideal for its time, with a pier, regular boat service to the mainland, and numerous buildings to house and care for detainees. During the next 30 years this was the point of entry for most of the approximately 175,000 Chinese immigrants who came to the U.S. Most of them spent from two weeks to several months in detention here. Interrogations could take a long time to complete, especially if witnesses for the detainees lived in the eastern United States. Meanwhile the detainees waited, hoping for a favorable response to their appeals, constantly fearing deportation. Some expressed their feelings in poetry that they carved into the walls of their cubicles. Many of the poems carved into the walls of the center are still legible today.

    In November, 1940, the last group of aliens was transferred to San Francisco after fire destroyed the Administration building and the government decided to abandon the Immigration Station. The so-called "Chinese Exclusion Acts" of the 1880's were repealed in 1943, as China had become an ally in World War II.

    Today, visitors find the Immigration Station the most interesting aspect of Angel Island. The history of this Immigration Station was quite different from that of Ellis Island. Arrivals at Ellis Island were welcomed to this country, and screened primarily for medical reasons, whereas at Angel Island the objective was to exclude the new arrivals. A museum has been established in the old barracks building. It includes a re-creation of one of the dormitories and features some of the poems carved into the station's walls.

    Angel Island in the Civil War Era

    The federal government established Camp Reynolds, now known as the East Garrison, in 1863 to counteract threats to the Bay Area from Confederate sympathizers and naval forces. Though the threats proved idle, Camp Reynolds became an infantry camp, served as a depot for recruits after the Civil War, and as a staging area for troops serving in the campaigns against the Apache, Sioux, Modoc, and other Indian tribes. In 1886, a report critical of Pacific Coast harbor defenses led to the development of new gun batteries on the southwest side of the island facing the Golden Gate. By 1904 these batteries were in place, but were decommissioned as obsolete just five years later.

    In 1899 a second quarantine station was built at Fort McDowell to isolate troops exposed to contagious diseases while in service in the Spanish-American War and the Philippine Insurrection. In 1900 the army designated the entire island as Fort McDowell, and renamed all the installations with geographic designations. Today, however, the staff and visitors generally use the descriptive rather than geographic names. The new facility grew quickly from a quarantine station to a discharge depot, and by 1905, some 87,000 men had passed through it to and from the Pacific.

    Angel Island during World War II

    After the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the outbreak of World War II, the Immigration Station became a prisoner-of-war processing facility. Before the war was over, hundreds of Japanese, German and Italian prisoners had been temporarily detained here. At the same time, Fort McDowell served as the point of embarkation for troops headed toward the Pacific War Zone. Temporary barracks and other supporting structures were built, and an anti-aircraft artillery and searchlight station was constructed and manned atop the mountain.

    As troops began to return home, a 60-foot high illuminated "Welcome Home, Well Done" sign was erected on the south-facing slope of the island. The rush continued into 1946 and then the use of the island tapered off rapidly. In July of that year the army decided to close down Fort McDowell, and declared the entire island surplus property.


    The meeting of May 29, 1998, was the best-attended meeting in the collective memory of your officers. The exact number of attendees is not known for certain, but best estimates are that 86 members and guests attended. Because of last-minute additions, the Garden Court Hotel ran out of entrées, and had to provide substitutes. The garden party was preceding the dinner was held at the home of Rusty and Dan Liebowitz, MN-66. At least 60 people attended, and that was a record. As always, the Liebowitz's were extremely hospitable and gracious. They provided a tempting array of hors d'oeuvres, and the venue for the Club's collection of wines and Champagnes. Dan's model railroad is greatly expanded, and now operates at least two full steam trains on a separate track, though there is a connecting spur with the original electric train. Dan held court for his ever-expanding group of model railway enthusiasts.

    Dr. Arthur B. Ford, this month's speaker, recounted tales of his many trips to Antarctica between 1957 and his retirement from the USGS a few years ago. He also told of his subsequent career as a lecturer aboard cruise ships whose itineraries involve primarily the islands in the Antarctic region and Antarctica itself. Art, a geologist, became involved in Antarctica in 1957 at the time of the International Geophysical Year. Art graphically described many of the physical aspects of this great continent. He also recounted the political maneuverings of the many national Antarctic presences which had as their primary interest the exploration for valuable minerals and ores. The Antarctic Treaty of 1959, which was finally signed and went into effect in 1961 (very expeditious for such treaties), provided that the Continent would be held solely for scientific research and some visitations, in perpetuity.

    Fortunately for Antarctica, and for global peace, the Antarctic Ice Shield, which is as deep as 15,000 feet in some places, acts as an effective barrier to exploration and mining. The one resource in abundance in Antarctica is coal, in very thick deposits, albeit almost unreachable. This attests, however to the fact that the prehistoric Gondwanaland, to which the southern extremities of South America, Africa and Australia were attached, was at one time a warm and almost tropical continent. Scientists have conjectured that the poles, which are actually moving, were far from this area in those times.

    The Madrid Accord, finally signed by the Antarctic Nations in 1991, extends the guarantees of the preservation of Antarctica in all of its aspects, even to the extent of limiting tourist travel there. Now all man-made materials must be removed. All wastes, even non-native animals, must be removed. For this reason, dogs, once the travel mechanism for Antarctica, are no longer permitted, and the far more effective and efficient snowmobiles have taken over their chores.

    So, what is Antarctica good for? Art holds that its scenery, though alien to most of us, is incomparable. Volcanic activity is found everywhere. Mt. Erebus, at the South Pole, is an active volcano. In 1979, a spectacular eruption occurred on Deception Island. More than scenery and volcanic activity, the Emperor Penguins on the Antarctic Peninsula and the closely related King Penguins on South Georgia Island are unique and spectacular and everywhere occur wandering Albatross, fur seals, blue-eyed shags, skuas.

    In 1996, over 7,000 tourists arrived at Antarctica by cruise ship and private boat or ship, and in 1997, the figure topped 10,000. Art's accompanying maps and photos imparted particularly to those who have never experienced Antarctica, a remarkable feel for the topography, the sense of cold, the fortitude of those early adventurers who led the way, and even of those modern visitors who are able to live there for weeks, months or years on end. Art's talk inspired many questions and considerable formal and informal discussion afterward.

    Oh, very well; this one didn't come from Angel Island. But it did come from Jerry Athearn. THE 1998 GOLDEN GATEAWAY Have you sent in your reservation yet for the Golden GateAway, scheduled for October 16 and 17, 1998? Bob and Martha Schmieder, spearheading the GateAway again this year, report that already the event is "in the black," So don't delay. The Gala Dinner on Saturday evening will sell out early. Plans are well underway. The guest speakers are confirmed and many members, even from as far away as New York, have already reserved places or whole tables. If you plan to wait until October to make your decision to attend you may be disappointed, either by your seat assignment, or by not being able to attend at all.

    We encourage you to submit your reservation NOW. We can no longer say "early," as that time has already past. If you need information and a reservation form, please telephone (925) 934-3735. Further publicity on this event will be mailed to you during the summer.


    Don Bessey, MN-82, reported he and Ann were so impressed with the adventure of Steph Dutton and Heidi Tiura, recounted in their program at the Lafayette Park Hotel on April 26, that they promptly arranged with Steph and Heidi to take them on a kayaking adventure in Monterey Bay. Their outing was extremely successful, especially considering the difficulty involved for Don to get himself into and out of a kayak.

    Tom Hall, MN-97, reports he and Liz have recently returned from a flying expedition during which they did a photographic survey of much of the Canyonlands area of Utah and Arizona.

    The indefatigable Eve Iversen, CO-86 went to see a man about a camel. She reports she has recently returned from the Arab Emirates, where she was doing consulting work on the use of camels as beasts of burden. It seems remarkable that even at this stage of their civilization, the Arabs are able to learn something about the care and use of their ubiquitous travel accessory, the camel.

    Present at the May meeting as guests of Keith Kvendvolden, FN-80, and his wife Mary Ann, were famous cartographer Tau Rho Alpha and his wife, Ann Alpha. Tau had actually developed the unique oblique topographic map of Antarctica displayed at the meeting by Art Ford, which demonstrated the topography of the underlying land as though there were no ice or water covering it.


    At the May meeting Bob offered as a prize a copy of his latest book, VK0IR Heard Island, to the person who came closest to correctly answering two questions. Which country lies closest to 0 degrees, both in longitude and in latitude? And, conversely, which country lies closest to 0 degrees latitude and 180 degrees longitude? Surprisingly, no one came up with both correct answers, though Hank Skade correctly named Ghana as the first answer. As for the second answer, some deduced that the 180 degree point lies somewhere in the Pacific Ocean, but none correctly named the Gilbert and Ellis Islands as nearest the 180 point. Then came along this "open letter" to Chairman Schmieder a few days later:

    "Dear Bob:
    "I think you owe me! ...Re the question of what's the closest land mass to 180 degrees, though, I named Canton Island. Now, checking the National Geographic Atlas I find that Canton Island is now spelled Kanton Island. It is a part of the FORMER Gilbert and Ellice Island Colony (Br.) which became an independent republic in 1979. Now renamed the Republic of Kiribati, The group is comprised of 33 atolls and one island scattered over five million square kilometers of the Pacific. "Though it is difficult to be sure of this, it does appear that Kanton Island is nearest to 180 degrees... Actually the U.S. Islands, Baker and Howland, may be closer, but they are completely depleted of resources and are now unoccupied, and are wildlife refuges. But I believe Kanton is a more precise guess than the generic "Gilbert and Ellis Islands"! What do you say? If I'm correct, perhaps the outgoing Secretary will give me a line in the next Newsletter.
    -"Louise Geraci"

    Bob agreed that Louise won a book .

    (Louise spent a week on Kanton in 1952. Unique among flight attendants for having to layover there, she has slides of deep-sea fishing (the sharks were mean!).

    Coupon for the June, 1998 Northern California picnic

    Please Return By June 17, 1998 To:

    Jerry Athearn
    7037 Chabot Road
    Oakland, CA 94618
    Jerry's phone: (510) 653-2572

    Please reserve spaces for the Angel Island picnic on Angel Island on Saturday, May 29, 1998.

    $20/person... $25 if postmarked after June 20.

    Your Name: _______________________________________

    Your Address: _____________________________________


    Guests: ______________________________________

    Date created: 06/04/1998
    Last modified: 06/21/2015
    Content from Charlie (Chapter Secretary) and Louise Geraci. email to Charlie and Louise
    Web page by: Mike Diggles, Webmaster, Northern California Chapter of the Explorers Club. email Mike

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