Did Escapees Survive Alcatraz’s Sharks, Tides, And Hypothermia?

For 53 years and counting, family members, authorities, and historians have searched for evidence to answer the nagging question. Did brothers John and Clarence Anglin, and Frank Lee Morris, survive their elaborate escape attempt from the notorious Alcatraz federal penitentiary?

As previously reported on Inquisitr, a recent documentary by the History Channel suggests that the possibility of the escapees’ survival may be greater than had previously been thought. Recent evidence brought forth by the nephews of John and Clarence Anglin include letters, photographs, and a sensational alternative theory as to how the escapees survived the minimum one and a half mile distance from the island’s shores of “The Rock” to the closest mainland point of the San Francisco Bay.

Over the last five decades, popular sentiment generally was that the escapees did not survive. Likely causes of failure may have included hypothermia from cold waters, strong ebbing tides pulling them deep out into the Pacific Ocean, or most terrifyingly, an encounter with a great white shark.

Did Alcatraz Escapees Survive Great White Sharks?

Last week, incredible video of a 10-12 foot shark breaching out of the waters just off of the shores of Alcatraz to kill a large seal offered graphic evidence of the potential perils of San Francisco Bay.

However, great white encounters in the San Francisco Bay are rare, and the escapees probably did survive without seeing a white shark. There is an annual triathlon that starts on the island as competitors begin the race by swimming to San Francisco. And just yesterday, the SF Gate reports that a group of approximately fifty swimmers successful swam from Alcatraz to San Francisco as part of the Dolphin Club Escape From Alcatraz Triathlon. Before the race, contestant Gina Bianucci Rus expressed only moderate concern about the prospect of coming in close contact with a great white.

“It gives you pause. It hasn’t been a problem for over 25 years. For now, it’s not going to change my habits.”

Did Alcatraz Escapees Survive Ebbing Tides Pulling Them Towards The Pacific Ocean?

On the Discovery TV show Mythbusters, hosts Jamie Hyneman and Adam Savage reenacted the 1962 Alcatraz escape, constructing a homemade rubber raft using 50 rubber raincoats and contact cement. Surprisingly, the two brave researchers were successful in their attempt.

“Braced to sink or capsize, the MythBusters miraculously made it to the east side of the Golden Gate Bridge intact. Although they can’t completely confirm that Morris and the Anglin brothers pulled off the infamous feat, the MythBusters reached land and proved that the aquatic escape from Alcatraz was plausible.”

A visualization on CartoDB shows just how influential the time of departure would have been on the Alcatraz tides when examining whether or not the escapees did survive. If the truly did use a rubber raft, a later departure after midnight would have made them less likely to have been sucked out to sea.

Did Alcatraz Escapees Survive Hypothermia?

According to a 2009 article by NPR on the Alcatraz escape, the water temperature on the night of the escape was approximately 54 degrees Fahrenheit. A hypothermia fact sheet by the Personal Flotation Device Manufacturers Association suggests that the expected time of survival in waters that are between 50 to 60 degrees is anywhere from one to six hours.

If the escapees took advantage of later, more favorable tides, had a sea-worthy raft that stayed afloat, and left padding in the right direction, it is certainly plausible that they avoided any prolonged exposure to the cold waters of San Francisco Bay.

The Alternative Escape Theory

In the recent television documentary on the History Channel, a new theory suggests that the escapees did survive using electrical cord as a tow rope to “surf” behind the evening’s last passenger ferry departing the island. A review of the documentary by the Daily Mail suggests that, after getting pulled sufficiently far away from the island, the the trio were met by another boat piloted by drug smuggler and childhood friend of the Anglin brothers, Fred Brizzi. The recently uncovered evidence also includes an alleged photo of the Anglin brothers taken by Brizzi in Brazil years after the escape.

Did escapees survive the escape from “The Rock,” America’s most notorious island prison? Sound off in the comments below.

[Image Credit: Justin Sullivan / Getty Images News]