1962 Alcatraz Escapees May Have Survived After All

Interactive model shows 3 prisoners in break could have beaten the odds
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 15, 2014 5:47 PM CST
Updated Dec 20, 2014 1:43 PM CST
Alcatraz Escapees May Have Survived After All
Alcatraz Island is shown Sept. 24, 2014, in San Francisco.   (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

It seems highly unlikely that three men who pulled off a daring escape from San Francisco's Alcatraz Island prison in 1962 survived, though their feat spawned a Clint Eastwood film and has become the stuff of legends. Now Dutch scientists have released a study based on interactive models that claims Frank Morris, John Anglin, and Clarence Anglin could have actually made it across the nearly 1.5 miles of hazardous Bay waters to the mainland, the Washington Post reports. Everything would have had to come together just so—including their leaving at the right time and rowing in the right direction in their makeshift raft made from 50 raincoats, complete with hand-made wooden paddles and musical instrument used as a pump, according to FBI archives (which also note the men put plaster heads topped with real human hair in their beds to trick the night guards).

The research team led by Rolf Hut used an interactive model originally designed to measure the Bay's sea-level rise, the Post notes. The scientists pored over tidal records for the night of June 11, 1962, and plugged them into the model, then released 50 "virtual boats" every half-hour, a scientist tells the BBC. The model determined that the prisoners might have avoided the worst currents if they had left between 11pm and midnight and paddled directly "northwards with a speed of almost 1 km per hour, an almost Olympian effort," Hut notes on his blog. Then they could have reached the north side of the Golden Gate Bridge instead of succumbing to reversing tides and an almost certain death from hypothermia, Hut says, per the BBC. In other words: a different fate than many people have assumed for the past 52 years. (Earlier this year, a hidden fortress was found under Alcatraz.)

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