Treasure Island with Michael – 10 October 2016

Coming by my other address lewiszuelow since my l.zuelow seems to be having some issues.


Thoughts of reading Treasure Island in Classic Comics while I was growing up came to the surface as we met at TI with Michael last Monday. With that title a mood is set for adventure, not only a search for buried treasure but also a mysterious and menacing cast of characters . . . most unlike our hiking group! Well, maybe, we’ll try for mysterious.

We who live in the North San Francisco Bay area recall that Robert Louis Stevenson spent the summer in 1880 on his honeymoon with his bride, Fanny Osborne, in the Napa Valley at an abandoned mining camp on Mt. Saint Helena. From this experience came his book “The Silverado Squatters”.

But I digress, Treasure Island in San Francisco Bay was constructed in 1936-37 for the 1939 Golden Gate International Exposition or World’s Fair.
It was made using quarried graywacke boulders as a surround atop Yerba Buena Shoals quarried from nearby Yerba Buena Island. The interior was then filled in by dredging up vast amounts of fill from San Francisco Bay. In a nice bit of irony, a lot of that fill came from the destructive hydraulic mining of the gold rush in the Sierra Nevada which was washed down to the bay by the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers. Sadly this bay fill contained less treasure and more toxins from mining operations in the 19th Century containing Mercury, Arsenic and Asbestos. Fortunately and wonderfully District Court Judge Lorenzo Sawyer favoring the farmers of California banned hydraulic mining on January 7, 1884 declaring that it was ”a public and private nuisance”. Yet the legacy of this mining continues today.,_San_Francisco

Since our last hike here, the island has become an enormous construction zone with large tracts behind cyclone fencing showing cautionary signs for radiation. The U.S. Navy seized the island in 1942 which along with adjoining Yerba Buena Island became a command and communications center for the Pacific Fleet. The island was also used for repair and salvage operations including the fleet of ships exposed to atomic blasts in the Pacific after WW 2. The Navy held classes in radioactive warfare in the later 1940s when sailors were trained in cleaning radioactive contamination on a “mocked-up ship perhaps appropriately called the USS Pandemonium – no doubt just a bit of Navy humor.


Morning fog obscures the San Francisco skyline with the Bay Bridge and a huge cruise ship gaining definition for the day. The views from TI are splendid and walking around the island opens up new vistas in every direction. Like Angel Island and Alcatraz the perspective changes, you are afforded an angle on things that you may have never seen before. We thought we knew how things looked but the new view says “not so fast”.

The fog continues to lift as Michael gives some background to the foreground. He talked about early soundings of San Francisco Bay using ropes with knots every six feet and the painstaking process of measuring the Bay. Since the basis for TI was Yerba Buena Shoals, an area that was hazardous to navigation and only 27 feet below the surface, you can see the value of this effort. We began to ask questions about depth knots and speed knots and how they differed? Here’s a clear explanation:

Cormorants gather on an abandoned dock with a piece of the Golden Gate Bridge at middle right “growing” out of the Presidio and mid-photo is the Raccoon a US Coast Guard ship used to clean debris from the Bay. It docks at the Bay Model in Sausalito. On Monday its mission was to assist in raising a small yacht which had sunk in the Bay during Fleet Week due to overloading.
Regarding the cormorants, I think Michael said that the white by the head is a pattern of Pelagic Cormorant Immatures. Need to up my game of Cormorant couth:

We are walking along the Riprap Greywacke boulder border for Treasure Island. Mined from nearby Yerba Buena Island the Greywacke rock is a part of the Franciscan Complex on the west coast. Seeing Franciscan Assemblage, I envision a large group of monks gathering in Assisi.

The Avenue of the Palms was the esplanade of the 1939 San Francisco Exposition and now is the scene of heavy equipment reshaping the area for a projected new city with housing complexes, hotel and even the possibility of the George Lucas Museum. The museum which has challenges in finding the right location might resurrect some of the character of the 39/40 Exposition. As the voice over concludes he says of this Western World’s Fair, “Too soon it will be too late”.

Clockwise we have a Cat that likes the water – seems to be tamping down the sand, perhaps a radiation monitor with its own portable generator, a construction zone in San Francisco as well at the top of high rises, and that radiation sign we don’t see much of these days.–235499911.html

Armand oversees a picnic at the north end of TI, lunch with a view of Richmond to the north, east bay to the right and center and just a suggestion of Marin to the left. There was stalwart fisherman at the end of riprap who did some kind of boulder ballet to get to his private fishing spot on the bay.

A Pelagic Cormorant relaxes on a slippery slope – he’d just finished his wing extend, a to be identified plant near our lunch spot, fog lifting over the Tiburon Peninsula and (where does a speedboat leave off and a yacht begin?) a yacht leaving not quite a turkey tail in the breeze – in the background left is the tower of the Claremont Hotel in Berkeley hills. Did you know that the Claremont had a slide fire escape?

“Original airport terminal building, another of the early uses planned for Treasure Island. Pam Am’s famous Clipper would circle and land in the bay, and then taxi in to the adjacent Clipper Cove.” Boeing 314 documentary with some footage of Clipper Cove. Pan American Clippers taking off from Clipper Cove This is a fascinating aural account from a very special blog that sadly has gone into hiatus.

Clipper Cove last Monday with a view of the new eastern section of the Bay Bridge. Scott reminded us that it has a functioning but incomplete bikeway.

We walked around this still in tact part of Treasure Island, nearby were two huge hangers.

In anticipation of international commercial air service, Treasure Island was originally slated to become San Francisco’s second airport,

operated simultaneously with Mills Field (now San Francisco International Airport.

A 3/30/32 rendering (courtesy of Tim Tyler) depicted the proposed Golden Gate Union Air Terminal on the north end of the island,

with 2 intersecting runways & a row of hangars on the southern side of the airfield.

An undated (circa 1930s?) artist’s conception looking northwest at the planned Treasure Island Airport.

It showed the 2 seaplane hangars & terminal which would eventually be built on the south end,

along with a never-built series of 9 runways emanating from a central point on the north end of the island.


We walked out on a wide, long pier that was once used by the navy for larger ship landings and on Monday had two enormous tugboats used for moving ships around the bay and for fire suppression.

The tugs are contracted with Standard Oil in Richmond, California and also work around the bay. They are owned by Foss Maritime which was founded in 1889 by Thea Foss (1857-1927) and her husband Andrew Foss.
Note that the tug in this video does not have the fire suppression system (in orange at the rear of the tugs that we observed). Foss lists Seattle as home port and this video is taken in Elliot Bay, Seattle, Washington A friendly crew member came out and talked to us about the tug and what it does, he is one of four on duty all the time on the tug.

Statuary in front of the Pan Am Air Terminal, to the left is Spirit of India, Female 1938, by Jacques Schnier (American, 1898-1988). this is one of twenty sculptures produced for the Court of Pacifica at the 1939-1940 Golden Gate International Exposition. Another sculpture by Schnier and you guessed it, Spirit of India, Male 1938. The building was designed to be an airline terminal, but World War 2 intervened and instead the entire island became US Navy base. This has a great video from that time (with those authoritative narrators) describing the Exposition.

The catamaran ferry from Vallejo steams by the cruise ship and then a tug makes its way past with the Transamerica Pyramid providing a visual.
Michael talked of the San Francisco Bar Pilots special role in SF Bay navigation. Then a sailboat passes Angel Island with Fort McDowell (East Garrison) in the background and the Vallejo Ferry outward bound to as one person called it Valley Joe.

Michael finds a bit of naval history along the trail, Inge looks across the bay at the lifting fog, Sue and friends maybe looking at terns diving in the water for sardines or was it anchovies and thanks to Paul for taking my picture as everyone else looks seaward.

I can hear the ukuleles now. But no, the fog has lifted and . . . we are still on Treasure Island looking over to Mt. Tamalpais, our Marin touchstone.

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