Couple reminisces about life on the Farallones

August 13, 2008 7:48:03 PM PDT
The jagged rocks that make up the Farallon Islands 25 miles off the Golden Gate are actually part of the Richmond District of San Francisco.

Today, a handful of researchers come and go, but until the 70's families actually called the place home.

The Farallon Islands were home to a number of families for generations. Their main job was to keep the light burning at the lighthouse.

"There was a community on the island until for 117 years until 1972 when the lighthouse was automated," said Farallon historian Peter White.

Among the residents in 1953, were a young Lucky and Del Jackson and their 4-year-old daughter Linda.

After nearly 55 years, the Jacksons returned to their old neighborhood for the first time since they left.

They were invited to visit the island by the Oceanic Society. They are making a documentary film about the history of the islands.

The chain of craggy cliffs just up from the pacific floor and are now a national wildlife refuge managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The largest island is only about 70 acres and is off limits to the general public.

The only way on or off is by boat and crane.

"You know what the seagulls are saying? They're saying 'they're back' go tell great grandma," said Del Jackson.

Seventeen people lived on the island when lucky was stationed there.

"Over here were duplexes and then the barracks were right in here," said Lucky Jackson.

Today, the majority of the residents are the birds. The Farallones are one of the most significant breeding grounds for sea birds in the Western Hemisphere.

Most of the old buildings have been torn down since the Jacksons left, but the Jacksons old house is still standing.

It's since been remodeled to accommodate the researchers who now stay at the Islands for weeks on end. The view however hasn't changed much, but other things have.

"If you've ever seen the movie the birds, this sure looks like it out here. There was never that many birds here," said Lucky Jackson.

That's what Fish and Wildlife were hoping they'd see. Nearly 125 years of human presence kept the birds away.

Without people, they have returned in record numbers.

"It's just amazing what they've done to bring back the wildlife," said Lucky Jackson.

"There are so many more birds out here than when we lived out here," said Del Jackson.

"I bet in this area right here, there are more birds than there were on the whole island," said Lucky Jackson.

It isn't the place they remember, and that's not entirely a bad thing they say.

"I wouldn't want to live out here, but I would like to stay out here a little bit longer, just roam around and look at things and look at actually the beauty of it. I can appreciate it a lot more now than I did then," said Del Jackson.

The Jacksons never expected to come back to the Farallones. Now in their seventies, they are content with life in their Alameda home.

They say they are happy to have known the Farallones for what it was then, and for what it has become today.

"It's hard to get the words to describe how I felt, it's just terrific," said Del Jackson.

"It's an opportunity of a lifetime at our age to be able to come back you know 55 years later it is just a rare opportunity and were sure thankful for it," said Lucky Jackson.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife has tried to limit human contact on the islands since they took over in the 1970s. They say it's the only way the islands will ever fully recover.

Written and produced by Ken Miguel.


Load Comments