Dutch scientists manage escape from Alcatraz prison

Alcatraz (Photo: Abrahami / Wikimedia Commons). (Alcatraz (Photo: Abrahami / Wikimedia Commons))

More than 50 years after one of the most famous prison breaks in history, three Dutch scientists reenacted the escape from Alcatraz. After numerous computer simulations, they made the trip between Alcatraz island and San Francisco on a boat made of raincoats, and concluded that it was possible that the three infamous prisoners survived the escape in 1962, AD reports.

The trip took the three scientists - Oliver Hoes (42), Rolf Hut (35), both connected to TU Delft and Fedor Baart (40), a specialist in computer simulations at Deltares - about an hour and a half on a late evening in August 2015. Their "boat" was made from 35 glued together raincoats.

"I felt puny, and at the same time great", Hoes said to the newspaper. "Behind us the illuminated skyline of San Francisco awoke, the sun sank behind the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz island became smaller and smaller."

The three Dutch reenacted the escape as part of a documentary titled Alcatraz: Escaping the Rock. It was the ultimate test to see whether their computer simulations and calculations over the probability of the escape's success were correct. And they were.

The three studied the FBI files extensively, visited Alcatraz and spoke to the marshal working on the cold case file for many years. They studied data on tides in the bay and added the tide of that night in 1962 into their computer simulation. As it is not known at what time the prisoners escaped, they ran a simulation every half an hour from 8:00 p.m. to 4:00 a.m. And condluded that the best time to escape Alcatraz that night was at 11:30 p.m. Taking the tide into account, the prisoners would have ended up just north of the Golden Gate Bridge. In this model, it also makes sense that items the FBI later found on Angel Island drifted there.

Despite this information, the mystery remains unsolved. The three prisoners remain missing and it may never be known whether they survived their escape. "We will never be able to give a definitive answer. We're not saying this is what actually happened", Hut said. "But with our information from the latest models we are sure that there is a real possibility that they escaped alive."

On June 11th, 1062 prisoners Frank Morris and Brothers John and Clarence Anglin managed to escape from the maximum security prison in the bay of San Francisco. They dug a hole around the vent in their cells, made lifelike masks of their faces in crafts to fool the guards, and built a "boat" by gluing raincoats together in the work area above their cells.

On the night of the escape, they climbed to the roof through the ventilation shaft and threw their boat in the water. A fourth prisoner, Allen West, was left behind because he couldn't get his vent open on time. The three escapees vanished without a trace. The only evidence ever found is a paddle and some personal belongings that washed up on Angel Island.