What are the Farallon Islands?

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The Farallon Islands are a group of islands officially belonging to the city and county of San Francisco, CA. They are located in the Pacific Ocean, in what is called the Gulf of the Farallones, and they are known as a fantastic refuge for particularly avian and marine wildlife. They are slightly less than 30 miles (48.28 km) from San Francisco, or the Golden Gate, the area between San Francisco Bay and the gateway to the Pacific Ocean, which is spanned by the Golden Gate Bridge. Clear days in San Francisco may be judged for their clarity by whether the Farallon Islands are visible. On foggy days, the islands are hidden from sight.

There are more than 10 islands in the group and a number of small rocks that dot the Farallons. Only one island is inhabited by people. Southeast Farallon Island is host to a lighthouse, and also to researchers from the Marin located Marine Mammal Center. Until recent history, primary use of the islands has been to either exploit native wildlife, and to dump nuclear waste. It wasn’t until 1969 that the US finally declared the Farallon Islands a National Wildlife Refuge, helping in this act to save many of the species that live or migrate there on a yearly basis.


Species of birds existing on the Farallon Islands are diverse. Several cormorants, puffins, storm petrels, auklets, and muirs make up a bird population of over 250,000. The islands are also home to several species of seals, including elephant seals, harbor seals, sea lions, and the rare Northern Fur Seal. The expanding seal population does attract a significant population of great white sharks. The largest great white shark breeding ground is located in nearby Tomales Bay off the coast of Marin County. Ample feeding opportunities provided by the seals using the Farallon Islands as breeding grounds means there are about 80 witnessed shark attacks on seals per year.

Despite the inherent danger of great white attacks, the Farallon Islands are also a known migration spot for humpback whales, and a variety of other whale species like the blue whale. Some dolphins, and most particularly killer whales also visit the Farallons in yearly migrations. Some orcas may be resident to the area instead of migratory.

During whale watching season, from October to March, you can take whale-watching tours of the Farallon Islands. Another tourist attraction for the brave is shark cage diving viewing. If you’d prefer not to get in a cage, many of these same tours offer topside accommodations only, which means you can watch the action of great white sharks and their smaller Pacific blue shark cousins from on the ship instead of getting into the water.


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Post 3

@ aplenty- While medical Low-grade waste only has a half-life only emits harmful radioactive decay for 160 days or less, industrial and military nuclear waste is much more harmful. The waste that was dumped off the Farallon islands is a cocktail of military waste totaling some 50,000 drums of nuclear waste. Each barrel potentially includes small amounts of neutron-radiated metal, and other industrial nuclear waste from the Radiological Defense Laboratory at the Hunter's Point Shipyard.

In 1951, the USS Independence was towed out to the dumpsite, and sunk with the rest of the nuclear waste. The USS Independence was no ordinary ship; it was a decommissioned aircraft carrier that was used as a test subject for a nuclear explosion. One of the first nuclear bombs tested was dropped on the independence, creating an irradiated metal hulk. The dangers of the Farallon Island nuclear waste are still there, and are not decayed y any means.

Post 2

The Farralon Islands themselves were not used as a waste dump; it was actually an area of the sea floor off the Farallon Islands where low-level nuclear waste was disposed of. Most low-level waste has a short half-life of 30 day s or less, becoming radioactively harmless in 10-20 half lives. This means that most low-level waste would have decayed to the point of being harmless within a year or two of being dumped. The waste was also dumped in sealed containers. I do not agree of how nuclear waste is dumped, but the waste that is dumped off the Farallon Islands is likely safe.

Post 1

How come it was used as a nuclear waste dump, and then after a short while it is converted into a residential and tourist place? Nuclear waste is known to stay where it is dumped forever.

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