On a really clear day, you might be able to spot the faint outline of the Farallon Islands from the shores of San Francisco. For most people, that’s as much as they’ve ever seen of the mysterious islands 30 miles outside the Golden Gate Bridge, which are off-limits to the public because of their fragile habitat to thousands of birds and sea mammals.
But now the public will have a front row view of the islands, courtesy of a new HD camera streaming video from the island. The new camera, which went live last week, is the result of a project by the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service, Point Blue Conservation Science and the Academy of Sciences.
“It provides a new way for the public to experience the refuge,” said Point Blue biologist Pete Warzybok, “to see the wildlife out there and to interact.”
The coalition first installed a camera on the island in 2007. But the less-than-stellar quality made it hard to see much. The camera finally died and is now being replaced with a high definition version after several years of dormancy.
The islands are home to 300 thousand breeding seabirds, a colony of fur seals — and breeding ground for elephant seals which in turn draw feeding white sharks during the Fall. Warzybok said the camera will offer a view of the critters which make their island their seasonal home.
“You’ll see all the wildlife on the island,” Warzybok said, “so all the different birds on the island, you’ll see them coming and going and setting up their nests.”
For now, the camera’s view is fixed. The island’s resident biologists will be in charge of manually aiming the camera. But the Academy of Sciences is hoping to eventually allow the public to control the camera.
“When the fog clears you’ll zoom in with that high definition camera,” said Jonathan Shore of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, “into tight areas on the rocky shoreline and looking at seals and sea lions.”
Warzybok said viewers may catch a glimpse of a shark attack in the Fall as white sharks routinely feed on elephant seals breeding on the island.
“And if something happens on the island,” Warzybok said, “say we get a shark attack on the island — people on the island will move the camera to look at that.”
Warzybok hopes the camera will raise interest in the island’s cycling nature. And maybe even remove some of the mystery surrounding San Francisco’s most unknown neighborhood.