Farallones Cam

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Farallones Map

The Farallones are a group of rocky islands located 47 kilometers (28 mi) off the coast of San Francisco.

The North Farallones, Middle Farallon and Noonday Rock were established as a National Wildlife Refuge in 1909 by President Theodore Roosevelt. Southeast Farallon Island (the location of the webcam) and West End were granted protection status in 1969. While tantalizingly close to the mainland and, in fact, visible on clear days, the public is not allowed on the island in order to preserve and protect the sensitive birds and marine mammals that live there.

The Farallon Islands are the largest seabird breeding colony in the continental United States. They are host to a diverse array of seabirds, marine mammals, and other plants and animals. This includes thirteen species of breeding shorebird and seabirds, five species of pinnipeds (seals and sea lions), visiting land birds, invertebrates and an endemic salamander. Sharks, whales, and a variety of other sealife are abundant in the surrounding waters.

It wasn’t always this way. In the past, wildlife had been devastated by years of exploitation by human visitors. Elephant seals and fur seals were hunted for meat, oil and pelts; with fur seals so aggressively targeted they were extirpated from the islands. The eggs of the Common Murre were also collected so intensely during the Gold Rush that the murre population declined from an estimated one million to just a few thousand by 1900, and several other species were locally extirpated.

Seagulls The management goal of the Farallon National Wildlife Refuge has been to allow species to recover their former abundance through natural processes. Wildlife choose to breed on offshore islands because they are free from predators and other disturbances, including humans. Several species that have disappeared from the region have returned in recent years –success stories include the common murre, and northern fur seal. There is significant interest among scientists and the public in observing this unique habitat.

Today, the Farallones are also a state marine conservation area under the Marine Life Protection Act. They are only accessible by a small number of wildlife biologists and land managers who access the island to conduct wildlife research. In the winter months, December through February, elephant seals are breeding. During the foggy and windy summer, March through August, the focus shifts to breeding seabirds. In the fall, September through November, attention turns to transient wildlife (cetaceans, sharks, bats, butterflies and songbirds).

Interesting Facts about the Farallones:

  • Every day and night since 1968, Point Blue Conservation Science has been conducting research, monitoring the wildlife, and stewarding the island.
  • The Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary manages the water surrounding the islands.
  • The lighthouse was built in 1853 on Southeast Farallon Island (SEFI). The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service manages SEFI and the rest of the Farallon Islands.
  • Half of the world’s population of Ashy storm-petrels breed on the Refuge.
  • The Farallon Islands host the world’s largest colony of Western Gulls and Brandt's Cormorants.
  • The Farallon Islands are within the cold California current which flows from the north (British Columia) to the south and along the edge of the continental shelf, where the ocean plunges to 6,000 foot depths. Upwelling occurs in the spring, resulting in great blooms of plant plankton. Plant plankton are eaten by animal plankton (krill), which are eaten by fish, birds, and marine mammals. The fish humans depend upon for food need healthy populations of krill to survive.
  • In order to minimize environmental impact from the few people allowed on the island, the Fish and Wildlife Service and Point Blue close off certain parts of the island entirely to humans. Other human actions taken on the island to protect wildlife include controlling non-native flora and fauna, restricting air traffic over the island during the nesting season, eliminating light pollution at night, and installing boardwalks to prevent walking on sensitive habitat. They’ve also converted to solar power, use only collected rain water for drinking and household use, carry off all trash and continue to make many other efforts to keep the islands wild.
Farallones Lighthouse

The California Academy of Sciences, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Point Blue Conservation Science have teamed up to launch a live streaming web camera.

This camera, which sits atop the lighthouse, can be used to observe breeding bird colonies, and breeding seal and sea lion colonies. It can also be used to observe ocean conditions and the off-shore activity of birds, whales and, possibly, great white sharks.

We hope to collect valuable scientific data with minimal wildlife disturbance and environmental impact. Researchers, wildlife managers, and curators can remotely control the camera to view whatever interests them and, at the same time, give the general public the opportunity to explore the islands remotely.

Setting up the camera and enabling the live web stream took months of technical planning and coordination with numerous networking engineers and technology experts. We attached two communication dishes to the radio towers on Twin Peaks and another two dishes on the Farallon Islands, established a microwave link between the 2 locations, mounted a webcam on the lighthouse, then routed the data stream through two other locations in the city and, ultimately, to the California Academy of Sciences.

A special thank you to the City and County of San Francisco’s Department of Technology, who manages the radio site at Twin Peaks and the fiber optic network that delivers the images from the tower to the Academy in Golden Gate Park.

A big thank you to all the members of this brilliant technical team:

Wireless Networking

  • Yahel Ben-David, AirJaldi and De Novo Group
  • Jon Britton, California Academy of Sciences
  • Dean Do, California Academy of Sciences
  • Mike McCarthy, City and County of San Francisco Department of Technology
  • Rabin Patra, De Novo Group
  • Matt Peterson
  • Tim Pozar, TM Pozar Telecommunications

360 Imagery and Camera Install

  • Corey Jaskolski, Hydro Technologies and Tuatara Systems


  • The National Weather Service - data from HADS (Hydrometeorological Automated Data System)
  • Tuatara Systems - Gigapixel panoramic image

Together, the Academy, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Point Blue Conservation Science bring you the Farallones webcam. Learn about the partners and share your support for this effort. Thank you!

California Academy of Sciences

California Academy of Sciences The new California Academy of Sciences may be best known for its stunning new museum, which opened its doors in Golden Gate Park on September 27, 2008. However, the Academy is also a world-class research institution committed to understanding and protecting the diversity of life on Earth. It has a staff of over 50 professional educators and Ph.D.-level scientists, supported by more than 100 Research and Field Associates and over 300 Fellows. The Academy conducts research in 11 scientific fields: anthropology, aquatic biology, botany, comparative genomics, entomology, geology, herpetology, ichthyology, invertebrate zoology, mammalogy and ornithology.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Farallon National Wildlife Refuge The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the premier government agency dedicated to the conservation, protection, and enhancement of fish, wildlife and plants, and their habitats. It is the only agency in the federal government whose primary responsibility is management of these important natural resources for the American public. The Service also helps provide a healthy environment for people and wildlife, and presents opportunities for Americans to enjoy the outdoors and share their natural heritage. The Service is responsible for implementing and enforcing some of the nation's most important environmental laws, such as the Endangered Species Act, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, and the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

The Farallon National Wildlife Refuge is managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as part of the San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge Complex.

Point Blue Conservation Science

PRBO scientists Point Blue Conservation Science is a non-profit organization dedicated to conserving birds, other wildlife and ecosystems through scientific research and outreach. Founded in 1965 as Point Reyes Bird Observatory, Point Blue partners with hundreds of government and non-government agencies as well as private interests to ensure that science is driving conservation, benefiting our environment, our economy and our communities. Their goal is to reduce the negative impacts of accelerating environmental change on bird populations and the ecosystems that sustain them.

Follow the scientists' trials and tribulations on the Farallon Islands.


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