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30 miles out to the Farallones ... alive with birds, seals, sea lions.

From a distance, your first glimpse of Southeast Farallon Island--a 30-mile boat trip west of San Francisco--is of a deserted, ominous outcropping of rock. Then, as the vessel approaches, you can hear the island come alive.

The raucous calls of thousands of sea birds drift through the misty air and intermingle with the odors of marine life. As the boat moves into a cove and the engine is cut, passengers notice that the beach is covered with seals and sea lions. And the cliffs are dotted with gulls, cormorants, and murres.

Since 1969, the Farallones and surrounding waters have been part of the Farallon Islands National Wildlife Refuge. This month through October, you can join a guided boat tour of the area (landing is not permitted). Whale or dolphin sightings often highlight the trips. You can also attend evening lectures on such topics as the refuge's history, marine mammals, sea birds, and weather patterns.

Historically, the Farallones suffered heavily from human intrusion. In the early 1800s, seals were exploited for furs; in 1850, egg companies started removing millions of murre eggs to sell in San Francisco markets.

Thanks to improved management and protection this century, the islands are now a haven to more than a quarter-million nesting birds each summer, and are a resting area and breeding ground for California and Steller sea lions as well as elephant and harbor seals. Though last season's El Nino phenomenon adversely affected the breeding rate of Farallon sea birds, all indications are that weather and breeding patterns are back to normal this year. Boat trips and lectures

Reservations for boat trips and lectures are essential. Boats (all Coast Guard certified) hold 40 to 60 passengers. Tour participants should wear layered clothing appropriate for cold, wet weather.

Bring a lunch (including beverages), sunglasses, sunscreen, and binoculars. The 3-hour passage between the coast and the islands is often rough; your pharmacist or doctor can supply seasickness remedies. Participants must arrive 30 minutes prior to departure time for check-in and orientation. Trips are occasionally postponed because of rough weather; call the morning of your departure to reconfirm trip plans. Naturalists accompany each trip and will guide you in the sighting and identification of bird and marine life of the area.

Hawkeye's Pacific Adventures, 4068 Petulla Court, San Jose 95124; (408) 374-3027. Trips depart from Pillar Point Harbor in Princeton every Sunday in June, and both Saturdays and Sundays July through October. Boats leave at 8 A.M. and return to the dock at 4; $35 per person.

The Oceanic Society, Expeditions Office, Building E, Fort Mason Center, San Francisco 94123; (415) 474-3385. Trips scheduled every Saturday and Sunday, and every Friday evening, June through October. Trips are not recommended for ages 11 and under.

Days trips depart at 9 A.M. from the San Francisco Yacht Harbor at the foot of Scott Street by the Marina Green; they arrive back at approximately 5. Cost is $40 per person.

Evening trips ($45 per person, including beverage and sandwich) depart from the same place; boats leave at 6 P.M. and return at 2 A.M. With oncoming darkness, naturalists will discuss celestial navigation and use floodlights on the water to view nocturnal feeders. Once at the islands, you'll hear the loud vocalizations of the birds, whose active population almost doubles with nightfall. Bunks on the lower deck will be available for napping.

The Oceanic Society, in cooperation with the Point Reyes Bird Observatory, offers lectures on the Farallones on the first Thursday of each month, June through October. The first lecture of the season will focus on the El Nino phenomenon and breeding sea birds. Lectures, from 6 to 8 P.M., are followed by slides or a film at Fort Mason Center, Building C, Room 300, San Francisco. Cost is $3 per person. Write or call the Oceanic Society for additional topics.

The Sierra Club, Bay Chapter, 6014 College Ave., Oakland 94618; (415) 658-7470. Three Saturday excursions, open to anyone, are scheduled: June 16, 23, and 30. Trips leave from the St. Francis Yacht Harbor, Gate 11, in San Francisco at 8 A.M. and return at 5. Cost is $48 per person.

Whale Center, 3929 Piedmont Ave., Oakland 94611; (415) 654-6621. Four Sunday tours are scheduled: June 24, July 8, July 22, and August 5. Trips not recommended for ages 9 and under. Boats leave from the end of Harbor Drive in Sausalito at 8 A.M. and return to dock at 4. Cost is $40 per person. The center offers evening orientation seminars prior to each trip.
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Title Annotation:Farallon Islands National Wildlife Refuge
Publication:Sunset
Date:Jun 1, 1984
Words:763
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