191—The Egg Wars and the Farallon Islands

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The Egg Wars—a hidden Gold Rush kitchen—when food was scarce and men died for eggs.

We travel out to the forbidding Farallon Islands, 27 miles outside San Francisco’s Golden Gate, home to the largest seabird colony in the United States. Over 250,000 birds on 14 acres.

But it wasn’t always so. One hundred seventy years ago it was the site of the “Egg Wars.” During the 1850s, egg hunters gathered over 3 million eggs, violently competing with each other, and nearly stripping the island bare.

In 1969 the Point Reyes Bird observatory began working to protect the Farallones. The islands had been through a lot. The devastating fur trade of the 1800s. The Egg Wars. During WWII the Islands were used as a secret navy installation with over 70 people living on the island. From 1946-1970 nearly 50,000 drums of radioactive waste were dumped in the Farallon waters. Fisherman often shot high powered rifles at sea lions and helicopters were causing whales and other animals to panic.

Today the Farallones are off limits to all but researchers, some who live out on the desolate island for months in the old lighthouse there. Surrounded by thousands of birds, they wear hard hats to keep the gulls from dive bombing their heads.

The Islands are a sanctuary—The Farallon National Wildlife Refuge, managed by the US Fish and Wildlife Service. The Kitchen Sisters were given permission to travel out to the islands on one of the supply runs that goes out to the islands 2 times a month.

The Farrallon National Wildlife Refuge is managed by US Fish and Wildlife Service

Our story features: Gary Kamiya, journalist and author; Mary Jane Schram, Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary; Peter Pyle, Farallon Biologist; Ava Crosante, Illustrator; Peter White, Author of Farallon Islands—Sentinels of the Golden Gate; Skipper Roger Cunningham; Pete Warzybok, Scientist Farallon Islands; Russ Bradly, Farallon Program Leader for Point Blue Conservation Science.

Special thanks to: Melissa Pitkin, Point Blue Conservation; Doug Cordell and the San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge Complex; Edward Jenkins; Julia Gulka; Sean Gee; Keith Hansen, Eve Williams, Gerry McChesnwey; and the Farallon Marine Sanctuary.

The Kitchen Sisters Present is produced by The Kitchen Sisters, Nikki Silva and Davia Nelson, with Nathan Dalton and Brandi Howell. We are part of PRX’s Radiotopia Network.

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