Alcatraz Island (sometimes informally referred to as simply Alcatraz or by its pop-culture name, The Rock) is a small island located in the middle of San Francisco Bay in California, United States. It served as a lighthouse, then a military fortification, then a military prison followed by a federal prison until 1963, when it became a national recreation area. The first European to discover the island was Juan de Ayala in 1775, who charted the San Francisco Bay and named the island "La Isla de los Alcatraces", which means "Island of the Pelicans".The discovery of gold in California in 1848 brought thousands of ships to San Francisco Bay, creating an urgent need for a navigational lighthouse. In response, Alcatraz lighthouse #1 was erected and lit in the summer of 1853. Because of its natural isolation in the middle of a bay, surrounded by cold water and strong sea currents, Alcatraz was soon considered by the U.S. Army as an ideal location for holding captives. Alcatraz was the Army's first long-term prison, and it was already beginning to build its reputation as a tough detention facility by exposing inmates to harsh conditions and iron fisted discipline. Due to rising operational costs because of its location, the Military Department decided to close this famous prison in 1934, and it was subsequently taken over by the Department of Justice and later became the famous federal prison and finally a recreation area.