What Is the Golden Gate?
The Golden Gate is the name given to the break in the long chain of mountains running down the Pacific Ocean coastline of California. This gate, or gap, forms the sea entrance to San Francisco Bay. The gap was mapped in 1846 by John C. Fremont, an American Army Officer and explorer, who named it CHRYSOPYLAE—which is Greek for Golden Gate. The bay itself had been discovered by accident in 1769, when a Spanish explorer, Gaspar de Portola, intending to establish a mission-cum-garrison at Monterey Bay, overshot his objective by several miles.
A small settlement was gradually established until, in 1848, San Francisco became the base for the gold strike in the famous Sacramento Valley. Within a year the population increased from 2,000 to 25,000. In the latter half of the 19th Century wharves and warehouses sprang up on the bay. Houses and offices, restaurants and bars spread rapidly over the steep slopes of its hills.
Rudyard Kipling, the English author, visited San Francisco in the 1880s and found it to be “a mad city inhabited for the most part by perfectly insane people whose women are of a remarkable beauty”.
The great earthquake and fire of 1906 destroyed almost a third of the city. Apart from killing 450 people, it left over 100,000 homeless and did millions of dollars worth of damage. Even so San Francisco continued to be an increasingly important maritime centre. Now about 12,000 ships use it annually. Whether it’s a liner, small cargo boat or a yacht, every vessel must sail through the Golden Gate to reach the open sea.
Landlocked San Francisco Bay extends over an area of 422 square miles, but the Gate is only two miles across at its widest point. It has a tidal flow half as big again as the water flow of the River Amazon. In 1937 work was completed on the Golden Gate Bridge to speed traffic along the coast from San Francisco. It is one of the world’s man-made marvels with a central span 4,200 feet long.
It has been declared one of the Wonders of the Modern World by the American Society of Civil Engineers. At the time of its opening in 1937, it was both the longest and the tallest suspension bridge in the world, with a main span of 4,200 feet (1,280 m) and a total height of 746 feet (227 m).