Torn Asunder

The S S Palo Alto, also known as the “Cement Ship” is a Monterey Bay oddity from my childhood, up there with Santa’s Village, Lost World, and the Mystery Spot.

The S S Palo Alto was a concrete ship built in Oakland at the end of World War I and launched in 1919, too late to take part in the war.

The ship was mothballed until it was purchased by the Seacliff Amusement Company and towed to Monterey Bay in 1930. It was sunk in shallow water, at Seacliff Beach, her bow pointing West towards the Pacific.

It was opened as an amusement ship with dining, a dance hall, and swimming pool and a pier was built out to the ship. The timing could not have been worse because it’s opening coincided with the start of the Great Depression. The ship cracked in half during a storm in 1932 and the ship was closed to access. It was eventually sold to the state for one dollar.

Over the years the ship has been torn apart. Recently, powerful winter storms including one in February 2016 pushed the ship onto it’s starboard side and then on January 21, 2017 the stern was torn off and now rests leaning on it’s port side.

A September 14, 2012 sketch of the S S Palo Alto in slightly better times. This sketch is of the ship’s starboard side and the gash from the 1932 storm is clearly visible. The bow has fallen away but the stern in intact.

Thousands of sooty shearwaters (Ardenna grisea) pass south off the bow of the wrecked Palo Alto.

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