California Storm Busts Up Landmark 'Cement Ship'

The SS Palo Alto has been in Monterey Bay for decades
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 23, 2017 8:21 AM CST
California Storm Busts Up Landmark 'Cement Ship'
Waves batter the cement ship at Seacliff State Beach on Jan. 4, 2017, in Aptos, Calif. Over the weekend, a storm finally broke the landmark.   (Shmuel Thaler/The Santa Cruz Sentinel via AP)

A coastal landmark in California didn't survive this weekend's storms intact. Record-high waves in Monterey Bay smashed up the SS Palo Alto, better known to locals by its nickname of the "Cement Ship," reports KSBW. The ship, actually made of concrete, was built as a tanker for World War I but didn't launch until 1919 and thus saw no military service. Instead, it turned into "a historic symbol in Santa Cruz County," explains the San Jose Mercury News. An amusement company bought the mothballed ship and towed it to Seacliff State Beach around 1930, retrofitting it with a dance floor and even a swimming pool. That venture lasted just a few years before the ship, connected to land by a pier, became nothing more than a curiosity and a state-owned fishing spot.

Decades of storms took their toll, but it wasn't until this weekend that waves finally ripped the ship's stern off and flipped it on its side. “It’s just an unusual January with this active weather," a National Weather Service forecaster tells the Santa Cruz Sentinel, noting that a buoy recorded a record-high wave in the bay of 34 feet. "With the Cement Ship, we’re starting to see the ramifications." (The Coast Guard ship that saved lives in the "perfect storm" is still above water, for now.)

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