Maritime Monday for June 24, 2013: Ferrocement’s Day Off

Monkey Fist
Total Views: 102
June 23, 2013


Vladimir Nabokov on Joseph Conrad:

I cannot abide Conrad’s souvenir shop style and bottled ships and shell necklaces of romanticist clichés.”

The 30 Harshest Author-on-Author Insults In History


SS Peralta on

The Last Concrete Ship

The last concrete ship of World War I rests with World War II relics in the Malaspina Strait

The 92 year old veteran ship is the oldest and largest concrete American ship that exists today. The SS Peralta was launched in February of 1921 by the San Fransisco Shipbuilding Company, to be used as an oil tanker.

After spending 24 years as  a sardine cannery in Alaska moored off Antioch, California, she was bought by Pacifica Papers in 1958 and moored as part of a giant floating breakwater on the Powell River to protect the company’s log storage pond.

more on Atlas Obscura

Of all the concrete ships built during World Wars I and II,
only 10 are known to still be afloat.


The Powell River Floating Breakwater
(more info including stats and photos of the other breakwater ships)

The McCloskey Ships of The Second World War

In 1942, the United States Maritime Commission contracted McCloskey and Company of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to build a new fleet of 24 concrete ships. Three decades of improvements in concrete technology made this new fleet lighter and stronger than its WWI predecessors.

The ships were constructed in Tampa, Florida at an incredible rate, with one being launched every month. At its peak, McCloskey employed 6,000 workers.

Nine were sunk as breakwaters for a ferry landing at Kiptopeke, Virginia. Seven are still afloat in the giant breakwater on the Powell River in Canada.

The S.S. Arthur Newell Talbot


The Quartz was built by Barret and Hilp Company at Belair Shipyard in San Fransisco,
launched Dec. 4, 1943 – commissioned by the US Navy April 13, 1944

In July, 1946, the Quartz participated in the first atomic bomb tests at the Bikini Atoll.


The SS LJ Vicat was built by McCloskey and Company in Tampa,
Florida and launched on January 30, 1944. Later used as an Army store ship.

Steel shortages during both World War I and World War II led the US military to order the construction of small fleets of ocean-going concrete (ferrocement; reinforced concrete) ships.

Few concrete ships were completed in time to see wartime service during World War I, but during 1944 and 1945, concrete ships and barges were used to support U.S. and British invasions in Europe and the Pacific.

The oldest known ferrocement watercraft was a dinghy built by Joseph-Louis Lambot (inventor of ferro-cement) in Southern France in 1848. Beginning in the 1860s, ferrocement barges were built in Europe for use on canals.


BÃ¥ten Namsenfjord
(940 × 585)

On August 2, 1917, Nicolay Fougner of Norway launched the 84-foot Namsenfjord, the first self-propelled ferrocement ship intended for ocean travel.

In Europe, ferro cement barges (FCBs) played a crucial role in World War II operations, particularly in the D-Day Normandy landings, where they were used as part of the Mulberry harbour defenses, for fuel and munitions transportation, and as floating pontoons. Some were fitted with engines and used as mobile canteens and troop carriers; two remain in civil use as moorings at Westminster.


A New Way of Buiding Concrete Ships – The Ritchie Unit System

The method of construction adopted was the ‘Ritchie Unit System’ of pre cast sections assembled on the slipways. The first ship completed was the ‘Cretemanor’ (PD110) launched in September 1919. After the cessation of hostilities the scheme was abandoned and the yard fell into disuse. No trace remains today of this enterprise other than a few bricks and the odd bit of concrete on the river bank.

The Ritchie Unit System, ferro concrete shipbuilding, Fiddlers Ferry


Cretemanor,  Preston Dock. September 1919
(924 x 1553)

A collection of vessels intentionally beached at Purton (east bank of the River Severn, in Gloucestershire, England) during the first half of the twentieth century – as a method to prevent coastal erosion – includes eight ferro-concrete barges. +

Images of concrete vessels: Photographic record construction and launch
at Preston and the Seacraft Concrete Co on the Mersey

A Brief History of Concrete Ships

“How Pour Ships Are Made”  June 1943, Popular Science


ferro concrete shipbuilding(1024 x 773)


Workers moulding the concrete members in wooden troughs. During World War I the shortage of labour meant that women had the opportunity to demonstrate their abilities in areas that had previously been reserved for men. Here a woman is involved in shipbuilding, a traditionally male preserve.

English Heritage has assembled a number of photographs depicting the ferro-concrete shipbuilding activity that occurred at the docks here:

Concrete ships: short-lived episode in English shipbuilding

How to Construct a 900-ton vessel in Concrete


left: Gambling Ship (Paramount, 1933)
SS Monte Carlo Shipwreck; low-tide on 1/30/2010  ‎(1,600 × 1,200 pixels)

The SS McKittrick, an oil tanker launched in 1921 from Wilmington, N.C. later became the SS Monte Carlo, a gambling and prostitution ship off Coronado, California. Shat ran aground in a storm on December 31, 1936. No one claimed ownership. The wreck is periodically exposed by strong storm tides. +


SS Palo Alto; Seacliff Beach in Aptos, CA
(1000 x 667) photo by David Gallagher

imageThe SS Palo Alto (“The Cement Boat”) is the most famous concrete ship on the west coast. Until recently she was used as a fishing pier but has now been closed due to deterioration. +

built by the San Francisco Shipbuilding Company at the U.S. Naval Shipyard in Oakland, California;  launched 29 May 1919.

Mothballed in Oakland until 1929, when she was bought by the Seacliff Amusement Corporation and towed to Seacliff State Beach. A pier was built leading to the ship, and she was sunk a few feet in the water so her keel rested on the bottom. There she was refitted as an amusement ship with amenities including a dance floor, a swimming pool and café.

Two years later, the ship cracked at the midsection and the company went bankrupt. Today she remains at Seacliff Beach and serves as an artificial reef for marine life.

image abv rt: Tanker Palo Alto; 6 October 2004
‎(992 × 790 pixels)

another view

Palo Alto information at California State Parks website

Palo Alto when active


SS Faith in 1918
construction cost: cost $750,000

California businessman W. Leslie Comyn took the initiative to build ferrocement ships, forming the San Francisco Ship Building Company in Oakland. Their first release, a 6,125-ton steamer named the SS Faith, launched March 18, 1918.

The first journeys were to Honolulu, Balboa, Callao, Valparaíso and New York. In 1919, the San Francisco Shipbuilding company was sold to French American SS lines, and in 1921, the SS Faith ended her career as a breakwater in Cuba.

more: Launching of the Cuyamaca; Concrete Shipbuilding in San Diego, 1918-1920
(articles and photos from the San Diego History Center)


SS Selma; one mile north of Galveston Island – During Prohibition, the hulk
was used for the disposal of bootleg liquor confiscated by U.S. Customs Inspectors.
photo by chuck wilkson (click thru above link for more views)

imageSS Selma (1919) was an oil tanker built by F.F. Ley and Company, Mobile, Alabama. President Woodrow Wilson had approved the Emergency Fleet Corporation to supervise construction of 24 concrete vessels, of which only 12 were actually completed. Selma is the only permanent, and prominent, wreck along the Houston Ship Channel.

On May 31, 1920, the Selma hit a jetty in Tampico, Mexico, ripping a 60 foot hole in her hull. After attempts to repair the ship in Galveston failed and efforts to sell the ship proved unsuccessful, US officials decided to intentionally scuttle her.

A channel 1,500 feet long and 25 feet deep was dug and on March 9, 1922, the ship was laid to rest.

image abv rt by chuck wilkson


SS Atlantus;  built by the Liberty Ship Building Company
in Georgia and launched on December 5, 1918 –


vintage postcard, concrete ship Atlantus, Cape May Point, N. J.
Boston Public Library – Original (1500 x 966)

The steamer Atlantus, second ship of the World War I Emergency Fleet, was launched on 5 December 1918.

imageShe was used to transport American troops back home from Europe and also to transport coal in New England.

After 2 years of service, the ship was retired in 1920 to a salvage yard in Virginia.

In 1926, she was purchased for use in the creation of a ferry dock (route now served by the Cape May – Lewes Ferry).

On June 8th of that year, a storm hit and the ship was torn free from her moorings and ran aground 150 feet off the coast of Sunset Beach, New Jersey. Several attempts were made to free the ship, but none were successful.

image abv rt: “Mom and I at Sunset Beach in Cape May, c. 1957” – photo by Ross J. Care; Concrete Ships group on Flickr

SS Atlantus on


wreckage of the Atlantus; Cape May, New Jersey
photo by Steve Maciejewski

At one time there was a billboard painted on the side of the ship advertising boat insurance. At present she remains a tourist draw, but her condition is rapidly deteriorating, with only her stern above water.  more views here


SS Creteboom

Built by the Wear Concrete Building Company in England +  Launched in 1919, Creteboom was a ferrocement tug built for war service; used to tow coal and iron ore barges from the Baltic and northern Spain to the UK until 1924 when she was laid up in 1937.

One of the few ships actually used in World War I, the SS Creteboom, lies abandoned in the River Moy, just outside the town of Ballina, County Mayo, Ireland and is considered of much interest to the area’s many tourists.  Currently in use as a sand-stop. +

rather literal name there, wouldn’t you say.

another view on


SS San Pasqual, Cayo Santa Maria, Cuba (1024 x 768)
photo by Robin Lefrançois

Constructed as an oil tanker by the Pacific Marine Construction Company in San Diego, CA; launched on June 28, 1920.

Damaged in a 1921 storm and laid up for another three years. Eventually purchased by the Old Times Molasses Company of Havana, Cuba and used as a store ship in Santiego. Later dismantled and used as depot-ship in Havana.


Il relitto della San Pasqual

During the Cuban Revolution, the ship served as prison for soldiers captured by Che Guavere’s army.  In the 1990’s, the ship was converted into a hotel and remains so to this day. (accessible by boat from the mainland)*

Other than the SS Peralta, the San Pasqual is the only other remaining ship of the World War I Emergency Fleet known to still be intact and in use (although she is no longer technically afloat).

San Pasqual on

another view

* another source states ”Currently, the San Pasqual is abandoned.”


SS Sapona
photo by Michael Gerber more views

Concrete-hulled cargo steamer that ran aground near Bimini during a hurricane in 1926.

Built in January, 1920 by the Liberty Ship Building Company of Wilmington, North Carolina, she is the sister ship of the Cape Fear.

Sapona was sold for scrap to Carl Fisher, one of the developers of Miami Beach, who initially used as a casino and later for oil storage.  Purchased in 1924, the ship was moved  to Bimini and used as a warehouse for alcohol during Prohibition.


Wreck of the Sapona
(2160 x 1440) – photo by Joy K

During World War II, the wreck was used for target practice by the U.S. Army Air Force and U.S. Navy. Flight 19 vanished while returning from a bombing run over the Sapona and nearby Hens and Chickens shoals.

The wreck lies in about 15 feet of water, the stern is broken off and partially submerged. It is a popular dive site and figured as a key setting in Ian Fleming’s novel, Thunderball.

Sapona on wikipedia

A waypoint for cruising yachtsmen, the SS Sapona
has a history rife with mystery and intrigue

on Power and Motoryacht

imageThe SS Cape Fear was a cargo steamer launched in 1919. Tragically, on October 30, 1920, the Cape Fear collided with another ship, the City of Atlanta, and “shattered as if a teacup was hit.” She sank in three minutes and took 19 of her crewmen with her.

Her remains lie under 170 feet of water at the bottom of entrance of Narragansett Bay off the coast of Rhode Island.  +

image: Hunting New England Shipwrecks; Cape Fear


Lana`i: Shipwreck Beach; Hawaii

unknown concrete hulk; believed to be WW II disposal


The Gu Tian was abandoned shortly after her maiden voyage in 1974
and has since become a home to squatters and is a local tourist attraction
in Fuzhou, capital of southeast China’s Fujian Province. source: image above

more: World’s largest concrete ship dismantled after 40 years on the riverbank


Abandoned concrete ship, lower reaches of the Volga, Russia

see also: Betonowiec; hulk on Dabie Lake, Poland


 Tall Ship In Concrete
Seoul, Korea



Crossing the line HMS Campania 1952
Original (1073 x 816)

HMS Campania (D48)

Escort aircraft carrier of the Royal Navy that saw service during the Second World War. After the war, the ship was used as a floating exhibition hall for the 1951 Festival of Britain and as the command ship for the 1952 Operation Hurricane, the test of the prototype British atomic bomb.

Built at Harland & Wolff shipyards in Belfast;  intended as a refrigerated cargo ship for transporting lamb and mutton from New Zealand, she was requisitioned by the British Government during construction; completed and launched, then entered service in early 1944.


HMS Campania at anchor; 27 March 1944

In 1951, she was the Festival of Britain‘s exhibition ship, touring the country’s ports with a civilian crew as the Festival Ship Campania to supplement the main exhibition in London and two thousand local events.

imageThe Festival Office’s resident designer, James Holland, considered that the vessel would “not convert easily into a showboat”, but with the massive demand for shipping to help rebuild Europe after the war, he and his colleagues felt lucky to have any ship at all.

She was repainted white and decorated with skeleton masts and bunting. Between 4 May 1951 and 6 October, the ship visited Southampton, Dundee, Newcastle, Hull, Plymouth, Bristol, Cardiff, Belfast, Birkenhead and Glasgow, staying at each port for 10–14 days.

abv rt: Festival of Britain Guide to the South Bank Exhibition
(2,147 × 2,834 pixels) designed by Abram Games.

see: Poster advertising the Festival of Britain’s Sea Travelling Exhibition
on the Festival Ship Campania


The 1951 Festival of Britain in pictures
on The Telegraph

The Festival’s centrepiece was the South Bank Exhibition, in the Waterloo area of London. A smaller exhibition of the South Bank story was put on the Campania. +

The original 1951 exhibition was attended by eight million people and was designed to be a post-war celebration of the nation. +


Festival ship Campania, Festival of Britain 1951
(2117 x 1331)


Another view of Campania
(1024 x 651)


AND a truly hideous postcard
(1024 x 651)

With the festival over, the ship was refitted in Birkenhead for a very different role, as the command ship for Operation Hurricane, the test of the first British atomic bomb on the Monte Bello Islands off western Australia.

the rest


15 Miles from the South Bank Exhibition;
Ford Motor Company of Dagenham FofB guide book advertisement

see Leonard Bentley’s  Festival of Britain guide book on Flickr


Boating Pool; situated in a crater leftover from the wartime bombing
(1024 x 661)

Internet Archive Film: Brief City (1952)

The Festival of Britain exhibit from the Museum of London


Boy’s Life: Starboard TackCollier’sCurtiss Seagull
new on X-Ray Delta’s photostream


Illustration by Frank Wootton (2559 x 1770)
(original painting;  2831 x 2000)


General Motors; 1943 – Pancakes the U-Boats Can’t Stomach!
(2833 x 1791)

nazi crane

trick up his sleeve! – artist- Gil Cohen
(3318 x 2240)


C.S. Forester: Lieutenant Hornblower
Pan Books 1963 – Cover art by Tayler
original (2612 x 4183)
published 1952 second book in the series chronologically

Cecil Scott “C.S.” Forester was the pen name of Cecil Louis Troughton Smith (27 August 1899 — 2 April 1966), an English novelist who rose to fame with tales of naval warfare.

During World War II, Forester moved to the United States where he worked for the British Information Service and wrote propaganda to encourage the US to join the Allies.


training Ship HMS Implacable
Portsmouth Historic Dockyard’s photostream
Original (1600 x 1165)


HMS Black Prince 1861
Portsmouth Historic Dockyard
original (1440 x 1057)

The world’s second ocean-going, iron-hulled, armoured warship, following her sister ship, HMS Warrior. For a brief period the two Warrior-class ironclads were the most powerful warships in the world, being virtually impregnable to the naval guns of the time. Rapid advances in naval technology left the two obsolete within a short time.

420 feet (128.0 m) long overall,  beam of 58 feet 4 inches (17.8 m) and a draught of 26 feet 10 inches (8.2 m). The hull was subdivided by watertight transverse bulkheads into 92 compartments and had a double bottom underneath the engine and boiler rooms.

One 2-cylinder steam engine driving a single 24-foot-6-inch (7.5 m) propeller.  Maximum speed of 13.6 knots (25.2 km/h; 15.7 mph) under steam alone. She carried 800 long tons (810 t) of coal, enough to steam 2,100 nautical miles (3,900 km; 2,400 mi) at 11 knots (20 km/h; 13 mph). Sold for scrap in 1923.

HMS Black Prince (1861) on wikipedia

see also HMS Black Prince 1861 on Maritime Quest


#36 Paddle Steamer La Marguerite
Mitchell’s Cigarettes “River & Coastal Steamers” (set of 70 issued in 1925)
Original (1093 x 589)

“This palatial paddle steamer is the property of the Liverpool and North Wales Steamship Company. Used on the Liverpool to Llandudno service since 1904”

see also:
RMS Manxman and Steamship Lady Limerick


Vernadsky Research Base; 4 February 2013
‎(4,505 × 2,534 pixels)

The world’s Southernmost bar

Marina Point on Galindez Island in the Argentine Islands

Originally founded in 1947 by the British as an Antarctic expeditionary base, Vernadsky Research Base was bought by the Ukraine in 1996 for the price of one British pound, since the cost to dismantle the base would have been too great. The pound coin Verdansky was purchased with still resides in the site’s most interesting location, the Vernadsky Station Lounge: the southernmost bar in the world.

more on Atlas Obscura

(English) Vernadsky Station website

see also: Dead Horse Bay, Brooklyn
First a horse rendering plant, then a 19th century landfill,
this beach of glass is scavenger heaven


East Canning Dock and New Dock Board Offices, Liverpool

Original (1652 x 1035)


Children’s Textbook Covers in 1920s Japan
on 50 Watts via the National Diet Library

see also Creepy Dutch Safety posters


1935 Player’s Cigarettes ad

Adventures of the Blackgang on tumblr
(twitter) – (instagram)
Maritime Monday Archives »

Back to Main