SS Palo Alto

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Palo Alto
Palo Alto
United States
Name: SS Palo Alto
Namesake: Palo Alto, California
Builder: San Francisco Shipbuilding Company, Oakland, California
Launched: 29 May 1919
Fate: Grounded as a fishing pier at Seacliff Beach in Aptos, California
General characteristics [1]
Type: Design 1100 tanker
Length: 420 ft (130 m)
Beam: 54 ft (16 m)
Depth: 35 ft (11 m)
  • Llewellyn Iron Works 3-cylinder triple expansion steam engine
  • 359 nhp
  • 1 shaft

SS Palo Alto was a concrete ship built as a tanker at the end of World War I. She was built by the San Francisco Shipbuilding Company at the U.S. Naval Shipyard in Oakland, California. She was launched on 29 May 1919, too late to see service in the war.[2] Her sister ship was the SS Peralta.

She was mothballed in Oakland until 1929, when she was bought by the Seacliff Amusement Corporation and towed to Seacliff State Beach in Aptos, California. [3]A pier was built leading to the ship, and she was sunk in a few feet in the water so that her keel rested on the bottom. There she was refitted as an amusement ship, with amenities including a dance floor, a swimming pool and a café.[4]

The company went bankrupt two years later, and the ship cracked at the midsection.[when?] She was stripped of her fittings and left as a fishing pier. Eventually she deteriorated to the point where she was unsafe for this purpose and was closed to the public.[when?] Today she remains at Seacliff Beach and serves as an artificial reef for marine life.

In spring of 2005, oil found on wildlife nearly two years earlier was traced back to the ship.[citation needed] In September 2006, a clean-up project was started estimated at $1.7 million.[citation needed] No oil is known to have spilled into the ocean, but wildlife experts believe birds came into contact with oil by entering the ship's cracked hull while diving underwater for fish.[citation needed] The cost of the cleanup was approximately the cost of the original construction of the ship in 1919.[citation needed]

Though already split in about three pieces, winter storms in February of 2016 caused yet another severe breakage.[5]


  1. ^ Bender, Rob. "S.S. Palo Alto". Retrieved 17 December 2012. 
  2. ^ Heron, David W. (2002). Forever Facing South, The story of the S.S. Palo Alto "The Old Cement Ship" of Seacliff Beach (Revised third printing ed.). Santa Cruz, California: Otter B Books. ISBN 0-9617681-3-4. 
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Coordinates: 36°58′10.75″N 121°54′50.31″W / 36.9696528°N 121.9139750°W / 36.9696528; -121.9139750