APTOS (CBS SF) – Like a punch-drunk fighter, the hull of the S.S. Palo Alto continues to take blow after blow delivered by Mother Nature.
The World War I era tanker, which has spent the last 77 years as a portion of a fishing pier at Seacliff State Beach in Aptos, was battered yet again by Mother Nature’s fury a little over a week ago.
Some of the biggest waves in decades ripped through the hull, further tearing apart the aged wreckage. A flyover by KPIX Sky Drone 5 shows the ravaged remains under sunny skies on Monday.
The ship’s slow-motion death is a final chapter of a colorful maritime saga.
The S.S. Palo Alto was built in the shipyards of Oakland and launched in 1919 — too late to help America win the Great War.
Ten years later, the Navy mothballed the ship and eventually sold it to the Seacliff Amusement Corporation.
It was a time before television when families traveled to amusement sites for entertainment. Crowds flocked to Playland at the Beach in San Francisco and Neptune Beach in Alameda.
The S.S. Palo Alto was placed at the end of a pier in Aptos, the hull sunk into the water and the upper decks turned into a dance floor, public swimming pool and a café.
Seacliff Amusement was a casualty of the Great Depression, the Palo Alto was stripped, cement was added to the superstructure and it was converted into a fishing pier. The cement coating earned the ship its nickname – the Cement Ship.
Over the years, storms have beaten, battered and broken the ship. Access to its decks have been opened and closed to the fishing public many times.
But it remains a marine sanctuary – home to an assortment of coastal marine wildlife. And it’s future, well like the punch drunk fighter it is standing again, awaiting yet another assault from Mother Nature.