SS Monte Carlo

The SS Monte Carlo was a concrete ship launched in 1921 as the oil tanker SS McKittrick. In 1936 she became a gambling and prostitution ship operating in international waters off the coast of Coronado, California.

SS Monte Carlo
SS Monte Carlo wreck visible at low tide near Coronado Shores 30 January 2010
  • Old North State (While under construction)[1]
  • Tanker No. 1 (1921-1923)[1]
  • McKittrick (1923–1932)[1]
  • Monte Carlo (1932–1937)[2]
Owner: Associated Oil Company (1923-1932)[1]
Ordered: 1918
Builder: Liberty Ship Building Company in Wilmington, North Carolina (later the Newport Shipbuilding Company)[1]
Launched: 1921
Completed: 1921
In service: 1923
Out of service: 1932
Fate: Wrecked 1937
Notes: Hull built out of reinforced concrete
General characteristics
Class and type: Concrete oil tanker based off an incomplete EFC Design 1070 cargo vessel
Type: Oil tanker
Length: 300 ft (91 m)[1]
Beam: 44 ft (13 m)[1]
Height: 24 ft (7.3 m)[1]
Propulsion: Single Nordberg triple expansion steam engine[1]
Notes: Started construction as the EFC Design No. 1070 concrete oil tanker Old North State


To reduce the utilization of steel during World War I, on 12 April 1918, President Woodrow Wilson approved the construction of concrete ships, overseen by the Emergency Fleet Corporation (EFC).[3] In total, 24 ships were approved for construction. Only 12 ships were completed by the 1918 armistice.[4] Although the remaining unbuilt ships were cancelled, a 13th and final ship was under construction at the Newport Shipbuilding Company yard in Wilmington, North Carolina. This third Design No. 1070 concrete oil tanker sister ship to the previously completed Sapona and Cape Fear became known as Old North State. Author Norman Lang McKellar believed construction was completed in 1921 under the temporary name of Tanker No. 1, probably heavily modified from its original EFC design.[1] Tanker No. 1 was used by the U.S. Quartermaster Corps until 1923, when the vessel was purchased by the Associated Oil Company of San Francisco and re-purposed as the commercial oil tanker McKittrick.[1][2] McKittrick was powered by a single Nordberg triple expansion steam engine which was the same unit for other EFC concrete vessels.[1]

In 1932, McKittrick was sold to Ed V. Turner and Marvin Schouweiler and renamed Monte Carlo.[5] Her hull was further filled with concrete to reduce motion and the former oil tanker was converted for the purpose of gambling, prostitution and drinking, all of which were illegal during Prohibition.[5] Under the operation of Anthony Cornero,[5] she became the largest gambling ship operating off the California coast. Monte Carlo opened for business off Long Beach on 7 May 1932 coinciding with the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics along with two other gambling ships of the fleet.[5] Monte Carlo was moved to international waters off Coronado Island in 1936. California law enforcement was unable to shut down the ship's operations as she was just beyond their jurisdiction. The Water taxis and ferries that carried customers to and from Monte Carlo were subject to high taxation in an attempt to undermine the financial viability of the business.[2]


In 1937, Monte Carlo was anchored 3 miles (4.8 km) in international waters off Coronado Beach in San Diego during a storm on New Year's Day when the anchor lost its hold. The ship drifted onto the beach in front of what is now the El Camino Tower of the Coronado Shores condos. Because this vessel was illegal once on shore, no one claimed ownership. The wreckage can be seen underwater at low tide, and is occasionally exposed during strong storm tides. The surrounding beach where she came to rest was coined locally as "Shipwreck Beach" by a Coronado writer and historian in 2005.[2]

It is speculated that there may be $150,000 worth of silver dollar coins remaining in the wreckage. According to the late lifetime resident of Coronado, Edward "Bud" Bernhard[6] who retrieved hundreds of dollars from the shipwreck as a child: "I’m convinced there is $100,000 in gold and silver coins deep in that wreck".[2]

See also


  1. McKellar, Norman (2007) [1960]. Roberts, Stephen (ed.). "Ferro-Concrete Ships" (PDF). Steel Shipbuilding Under the U.S. Shipping Board, 1917 - 1921. Belgium: The Belgian Shiplover.
  2. Ditler, Joe (3 February 2016). "Coronado's Shipwreck Exposed: New History Also Revealed". Coronado Patch. Retrieved 23 November 2016.
  3. Eberhardt, Robert (1995). Crawford, Richard (ed.). "Concrete Shipbuilding in San Diego 1918 - 1920" (Web Article). San Diego, California: San Diego History Center.
  4. Bender, Robert (2011). "A Brief History of Concrete Ships". Concrete
  5. Ditler, Joe (10 March 2014). "Shipwreck Monte Carlo Visible - New History Comes To Light". Coronado Times. Retrieved 19 February 2018.
  6. "Edward "Bud" Bernhard". Coronado Eagle & Journal. June 7, 2007. Retrieved 19 February 2018.

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