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FOUND: A California ‘Sin Ship’ Wreck, Revealed by El Niño

The SS Monte Carlo (Photo: Jamie Lantzy/Wikimedia)

On the coast of Coronado, California, there’s a ship buried in the sand—the wreckage of the SS Monte Carlo, a ship once dedicated to sin, and ruined by a winter storm in December 1936.

Occasionally the ship’s remains make an appearance from beneath the sand. This year, El Niño storms have shifted the sand enough to reveal parts of the wreck that haven’t been seen in years.

The SS Monte Carlo was 300 feet long and, at peak usage, would host 15,000 people a week, including, most famously Clark Gable and Mae West. The ship was anchored miles offshore, so that it was located in international waters, where, even during Prohibition, no one could stop the drinking and gambling. Guests could play blackjack, roulette or slots, and often there would be huge parties on board. 

In December 1936, the ship was closed for the season, so when a storm snapped it from its moorings, only a couple of caretakers were on board. When the wreckage made it to shore, no one wanted to claim it as their own, given its shady business. The city carted away the liquor that was still in the ship and stripped the vessel of its valuable parts—although it’s said that a hoard of silver coins were left behind and can still be found in the wreckage. 

Bonus finds: 9,000 bottles of fake champagneperhaps the earliest known image of the Virgin Mary

Every day, we highlight one newly lost or found object, curiosity or wonder. Discover something unusual or amazing? Tell us about it! Send your finds to sarah.laskow@atlasobscura.com.