Concrete concept boat floats… but not for long

We know that vessels of wood, fiberglass, steel, and even papyrus can float. But concrete? Seems implausible, but it happened.

vintage postcard, concrete ship “Atlantus,” Cape May Point, NJ, built 1918, sank 1926

The Concrete Ship – “S. S. Atlantus”
Cape May Point, New Jersey
by Harlan B. Radford, Jr.

Pittsburgh Daily Post, Jan 26, 1919, p10

The remains of the concrete ship now situated at the foot of Sunset Boulevard in Cape May, NJ was one of an experimental lot of 12 freighter ships built by the United States Government during World War I. The rather unlikely concrete construction technique was brought on by the critical wartime shortage of steel.

Launched in 1918, not only did the “Atlantus” float, she was used as a coal steamer until being decommissioned since the concrete vessel proved a disappointment by her sheer weight and slow speed.

Later, promoters purchased the “Atlantus” for use as a ferry landing for a proposed route from Cape May Point to Lewes, Delaware. But one night a nor’easter broke it from its mooring and beached it before proper placement could occur.

Attempts were made to raise the ship and re-position it but to no avail. Consequently, the proposed ferry project did not materialize. Over many years, millions of visitors have traveled to see her sink deeper and deeper into the sand. Eventually, the “Atlantus” will disappear entirely and be just a distant memory.

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John McCormick

Teacher at Riverton School 1974-2019, author, amateur historian, Historical Society of Riverton Board Member 2007-2023, newsletter editor 2007-2023, website editor 2011-2023

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