After World War II ended, 10 concrete ships, nine of which had been approved by the U.S. Maritime Commission, were intentionally sunk off the coast of Virginia to form a breakwater.
The ships were lined up end to end, and they have remained in the deep protecting the pier and the beaches of Kiptopeke State Park on the Eastern Shore for more than 70 years.
Ten concrete ships built in the U.S. prior to the end of World War II remain afloat as a breakwater barrier in the Malaspina Strait in the City of Powell River, British Columbia, Canada.
The first concrete ship to be built was launched in March of 1918, eight months prior to the end of World War I. Christened as the S.S. Faith, the cost of building the ship was $750,000. A shortage of steel led to the building of concrete ships during both World War I and World War II.
Concrete does not rust the way steel is prone to do, and those ships with hulls constructed of concrete have outlasted steel ships by decades although concrete ships are more costly to build.
Chained together and positioned in the City of Powell River, the 10 concrete ships remained afloat to protect the Powell River Company’s paper mill’s logging pond until the paper mill no longer needed the protection and considered sinking them.
After a corporate merger with Pacifica Papers and Norske Canada, Pacifica Papers no longer processes raw materials, and the ships that protected the paper mill’s logging pond have been reconfigured.
The names of the concrete ships still afloat are S.S. Quartz, S.S. YOGN, S.S. P.M. Anderson, S.S. Emile N. Vidal, S.S. John Smeaton, S.S. Thaddeus Merriman, S.S. Armand Considere, S.S.L. J. Vicat, S.S. Henri Le Chalelier and S.S. Peralta.
The S.S. Peralta is the oldest of the remaining concrete ships and the last to have been built during World War I. It was named for Rafael Peralta, a Navy Cross recipient, and christened in Oct. of 1915. Built as an oil tanker by the San Francisco Shipbuilding Company, the concrete ship has been afloat for more than 100 years.
Ray Allen is the Editor of the Virginian Review. Mr Allen received his A.B. degree in English and physical education (1963) and M.A. degree in secondary education (1965) from Morehead State University before earning his M.F.A. degree in theatre arts from UCLA (1980) where he majored in writing for motion pictures and television. He retired as an educator in 2004, having taught 11 subjects and having coached five varsity sports during his 41-year-career that led him to teach and coach in Ky., Mich., Calif. and Va.