During WWI there was a shortage of steel and research was begun in earnest to find alternate ship designs. From this came one of the most bizarre concepts ever created: the concrete ship. 38 concrete ships were planned, by the US Shipping Board, and 12 were actually built and went into service. The “Atlantus” was a 3,000 ton 250 foot long freighter, built with a 5 inch thick hull of special concrete aggregate, to correct shattering and brittleness problems found in the first concrete ship. (ya think?)
The “Atlantus” was built by the Liberty Shipbuilding Corporation, of Brunswick, Georgia. She was launched on November 21st, 1918, at Wilmington, North Carolina. Commissioned June 1st, 1919, the “Atlantus” served for a year as a government owned privately-operated commercial coal steamer in New England. With the end of the war, the more efficient steel ships were again available. The “Concrete Fleet” was de-commissioned, and the Atlantus was sent to the “Bone Yard” at “Pigs Point”, in Norfolk, Virginia in September of 1920. A year later, the Atlantus was stripped after being purchased by a salvage company.
In 1926, the Atlantus was towed to Cape May, New Jersey. A Baltimore firm was attempting to start a ferry service from Cape May, New Jersey to Lewes, Delaware. It was planned to have a channel dredged well into shore. The Atlantus would then be forced into the channel. A special drawbridge type of device was to be mounted on the exposed end. Two other bulks would be sunk at angles creating a “Y” shape. The ferry would dock by wedging in and cars and passengers would load and unload by use of the drawbridge. While awaiting positioning, the Atlantus broke loose of her moorings during a storm in 1926 and went aground. Several attempts were made to free the Atlantus – they were futile.
The ship remains partially exposed above the water off the shore of Cape may beach, although as you can see in the pics here, there used to be a helluva alot more of that shipwreck then there is today