For over 90 years, just off Sunset Beach, in Historic Cape May Point, New Jersey, lies the concrete ship Atlantus.
Due to a critical shortage of steel, during World War I, the federal government turned to experimental design concrete ships. An emergency fleet of 38 concrete ships were planned, by the United States Sipping Board. Only 12 of the concrete ships were ever put into service. Two others had construction begun, but were never completed.
The "Atlantus" was the second prototype, 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.
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 decommissioned, 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 June 8th, 1926 and went aground. Several attempts were made to free the "Atlantus" - they were futile.
Thousands of visitors come annually to view the cracked weather-beaten hull and collect beautiful Cape May Diamonds that lie in abundance on Sunset Beach in Historic Cape May Point, New Jersey.