Thrashing El Nino storms, which stripped a great deal of sand from the shores of Coronado, California, have revealed an amazing glimpse into history.
During low tide Saturday, the rusted remains of SS Monte Carlo emerged from the beach, close to Avenida de las Arenas. Joe Ditler, who has been studying the shipwreck for 30 years, was there to snap pictures of the wreckage, which appears from time to time when sand is sparse.
According to Ditler, a vicious storm rocked the Monte Carlo on Dec. 31, 1936, breaking the ship from its moorings three miles from Coronado’s shore.
Two caretakers were rescued from the 300-foot boat, and on New Year's morning, it washed up on South Coronado Beach.
In the Prohibition days, the ship was anchored in international waters to avoid U.S. laws. People searching for gambling, prostitution or bootleg whiskey would take smaller boats out to the “sin ship” for a night of revelry, Ditler told NBC 7.
Famous actors such as Clark Gable and Mae West reportedly gave the Monte Carlo their patronage.
“Evangelists throughout San Diego County and Southern California devoted their whole sermons to sin ships, ‘May God let forth His wrath!’” Ditler explained. “When it did break moorings and crashed, they took credit.”
He said there were rumors that at least $100,000 worth of silver dollars was buried with the wreckage when sand washed over the Monte Carlo.
The beached ship, once known as a pleasure palace, now provides pleasure to sightseers lucky enough to catch it at a very low tide.
“I’m going to research it. I’m probably going to try and get a lot of information on it,” said teen Sophie Lee. “Try and look it up and look at pictures and stuff like that.”
If more El Nino storms lash San Diego’s shores, Ditler expects more people may get to see the piece of local maritime history. Since he has lived here, he said he has never seen so much of the wreckage as he did this weekend.
Its reoccuring reappearance, he said, is ironic, given the beach on which it washed up.
"Coronado is prim and proper, and here's this gambling ship, this sin ship, that crashed on the beach in the 1930s and they can't get rid of it," said Ditler.