This week’s Secret of SoCal is the SS Monte Carlo.

Although many Southern California residents were dubious and disappointed about the ‘El Niño year’ because of the lack of rain, there were other identifiers that suggested that El Niño did happen; the impact on ocean temperatures, and the speed and strength of ocean currents were direct indicators. Thanks to the strong currents, the SS Monte Carlo resurfaced after 80 years of being buried beneath the sand off the coast of Coronado Island.

This 300-foot concrete ship started its voyage in 1921 as Tanker No.1 for the US Army Quartermaster Corps before it shortly became a civilian cargo ship known as the SS McKittrick. Things didn’t get scandalous until about 12 years later.

In 1932, the SS McKittrick became the SS Monte Carlo, a gambling ship. This ship joined other gambling ships in Long Beach just three miles off the United States coastline to avoid trouble with the government. These ships were frequently involved in organized crime such as bootlegging, prostitution, and gambling. To get on these ships, passengers had to take free water taxis.

As time went on, these gambling ships grew more and more popular. The SS Monte Carlo was towed to the shores of San Diego, in attempt to expand the water gambling business, where it resided for almost a year. In December of 1936, a storm overtook the Monte Carlo, snapping the mooring chains and leaving the ship loose at sea.

In January of 1937, the wrecked ship washed up on the shores of Coronado Island, containing gambling tables, bottles of alcohol, and hundreds of thousands of dollars of silver coins. No one claimed the ship because gambling and prostitution were illegal.

Thanks to the strong currents from El Niño, this ship can once again be seen around the coordinates (32°40’26″N, 117°10’23″W) during low tide. I highly recommend a visit to the SS Monte Carlo! Check back next week for another Secret of SoCal!

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