San Francisco is Built on a Ghost Ship Graveyard
Did you know the Metro to Embarcadero Station passes through a buried Gold Rush ship?
With median house prices at around $1.1 million, San Francisco is the most expensive real estate market in North America. No wonder people are getting creative about where to lay their hat. Unable to buy and unwilling to rent at extortionate rates, some are choosing to live out of trucks and RVs, or make do on boats and in shipping containers.
In a way, this spells a return to the city's roots as a Gold Rush boomtown. As this map shows, San Francisco is built on the discarded hulks of mid-19th-century ships once used as storage units, houses and hostels. How long before they come onto the market as 'period rental units', underground lofts kitted out and priced to suit the taste and the wallets of the tech crowd pushing up real estate prices elsewhere in the city?
Until 1848, San Francisco was a sleepy Mexican village of a few hundred souls, lost in the dunes of the peninsula between the Pacific and the Bay. Two events that year dramatically altered the course of history: the U.S. won the war against Mexico, acquiring vast territories including the future U.S. state of California; and gold was discovered in that territory, drawing in thousands of fortune-seekers from all over the world.
This was before planes, trains and automobiles. The overland route from the East Coast to California was shorter, but the sea route was faster. This was also before the Panama Canal, so ships had to round Cape Horn, all the way down on the southern tip of South America. Still, roughly one third chose this route. In 1849, 42,000 Americans flocked to California over land, while 25,000 boarded a ship.
The Gold Rush utterly transformed California’s demographics. In 1850 alone, the population of California grew from 18,000, mainly Spanish and natives, to 92,600, with most newcomers from the U.S. but also many from Europe and China. Only a few of the these 'forty-niners' actually struck it rich in the gold fields. Most turned to other trades, transforming San Francisco, the terminus of the sea route to California, into a boom town.
By the estimate of a San Francisco harbourmaster in April 1850, no less than 62,000 people from across the globe had arrived in the city by the Bay in the preceding 12 months. About 500 ships clogged up Yerba Buena Cove and vicinity.
“During the height of the gold excitement, there were at least five hundred ships stranded in the harbor, some without even a watchman on board, and none with a crew sufficiently large to work her. Many of these vessels never sailed again. Some rotted away and sank at their moorings”, wrote Herbert Asbury in The Barbary Coast.
This “forest of masts” was both a nuisance, and a business opportunity. Some ships were refurbished and set out to sea again. Others were broken up for scrap metal and wood – either firewood or building material for some of the city’s Victorian houses. Many of these ships passed through ‘Rotten Row’, Charles Hare’s ship-breaking yard, operated by Chinese crews. About 200 of the nicer ships were repurposed as storage for coal, flour, water and other goods in high demand; as boarding houses and hotels; and in one case (though not the same case) even as a jail and a church. Eventually, many of the boats that remained were sunk, to secure water lot titles.
Water lots were dispensed on condition that buyers fill them with land. This way, the city wanted to bring the shoreline closer to the deeper part of the Bay, facilitating the delivery of goods. The easiest way to claim a water lot was to scuttle a ship.
Yerba Buena Cove originally stretched all the way to Market and First streets, curving as far inland as Montgomery Street. The dozen or so wharves that stuck out into the Cove served as tendrils for the expansion of San Francisco’s shoreline. From 1851, when a giant fire reduced many ships to their water lines, it was filled with sand. The remaining ships were boxed in between roads and houses, stripped of upper works and their hulks then scuttled to make way for landfill.
By 1857, some hulks still obstructed the harbour, while others had been overtaken by the expanding waterfront, forming the basement to tenements built on their decks. By the early 1870s, a seawall enclosed the cove along a path concurrent with the present-day Embarcadero. In 1888, a Mr. Bancroft, a local historian, wrote that "even now, remains of the vessels are found under the filled foundations of houses".
The reclaimed Cove now forms San Francisco’s flattest land – the Financial District and the Embarcadero. If in these parts you find yourself going uphill, you’re close to the original shoreline. This area is a veritable ship graveyard, although that fact was soon forgotten in the fast expanding city. Some ships have been rediscovered during later construction work, some several times. Around 45 of them are known to lie beneath downtown San Francisco. Some are marked with plaques or an outline on the street, but most ships of this ghost fleet remain forgotten. Marine historian James Delgado suspects some 30 more are still undiscovered, resting beneath a few dozen feet of silt.
This map lists the ones we know of that are still 'anchored' in Yerba Buena Cove, roughly a century and a half after it was filled in. Many more are to be found in a list of over 300 ships, which among the 'sepulchred vessels' also mentions the Cadmus, which brought Lafayette to America in 1824, and the Plover, which sailed the Arctic in search of the doomed Franklin expedition.
Le Baron - Owned by Fairpool & Jonse, lay for a long time near Long Wharf, and finally sunk near North Point dock.
Palmyra - Inside of India Dock, or what is now Battery, between Greenwich and Filbert, was a small brig. Her position was about what is now the corner of Battery and Greenwich streets.
Japan - Captain Hoyt had the bark Japan. She was finally broken up by Batchelder at Cowell's wharf.
Envoy - The vessel went down north of Union street between Front & Battery streets and when the mud was squeezed up by filling Front street the old hulk reappeared and Burns stripped copper from the Hull selling the metal for 10 a pound.
Philip Hone - A store-ship, named after the Mayor of New York, gradually covered up by the filling in. The houses on Union street, opposite the Union street school, came out in this vessel.
Fortuna - aka Fortune. Used for a period as a hotel on the block now bounded by Battery and Front, Vallejo and Green streets. She was finally broken up by Hare.
Arkansas - aka the Old Ship. The ship was hauled up Pacific street, to near the northeast corner of Battery, and was used for many years as a store ship, and finally her forecastle was used as a tavern. A hotel was finally built over her. These days, you can still get a drink at The Old Ship Saloon, at 298 Pacific Avenue.
Garnet - An American brig.
Cordova - Used as a storeship for some time and finally as a water ship. Water sold for $1 and $2 a bucket in those days.
Elmira - Sunk by Captain Crowell at the corner of Pacific and Davis streets.
Inez - An old New Bedford whaler, sunk at the northwest corner of Pacific and Drumm streets on the line of Drumm, with her bow toward Pacific.
Edwin - Lay near Pacific Wharf, was made a bonded warehousing ship, built over.
Almandrilina - Owned by captain M.R. Roberts, brought round the Horn in '49. When his wife followed him by way of the Isthmus, Roberts fitted the Almandrilina for her until he completed his residence, on the corner of Washington and Stockton Streets.
Ricardo - Lying next to the remains of the Almandrilina, it was also owned by capt. Roberts and brought round the Horn by him, with full cargoes for the gold fields, afterwards converted into warehouses, and finally into boarding and lodging houses until they were covered over.
Magnolia, Brilliant - Brigs used for storage ships and boarding houses.
Balance - Built in Calcutta of teak wood, 92 years old when she arrived in San Francisco. She was captured from the British in the War of 1812 by James DeWolf's Yankee privateer True Blooded Yankee, who re-christened her the Balance to balance a ship lost by him a short time before captured by a British cruiser. Went into the mud to remain at the corner of Front and Jackson streets.
Globe - Used as a cistern for the storage of water to be used in case of fire.
Alida - A white-painted ship, brought into port by two Norwegians.
Hardie - An English brig, about twenty feet from the Noble and directly opposite Clark street.
Noble - Used as a storage ship.
Bethel - English ship buried at the corner of Drumm and Clark streets. Her bow points toward Drumm.
Georgean - Between Jackson and Washington, west of Battery Street.
Louisa - A schooner, previously a yacht of the King of the Hawaiian Islands. Did storage duty for a time, then broken up.
Niantic - Stranded on the corner of Clay and Sansome, was covered over with a shingle roof and converted into offices and stores on deck, while the hull was divided into warehouses. A hollow pile was driven down through the stern below the salt-water line and about the best water in the town was pumped from that well. After a fire destroyed most of the structure, what remained became the foundation for the Niantic Hotel, which stood until 1872. At its most recent rediscovery, in 1978, most of the stern was destroyed, and numerous artifacts salvaged, including two pistols, a rifle and derringer, 13 bottles of champagne, stoneware ink bottles, leather-bound books, bolts of fabric, cabin doors, hundred-year-old brass paper clips, copper sheeting, and nails.
General Harrison - Uncovered at the northwest corner of Battery and Clay during construction in 2001. An 11-storey hotel now stands over the site. An outline of the hull on the sidewalk memorialises the ship.
Fame - A brig on the corner of Clay and Front Streets, broken up by Hare, and mentioned in 1857 as “fast disappearing”.
Francis Ann - On the corner of Clay and Front streets, broken up by Hare.
Elizabeth - Used as a bonded storeship for the port, eventually broken up and sunk about 100 feet along East street, between Clay and Merchant, in about thirty-five feet of water.
Apollo - The rotting hulk was rediscovered several times during construction work in the early 20th century. In it were found coins of 1840, an American penny of 1825, a British penny of 1797, pipes, a large nugget, a sextant, ship's fittings, and more.
Euphemia - Used as San Francisco’s first jail and simultaneously as California’s first insane asylum, until the asylum was built at Stockton.
Thomas Bennett - Contained a grocery store. At the southwest corner of Sacramento and Front, she lies parallel with Sacramento with her bow pointed towards Battery street.
Henry Lee - Lay for a long time on California Street on the site later occupied by Selby's store.
Tecumseh - On the southwest corner of California and Battery streets, sold by the United States Marshall and broken up.
Salem - Lay for several years on California street on the site of Hooker's store.
Autumn - A storeship, on Davis street, near Market, broken up by Hare.
Rome - A three-masted vessel sunk in 1852 at the southwest corner of Market and East streets, its hulk used as a coal ship. Her bow touched the edge of Market Street. Later, the Ensign saloon was built over her. In the mid-1990s, crews digging an extension to the Muni Metro system rediscovered her. She was deemed too large to remove. Thousands Metro passengers travelling outbound from Folsom Street to Embarcadero Station unwittingly pass through the Rome’s forward hull each day.
Othello - Used as a storeship on Stewart street.
Byron - The bark Byron was broken up at Mission Street near Main street in the early fifties.
Trescott - On the corner of Main and Mission. Goss & White, owners, and Captain L. L. Batchelder, keeper. Finally broken up.
Panama - Converted into Seamen's Bethel, for which she was used for many years. There was a Methodist Church in the Panama, on Davis street, between Washington and Clay, and Father Taylor was the minister. He had a real pretty wife and I think that was the reason that the boys chipped in so liberally. Finally, some parties who did not have the fear of God in them, stole all the pews one fine night, and others carried off the pulpit, and that ended the conversion of sinners on the water front. When religious services were no longer held there she was taken to Beale and Mission and cut up.
Callao - At Mission & Beale Streets, the Calleo was broken up and left there.
Many thanks to Joel Winten for alerting me to maps of San Francisco’s ghost fleet. This map found here at SFGate. Description of the ships found mainly in the aforementioned list, found here at SF Genealogy. More on the buried ships in this 1912 article from the San Francisco Call, this article on FoundSF, and this one on Upout (1).
Strange Maps #795
Got a strange map? Let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
(1) In the comments section of this article, one reader mentions discovering a ship with over 320 Chinese skeletons on board while doing construction work in the early 70's, at Fremont and Market: “The other operator, a despicable individual whose name I'll keep anonymous in case he's still alive, worked alongside me, and he was stealing their gold teeth”.
A Chinese benevolent society eventually buried the remains at Colma, a curious city south of San Francisco that was founded as a necropolis, with cemeteries for every denomination. An independent city even today, the dead outnumber the living (app. 1,800) by about a thousand to one. Famous burials include Phineas P. Gage, a railroad worker who survived an accident in which a large iron rod was driven completely through his skull, destroying much of his brain; William R. Hearst, the infamous newspaper tycoon; Wyatt Earp, of O.K. Corrall fame; Levi Strauss, popularizer of blue jeans; Joe DiMaggio, baseball legend; Abigail Folger, heiress of the coffee empire and murder victim of the Manson Family.; and Joshua A. Norton, the so-called Emperor of the U.S.
Northwell Health CEO Michael Dowling has an important favor to ask of the American people.
- Michael Dowling is president and CEO of Northwell Health, the largest health care system in New York state. In this PSA, speaking as someone whose company has seen more COVID-19 patients than any other in the country, Dowling implores Americans to wear masks—not only for their own health, but for the health of those around them.
- The CDC reports that there have been close to 7.9 million cases of coronavirus reported in the United States since January. Around 216,000 people have died from the virus so far with hundreds more added to the tally every day. Several labs around the world are working on solutions, but there is currently no vaccine for COVID-19.
- The most basic thing that everyone can do to help slow the spread is to practice social distancing, wash your hands, and to wear a mask. The CDC recommends that everyone ages two and up wear a mask that is two or more layers of material and that covers the nose, mouth, and chin. Gaiters and face shields have been shown to be less effective at blocking droplets. Homemade face coverings are acceptable, but wearers should make sure they are constructed out of the proper materials and that they are washed between uses. Wearing a mask is the most important thing you can do to save lives in your community.
Two massive clouds of dust in orbit around the Earth have been discussed for years and finally proven to exist.
- Hungarian astronomers have proven the existence of two "pseudo-satellites" in orbit around the earth.
- These dust clouds were first discovered in the sixties, but are so difficult to spot that scientists have debated their existence since then.
- The findings may be used to decide where to put satellites in the future and will have to be considered when interplanetary space missions are undertaken.
What are they?<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xODgyMDA0NC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzNTM1ODc0Mn0.NH33LuauIo__sUBi4tvhwxDcsvhflDFD-Nhx9FjlSNk/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=148%2C0%2C149%2C0&height=700" id="cec96" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="acb78abe2ab46a17e419ad30906751d6" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Artist's impression of the Kordylewski cloud in the night sky (with its brightness greatly enhanced) at the time of the observations.
G. Horváth<p>The<a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kordylewski_cloud" target="_blank"> Kordylewski clouds</a> are two dust clouds first observed by Polish astronomer Kazimierz Kordylewski in 1961. They are situated at two of the <a href="https://www.space.com/30302-lagrange-points.html" target="_blank">Lagrange points</a> in Earth's orbit. These points are locations where the gravity of two objects, such as the Earth and the Moon or a planet and the Sun, equals the centripetal required to orbit the objects while staying in the same relative position. There are five of these spots between the Earth and Moon. The clouds rest at what are called points four and five, forming a triangle with the clouds and the Earth at the three corners.</p><p>The clouds are enormous, taking up the same space in the night sky as twenty lunar discs; covering an area of 45,000 miles. They are roughly 250,000 miles away, about the same distance from us as the Moon. They are entirely comprised of specks of dust which reflect the light of the sun so faintly most astronomers that looked for them were unable to see them at all. </p><p>The clouds themselves are probably ancient, but the model that the scientists created to learn about them suggests that the individual dust particles that comprise them can be blown away by solar wind and replaced by the dust from other cosmic sources like comet tails. This means that the clouds hardly move but are <a href="https://www.nationalgeographic.com/science/2018/11/news-earth-moon-dust-clouds-satellites-planets-space/" target="_blank">eternally changing</a>. </p>
How did they discover this?<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xODgyMDAzNi9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1Nzc4MjQ4MX0.7uU9OqmQcWw5Ll1UXAav0PCu4nTg-GdJdAWADHanC7c/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C180%2C0%2C181&height=700" id="952fb" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="a778280a20f1c54cd2c14c8313224be2" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
"In this picture the central region of the Kordylewski dust cloud is visible (bright red pixels). The straight tilted lines are traces of satellites."
J. Slíz-Balogh<p>In their study published in the <a href="https://academic.oup.com/mnras" target="_blank">Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society</a>, Hungarian astronomers Judit Slíz-Balogh, András Barta, and Gábor Horváth described how they were able to find the dust clouds using polarized lenses.</p><p>Since the clouds were expected to polarize the light that bounces off of them, by configuring the telescopes to look for this kind of light the clouds were much easier to spot. What the scientists observed, polarized light in patterns that extended outside the view of the telescope lens, was in line with the predictions of their mathematical model and ruled out other possible sources. </p>
Why are we just learning this now?<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xODgyMDAzOS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY2MjUyNDMyMH0.Zl8GmQ_rJHiL4b7hN0r_YBmgb6_ZqIRvqOVuko2ubpw/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C141%2C0%2C185&height=700" id="87afe" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="dd4c0b5088e601d7279cc5eb226f8b7b" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
"Mosaic pattern of the angle of polarization around the L5 point (white dot) of the Earth-Moon system. The five rectangular windows correspond to the imaging telescope with which the patterns of the Kordylewski cloud were measured."
J. Slíz-Balogh<p>The objects, being dust clouds, are very faint and hard to see. While Kordylewski observed them in 1961, other astronomers have looked there and given mixed reports over the following decades. This discouraged many astronomers from joining the search, as study co-author Judit Slíz-Balogh <a href="https://ras.ac.uk/news-and-press/research-highlights/earths-dust-cloud-satellites-confirmed" target="_blank">explained</a>, <em>"The Kordylewski clouds are two of the toughest objects to find, and though they are as close to Earth as the Moon are largely overlooked by researchers in astronomy. It is intriguing to confirm that our planet has dusty pseudo-satellites in orbit alongside our lunar neighbor."</em></p>
Will this have any impact on space travel?<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="c3d797fff5430c64afcb5a49bddc3616"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/Ou8N3v9SFPE?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>Lagrange points have been put forward as excellent locations for a space station or satellites like the <a href="https://jwst.nasa.gov/about.html" target="_blank">James Webb Telescope</a> to be put into orbit, as they would require little fuel to stay in place. Knowing about a massive dust cloud that could damage sensitive equipment already being there could save money and lives in the future. While we only know about the clouds at Lagrange points four and five right now, the study's authors suggest there could be more at the other points.</p><p>While the discovery of a couple of dust clouds might not seem all that impressive, it is the result of a half-century of astronomical and mathematical work and reminds us that wonders are still hidden in our cosmic backyard. While you might never need to worry about these clouds again, there is nothing wrong with looking at the sky with wonder at the strange and fantastic things we can discover. </p>
New cancer-scanning technology reveals a previously unknown detail of human anatomy.
- Scientists using new scanning technology and hunting for prostate tumors get a surprise.
- Behind the nasopharynx is a set of salivary glands that no one knew about.
- Finding the glands may allow for more complication-free radiation therapies.
PSMA PET/CT technology<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="676e611b970c9b516cace0870447b325"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/RHAyoQF09X4?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>PSMA PET/CT is a new combination of <a href="https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/pet-scan/about/pac-20385078" target="_blank">PET scans</a> and <a href="https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/ct-scan/about/pac-20393675" target="_blank">CT scans</a> that is believed to offer a more reliable means of locating prostate cancer metastasis. A <a href="https://www.cancer.gov/news-events/cancer-currents-blog/2020/prostate-cancer-psma-pet-ct-metastasis" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">study</a> published last spring suggests it may be the most accurate way to diagnose prostate cancer metastasis than any method previously available.</p><p>Prior to PSMA PET/CT, the primary way to look for metastatic prostate cancer was to image the body using x-ray-based CT scans and to perform bone scans, since bone is where prostate cancer often spreads. CT scans, however, often miss small tumors, and bone scans can generate false positives as a result of other damage or abnormalities that have nothing to do with prostate cancer.</p><p>PSMA PET/CT scans track the travels of an intravenously administered radioactive glucose tracer throughout the body. For hunting down prostate cancer, this tracer contains a molecule that binds to the <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1472940/" target="_blank">PSMA</a> protein that's present in large amounts in prostate tumors. The molecule is linked to a radioisotope, <a href="https://netrf.org/2018/11/13/gallium-68-scan-for-neuroendocrine-tumors/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">gallium-68</a> (Ga-68).</p><p>In last spring's research, PSAM PET/CT was shown to be 27 percent more accurate than previous methods at finding metastases (92 percent accuracy as opposed to 65 percent). In addition, it was found to be much less likely to produce false positives, and it was particularly good at detecting tumors far removed from the prostate.</p>
A good kind of avoidance behavior<p>"Radiation therapy can damage the salivary glands," says Vogel, "which may lead to complications. Patients may have trouble eating, swallowing, or speaking, which can be a real burden."</p><p>The researchers looked back through the cases of 723 patients who had undergone radiation treatment, interested in seeing if inadvertent radiation of the tubarial glands was associated with the complications experienced by the patients. It turned out that this <em>was</em> the case: In cases where more radiation had been delivered to this area, patients did indeed report more in the way of complications of the type one would expect when salivary glands are radiated.</p><p>Now that we know the tubarial salivary glands exist, therapists can stay out of their way. Vogel says, "For most patients, it should technically be possible to avoid delivering radiation to this newly discovered location of the salivary gland system in the same way we try to spare known glands."</p><p>He's hopeful that that things may be about to get at least a bit better for cancer patients: "Our next step is to find out how we can best spare these new glands and in which patients. If we can do this, patients may experience less side effects which will benefit their overall quality of life after treatment."</p>
A new survey found that 27 percent of millennials are saving more money due to the pandemic, but most can't stay within their budgets.