El Niño Storms Unearths 1936 Wreckage of ‘Sin Ship’ Used for Gambling During Prohibition


The SS Monte Carlo was used as a den for gambling, prostitution, and booze during prohibition.

The oceans cover 71 percent of the Earth’s surface, and there is no shortage of bizarre objects riding currents only to end up on different beaches. Severe weather is at least partly to blame for items that have been tossed from cargo ships, washed away during a tsunami or unearthed during a hurricane.


In 2016, El Nino storms, which stripped a great deal of sand from the shores of Coronado, California, have revealed an amazing glimpse into history. During the low tide, the rusted remains of SS Monte Carlo emerged from the beach.

Joe Ditler, Coronado historian and also executive director of the Coronado Museum of History & Art, said there were rumors that at least $100,000 worth of silver dollars was buried with the wreckage. According to Ditler, a huge storm in Monte Carlo on Dec. 31, 1936, crushing the ship from its moorings three miles from Coronado’s shore.

“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,” he told NBC San Diego.

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 time around.

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