Beneath the sands of San Diego’s Coronado Beach lies the concrete and iron remains of a 300-foot ship called the SS Monte Carlo. Built in 1921, the oil tanker found a new life in the 1930s as “the world’s greatest pleasure ship,” the largest of several notorious mob-owned “sin ships” anchored in international waters three miles off the coast of California. There, wealthy patrons, including some of Hollywood’s glamorous elite such as Clark Gable and Mae West, could indulge in liquor, gambling and prostitution outside the jurisdiction of Prohibition-era US laws.
On New Year’s Day in 1937, a violent storm wrenched the Monte Carlo from her moorings and set the ship adrift. Eventually the iniquitous floating den ran aground on the Coronado shore, where the activities for which it was known were illegal. Not surprisingly, no one stepped up to claim ownership.
Authorities soon confiscated the slot machines and other gambling paraphernalia from the wreck. Scavengers ran off with whatever was left, and then the Monte Carlo was left to ruin, swallowed by the sand and surf, eventually forgotten.