Tag Archives: Sunset Beach

Sunset Beach: A Concrete Boat and Cape May Diamonds

At dusk any night of the week, locals gather at Sunset Beach, Cape May Point, NJ, to watch the spectacular reddening of the sky over Delaware Bay. From May through September they are also there for the evening flag ceremony that honours veterans right before sunset.

For newcomers, perhaps the most amazing sight at Sunset Beach is the half-sunk concrete ship Atlantus. Due to a shortage of steel during World War I, the Federal government experimented with concrete ships and produced 12 of these heavy-weight floaters. The Atlantus was the second prototype, a 3,000 ton, 250-foot long freighter with a five-inch-thick hull of concrete aggregate. Launched on Nov. 21st, 1918 at Wilmington, North Carolina, the Atlantus served for a year as a government-owned, privately operated commercial coal steamer, plying the waters of New England. Needless to say, the concrete experiment was not particularly efficient and the ships were decommissioned at the end of the war. The Atlantus went to the Bone Yard at Pigs Point, Norfolk, VA, and in 1920 it was towed to Cape May where a Baltimore firm was planning to start a ferry service between Cape May and Lewes, Delaware. The Atlantus was supposed to act as a dock, but she broke loose of her moorings and now lies with her bow peeking forlornly from the water’s surface. She’s a big draw for tourists who are also attracted to the beach to search for Cape May Diamonds.

As the Atlantus appears now.

What’s a Cape May Diamond? About 200 miles upstream along the Delaware River quartz deposits get dislodged by the swift waters and are carried along the strong current to Delaware Bay.

Tumbled by the tides, the opaque nuggets (some as big as an egg!) are washed ashore at Sunset Beach. Pop into Sunset Beach Gifts and you’ll see a selection of polished, cut quartz crystals that dazzle like diamonds in pendants and earrings. Prices range from $25-$40 for a pair of earrings. www.sunsetbeachnj.com