WWII ‘Ghost Boat’ Emerges in Receding California Shasta Lake Waters

by Caitlin Berard
(Photo by George Rose/Getty Images)

A relentless worldwide drought has devastated countries across the globe, drying up lakes and rivers and leaving entire communities without water. It’s also, however, ignited fascination among scientists and history buffs alike, as the receding waters around the world have brought countless ancient artifacts to the surface.

Now, this isn’t exactly a positive, as it’s the silt and sediment beneath the glittering surface of the earth’s fresh water that preserves the artifacts, keeping them in relatively pristine condition for millions of years. But while researchers hope that the primordial finds are soon plunged to the depths once again, they can’t help but marvel at the historical wonders the drought has unearthed.

One such find appeared in the waters of Shasta Lake in California. As the drought stole depth from the lake inch by inch, a piece of American history began to emerge. The Higgins Boat, also known as “The Ghost Boat” from World War II is now clearly visible, resting on the cracked, dry terrain that was once the floor of Shasta Lake.

The U.S. Forest Service Identifies the “Ghost Boat”

Soon after the boat surfaced, the Forest Service set out to identify the mystery vessel. During their inspection of the boat, they discovered that it was stamped with the numbers “31-17”. This confirms it was assigned to the Attack Transport U.S.S. Monrovia, General Patton’s headquarters during World War II.

“Eisenhower also was on this ship at that time,” the Forest Service explained in a Facebook post. “And it went on to a further 6 D-Day invasions in the Pacific. Reportedly it was used in the invasion of Tarawa. It names the crew and states that it sank in shallow water during that invasion (later salvaged).”

So, we know the ship’s origins. But how did the rusted corpse of the Ghost Boat end up in California’s largest reservoir? How did it sink in the first place?

The truth is that no one knows. “There is more to discover of its history and obviously its time on Shasta Lake,” the Forest Service wrote. “And still, the circumstance of its sinking remains a mystery.”

While researchers work to answer the many questions created by the vessel’s resurface, the Ghost Boat will find a new home in a museum in Nebraska. There, restoration experts will preserve what’s left of the little boat and do their best to recreate its original appearance.

“It really is quite remarkable how it emerged from the lake with so many stories to tell. Any ‘restoration’ will be done to preserve as much of the integrity of the boat as possible,” the Forest Service explained. “And will hopefully preserve it in a weathered ‘combat fatigue’ look. And that is how it is intended to be displayed at a museum in Nebraska.”