Google is keeping everyone guessing over mystery barge floating in San Francisco Bay

The search giant refuses to confirm it owns the four-storey structure

Four storeys tall, 250ft long and 72ft wide, there’s little doubt that Google’s latest idea is a big one.

The only problem: nobody knows what it is yet.

The mysterious structure, swaddled in scaffolding and floating on a vast barge in San Francisco Bay, is composed of shipping containers welded together, painted white with several narrow slits for windows and topped with 12 spires that may be antennae.

The waterborne monolith has been linked to Google, yet the search giant has refused to confirm it owns the structure or reveal its purpose.

The barge, which is generating feverish speculation in San Francisco and Silicon Valley, is registered to a Delaware firm, By and Large LLC.

The mystery deepened this week with the discovery of another,  near-identical barge 2,700 miles away on the east coast of the US, in Portland, Maine. This is said to have appeared in Portland’s harbour on 11 October and is also registered to By and Large.

Local media reports suggest a Maine-based company, Cianbro, has been making secret interior and electronics modifications to the structure. Cianbro would not provide any details of its client or the work, but revealed the barge is destined to leave Portland once it is completed. A comprehensive investigation of the San Francisco barge by the Cnet website determined its most likely purpose was as a massive, sea-going computer server. In 2009, Google was granted a patent for a “water-based data centre”.

Bob Jessup, a construction professional whose workplace is adjacent to the facility on Treasure Island in San Francisco Bay, where the structure was assembled, told Reuters the project had been underway for a year.

The area was fenced off, he said, while the shipping containers were outfitted with electronics equipment and then loaded on to the barge with a crane. He estimated that about 40 welders worked on the structure, but would not reveal any details.

“It was a phenomenal production,” Mr Jessup said. “None of them would tell  us anything.”

Over the weekend, the Bay Area news station Kpix reported that the barge might be a mobile store for a new line of high-tech eyewear, Google Glass, designed to travel from city to city via the coast and rivers.

The search giant is sufficiently concerned about keeping its latest venture a secret, however, so that even US government officials have been legally prevented from disclosing any details about the barges and their contents. At least one coast guard employee and an inspector for a California state government agency have signed non-disclosure agreements with Google.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Female Care Worker

£7 - £8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This expanding, vibrant charity which su...

Recruitment Genius: Parts Supervisor & Advisor - Automotive

£16500 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the South East's leading...

Recruitment Genius: Housing Assistant

£16819 - £21063 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Account Manager - OTE £60,000

£35000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: In 2014, they launched the worl...

Day In a Page

Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones