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
Tim Walker is The Independent’s Los Angeles correspondent, covering entertainment and other concerns from the West Coast of the US. He was previously a features writer and the editor of the paper’s diary column. His first novel, Completion, is being published in January 2014.
Wednesday 30 October 2013
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.
- 1 Raif Badawi, the Saudi Arabian blogger sentenced to 1,000 lashes, may now face death penalty
- 2 PornHub turns masturbation into energy in bid to save the planet
- 3 Robert Mugabe eats a zoo for 'obscene' 91st birthday party
- 4 The remarkable archaeological underwater discovery that could open up a new chapter in the study of European and British prehistory
- 5 The jihadi girls who went to Syria weren't just radicalised by Isis — they were groomed
Stephen Hawking's wife Jane Wilde on their marriage breakdown: 'The family were left behind'
Raif Badawi, the Saudi Arabian blogger sentenced to 1,000 lashes, may now face death penalty
Someone has actually got a tattoo of that dress
PornHub turns masturbation into energy in bid to save the planet
White and gold or blue and black – what colour is the dress? An eyewitness gives a definitive answer
New theory could prove how life began and disprove God
This is what it's like to be dead, according to a guy who died for a bit
'Jihadi John': CAGE representative storms off Sky News accusing Kay Burley of Islamophobia
Ukip would cut billions from Scottish budget to fund English tax cuts
Russia's roadmap for annexing eastern Ukraine 'leaked from Vladimir Putin's office'
Ukraine crisis: Top Chinese diplomat backs Putin and says West should 'abandon zero-sum mentality'
£56500 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful & reputable global business is l...
£30000 per annum + contributory pension: Ashdown Group: An established Not for...
£32000 per annum + pension, healthcare & 23 days holiday: Ashdown Group: A gro...
£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...