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
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Digital Trade Advisers - Yorkshire and Humber

£29500 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company in Yorkshire and t...

Recruitment Genius: Project and Resource Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing experience-led technology co...

Recruitment Genius: Production Scientist

£23000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company specialises in the...

Recruitment Genius: Factory Manager - Food

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

Homeless Veterans campaign

Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

Lost without a trace

But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

Confessions of a planespotter

With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

Russia's gulag museum

Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

The big fresh food con

Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

Virginia Ironside was my landlady

Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

Paris Fashion Week 2015

The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
8 best workout DVDs

8 best workout DVDs

If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

Paul Scholes column

I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable