SS Selma

WWI concrete ship, sunk after hitting a jetty outside Galveston, Texas in 1920.
by Matthew Anderson

Year Built


Year Sank



4 ft (1.2 m)

Difficulty Level


SS Selma

Wreck Location

Selma lies close to Pelican Island on the Pelican Flats. Measurements of the seafloor from Google Earth, seem to indicate Selma has sunken deep into the sand of the Pelican Flats, making the deepest accessable part of the wreck 4 feet below the waves. The ship is extremely close to the city of Galveston, only being 3 miles northeast of downtown. The wreck also lies close to the Galveston campus of Texas A&M University. The wreck also lies close to Seawolf Park. Thankfully, the wreck doesn't lie in the main shipping lanes, especially since its partially aground in only four feet of water.

~ GPS Shipwreck Location ~
Latitude:   29° 20' 39.318" N      Longitude:   -94° 47' 10.608" W


SS Selma

(Photo from the National Hurricane Center.)

Selma was a Design 1100 concrete oil tanker constructed in 1919 as part of the American WWI "Emergency Fleet". Her sister ship was the Latham. Both ships were built at F.F. Ley and Company in Mobile, Alabama. Intended for use during the war, which was long since over, the Selma was sold to a private corporation and entered service as a Gulf of Mexico based oil tanker. In 1920, Selma struck a jetty off Tampico, Mexico and limped to Galveston, Texas for repairs. The ship was unable to be repaired and was abandoned by her owners. Unable to be sold off, Selma was intentionally sunk in shallow waters off Pelican Island where she still lies today.

Selma lies mostly intact with her bow higher elevated than her stern. Large holes in her sides and deck have formed over the last 90 years. Selma's stern is almost entirely underwater while the bow is above water. The superstructure is long gone and the middle "island" of the ship has corroded badly. Selma is jokingly considered the "flagship of the Texas army" and has become a local attraction. The wreck is owned by A. Pat Daniels, who was able to get the wreck to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places and be recognized as an Official Texas Historical Marker by the Texas Historical Commission.


Selma was part of a series of ships built of concrete for the U.S. Military in the late 1910s early 1920s. Selma is of the EFC Design No. 1100 oil tanker series. During World War I, steel was a highly sought after material needed for warships and other high priority military equipment. Reinforced concrete was an easy to construct, strong and cheap alternative to steel. President Wilson approved the construction of an "Emergency Fleet" of 24 ships in 1918. Only 12 were finished, all after the war, and sold to commercial operators. Many ended up as fishing piers, breakwaters and shipwrecks. Only one is still afloat as a Powell River breakwater in British Columbia; the Peralta.


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