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Google “mystery barge” moored at Treasure Island!

Bay Bridge, Treasure Island, Yerba Buena Island

There is a barge moored at a former Navy base on Treasure Island in San Francisco Bay that has a four-story structure made of shipping containers, on top. Although officials won’t say what is going on, a little investigation by media has pretty much ascertained that the barge is owned by Google, headquartered 40 miles south, in Mountain View, California.

On Friday, tech blog CNET reported:

Google did not respond to multiple requests for comment. But after going through lease agreements, tracking a contact tied to the project on LinkedIn, talking to locals on Treasure Island, and consulting with experts, it’s all but certain that Google is the entity that is building the massive structure that’s in plain sight, but behind tight security.

Could the structure be a sea-faring data center? One expert who was shown pictures of the structure thinks so, especially because being on a barge provides easy access to a source of cooling, as well as an inexpensive source of power — the sea. And even more tellingly, Google was granted a patent in 2009 for a floating data center, and putting data centers inside shipping containers is already a well-established practice.

The barge is 250 feet long, 72 feet wide, and 16 feet deep, and was built in 2011 in Belle Chasse, La., by C & C Marine and Repair. Its registration number is BAL 0010. Behind it is a perfect view of the new eastern span of the San Francisco Bay Bridge. On top is a four-story-tall modular building made from shipping containers and sporting 12 tall white spires that look like they could be anything from masts to flagpoles to antennas. The containers each have three narrow slits for windows, and there is a stairway on the northeast corner that goes from ground level to the top. There’s also one container on that side that slants to the ground at a 45-degree angle. Wrapped mostly in dark netting, the structure doesn’t reveal what’s inside.

And then, the plot thickened! :-) Could this have something to do with Google Glass, the wearable computer-connected eyeglasses that I saw on a Google employee who visited the LAA Gallery at the Carnegie Building in Livermore?

CNN says:

But San Francisco station KPIX, a CNN affiliate, threw a twist into the narrative, quoting unnamed “sources close to the project” as saying the structure will be retail space — a sort of floating Google store. Google hopes to tow the structure across the bay to San Francisco, where it would be used to market Google Glass, the company’s connected eyewear, KPIX reported.

Google Glass, the company’s big leap into wearable technology, puts computer capabilities into eyeglasses. The headsets so far have been released only to early testers and are expected to go on sale to consumers in the coming months.

If you know San Francisco government well, then you also know about bureaucracy. And if you know innovators, you know that they generally DON’T LIKE bureaucracy….

An official with the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission told KPIX that there have been discussions with Google about “hypothetical operations” on the bay.

But work on the project suddenly stopped a few weeks ago. One possible reason: An insider close to the commission told KPIX that Google “can’t park this barge on the waterfront without a permit, and they don’t have one.”

Stay tuned….

-Bill at

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