La Jenelle was a passenger ship that went aground and wrecked in 1970 on Silver Strand at Port Hueneme, a sandy beach created partly from dredged harbor sand about 1 mile (1.6 km) long and 450 feet(140 m) wide, about 33 miles (53 km) southeast of Santa Barbara and 3.3 miles (5.3 km) south of Oxnard, California. Silver Strand is situated between the north breakwater for the Port of Hueneme, formed mostly from the remains of La Jenelle, and the south jetty of Channel Islands Harbor. The name for Port Hueneme is derived from the Spanish spelling of the Ventureño phrase wene me, meaning ‘Resting Place’. Ventureño is one of the extinct languages historically spoken by the Chumash people along the coastal areas of Southern California between San Luis Obispo to the north and Malibu to the southeast.
The Coast Chumash lived on Oxnard Plain for thousands of years and there is archaeological evidence, such as fire-affected rock, shellfish, and vertebrate faunal remains, suggesting that Native Americans visited the area during the late spring and summer to gather marine and terrestrial foods. In 1837, Rancho El Rio de Santa Clara o la Colonia was a land grant of 44,883 acres (18,164 ha) given by Governor Juan B. Alvarado to seven former Presidio of Santa Barbara soldiers including Valentine Cota, Salvador Valenzuela, Vicente Pico, Rafael Valdez, Vincent Feliz, Leandro Gonzales, and Rafael Gonzales. The grant extended from the Santa Clara River in the north to the present-day Point Mugu Naval Air Station to the south, encompassing much of the Oxnard Plain. In the 1860s, Thomas R. Bard, who was an agent for the Philadelphia and California Petroleum Company, bought a five sevenths of the land grant from the Gonzales family and built a wharf to take advantage of the naturally occurring depth of a submarine canyon. Hueneme soon became the largest grain-shipping port south of San Francisco and the wharf was extended to 1,500 feet (460 m) in 1897. In 1939, excavation of the harbor began and the U.S. military took control of the entire harbor during World War II and significantly enlarged the deep water port. In 1960, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers excavated Channel Islands Harbor from sand dunes and wetlands and depositing the surplus sand on nearby beaches.
La Jenelle was originally built in 1931 as the passenger liner SS Borinquen by the Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corporation in Quincy, Massachusetts. In 1941, the ship was requisitioned by the U.S. Army for the war effort as a transport and had a capacity for 1,289 troops and 404 medical patients. She was one of the Army transports during the Normandy invasion and continued military service after the war until 1949 when she was sold and renamed the Arosa Star. The Arosa Star served passenger routes in the Atlantic and later in the Caribbean as the Bahama Star. In 1964, the ship was sold to the Western Steamship Company and was renamed again as La Jenelle. The new owners brought her to Port Hueneme for conversion as a floating restaurant and casino. But by 1970, she was anchored outside the harbor to avoid expensive docking fees when a severe northwest gale caused the anchors to drag and the ship went aground on Silver Strand. Rather than salvage the wreckage, the U.S. Navy removed the superstructure and filled the hull with rocks to make a breakwater that today still protects the port entrance. Read more here and here. Explore more of Silver Strand here: