Sitting in the San Francisco Bay is a large, unmarked barge, thought to be owned by Google. But no one knows what it's doing there.
What makes things even more interesting is on the opposite side of the country in a Maine sits another uncannily similar vessel.
A mysterious barge thought to be owned by Google has set up shop in the San Francisco Bay and Portland Harbor in Maine. (Image source KPIX video screenshot)
Floating near Treasure Island between San Francisco and Oakland, the barge, according to CNET, is called a secret project by locals. People not involved don't know what going on inside or if/when it could be revealed.
CNET, which was first to speculate on the structure, has tracked down what little is known of the barge and is pointing a finger at Google, although the company has not responded to the tech site's request for comment.
Showing the images taken by James Martin for CNET to an expert, some believe it to be a floating data center. Supporting this idea, CNET noted a patent for a "water-based data center" filed by Google in 2009.
Another angle showing the barge, which still doesn't have an official permit according to reports, in the San Francisco Bay. (Image source KPIX video screenshot)
Then there's the similar structure about 2,700 miles way in Portland, Maine.
“I am very surprised to hear there is another one,” Jonathan Koomey, a data center expert at Stanford University who was at first only aware of the one in California, told the Portland Press Herald. “This is fascinating.”
The exterior of the barge based in Portland is already put together, but the newspaper reported interior work, including tech equipment setup, is scheduled to begin. The company performing this work signed a nondisclosure agreement.
More evidence linking the two barges are their registration numbers, according to the Press Herald. The one in Maine is registered as BAL 0011, while the one in the San Francisco Bay is BAL 0010. Both are the same size and were built in Belle Chasse, La.
But the plot thickens with KPIX-TV reporting another identity option shortly after CNET's original report:
KPIX 5 has learned that Google is actually building a floating marketing center, a kind of giant Apple store, if you will — but for Google Glass, the cutting-edge wearable computer the company has under development.
What's more KPIX reported on some of the permitting issues the operation might be going through. Although work on the barge had been pressing forward for a few months, the local station reported that it stopped a few weeks ago.
A permit is needed to park on the waterfront and special permission needs to be granted if long term operation is expected in the bay, according to the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission. If Google wants a permit, BCDC Executive Director Larry Goldzband told KPIX it would need tell what it's doing there.
This, coupled with a local controversy about a plan for a new arena on Treasure Island, might mean Google's structure wouldn't get approved.
"They may end up with egg on their face and a lot of money lost in the drink," an unidentified person described as a waterfront expert told KPIX.
Watch KPIX's report with footage of the secretive project: