Mothball Fleet Revealed

Journey Inside the Ghost Ships of San Francisco

UPDATE: The show is over, but you can read about our adventures and see more photos on my blog.


Over the course of 18 months, three intrepid photographers captured exclusive, behind-the-scenes images of the decaying ghost ships moored in Suisun Bay. Known as the Mothball Fleet, these historic vessels served in four American wars, including World War II. Many of the ships captured by the photographers have since been towed to Texas or Mare Island for scrapping, in an ongoing effort to rid the bay of its most toxic vessels.

In association with the nonprofit, public art organization, Place in History and the artists’ hub of Workspace Limited in San Francisco, you are cordially invited to see artistic images of the mothball fleet on a large-screen, digital projector. This is the first time these photos are being shown to the public.

Learn why some of these ships were highly classified. You’ll view racks that once held submarine torpedoes, walk below the massive 16-inch deck guns of the USS Iowa battleship, and see photos of the the top secret “stealth” ship, the IX-529 Sea Shadow. Hear the history of these ships and the surreal experience of walking around the inside of their hulls—many of which have stood frozen in time for 40 years with 1940s-era artifacts inside and completely intact.

Find out how the photographers gained unprecedented access to the captain’s quarters, radio rooms, and bridges of these ships—sometimes spending days at a time documenting them.

thumbnail image thumbnail image thumbnail image thumbnail image thumbnail image thumbnail image thumbnail image thumbnail image

Exclusive Photos and Narrative by:

  • photo of Stephen Freskos

    Stephen Freskos is a San Francisco Bay area based photographer, adventurer and motorcycle builder who has been infiltrating active, inactive, and abandoned Bay Area locations for the past 20 years.

  • photo of Jon Haeber

    Jon Haeber has been visiting restricted sites for over a decade. In 2009, his nighttime photos of Neverland Ranch were viewed by millions before the dismantlement of the theme park and the death of Michael Jackson. Haeber has appeared in The New Yorker online, CNN, NBC, CBS, ABC, Der Spiegel, the San Francisco Chronicle, National Geographic News, and the Travel Channel. His book, Grossinger’s: City of Refuge and Illusion (Furnace Press, 2010, ISBN 978-0-9772742-8-4) tells the story of America’s most iconic Catskills institution.

  • photo of Scott Haefner

    Scott Haefner is a professional photographer based in the San Francisco Bay area who frequently shoots in places that most people choose not to venture. Photographing abandoned buildings and other forgotten places, often under the cover of darkness, is what captivates him the most. His work has been featured in the San Francisco Chronicle, Los Angeles Times, BBC News, Photo District News and Photo Techniques, as well as specials on the Discovery and History Channels.

Saturday May 7, 2011 from 7:00pm – 9:00pm

$8 at the door

Workspace Limited
2150 Folsom St.
San Francisco, California 94110
Google Map

Press Release

226 Attending

  • Abdelilah Bennouna
  • Adam Bayer (+1)
  • Alan Grinberg Looking forward!
  • Alex Lee
  • Alvin Tenpo (+1)
  • Amber Wilson
  • Amelia Salem (+2)
  • Amy Heiden
  • Amy Kaufman
  • Andy Frazer
  • benjamin de kosnik (+2) interesting
  • Benjamin Ruppert
  • Benjamin Tice Smith
  • Bob Horowitz (+1)
  • Brett Arve
  • brian bohne
  • Brian Cartmell (+2) Can’t Wait!
  • Brian Gerke (+1)
  • Brian Kelly (+1)
  • Briony Joshi (+1)
  • Bruce Helmberger (+1)
  • Bryan Allen awesome excited to see it!
  • Bryan Walman (+2) Should be a fun night!
  • CAPT Phil Roos (+1) Thanks a lot for doing this - as a Navy Sailor - a few of my old ships have been parked there. Your past photography is amazing - I’m sure this won’t disappoint.
  • Carolyn Meyer
  • Carrie Whitsett
  • Casey Bisson (+3)
  • Charlie Cunningham (+1) sweet!
  • Chloe Bowen
  • Chloe Ramos-Peterson (+1) It will be myself attending as well as my husband. Thank you.
  • Christopher Kohler (+1) I go by “Kit.” I know Jonathan H through UER website from awhile back. :)
  • Claudette Freskos
  • Crystal Theresa Zapanta
  • cy curran (+1)
  • D. Ryan Seregow
  • Dan Cuniberti (+2)
  • Dan Kalin I am very excited to view these photos. Especially excited to see Amy Heiden’s work!
  • Dave Frain (+2)
  • Dave R Count me in!
  • David Dasinger
  • David Hoffman (+3)
  • David Ojala (+1)
  • David Oliver (+1)
  • david r. perry (+1)
  • Destry Vining
  • Doug Corbin (+1) Super awsome count me there. I am a artist, and metalworker and come from a family with a long navy history. I can not count how many times I’ve stared at those ships from the shore and wondered.
  • Eleanor
  • Eric Pennington (+2)
  • Erika Amir (+2)
  • Eugenia (+1)
  • Gene
  • Gene Wood and Kris Larson (+1)
  • Greg Osuri
  • Heather Doane
  • Holman Chu (+3)
  • Howell Cant
  • Hunter Luisi
  • Ian (+1)
  • Jack Freskos
  • Jamie Fajardo Calimquim
  • Janet Blake
  • Janet Young
  • Jared Isaacson
  • Jennifer Wall
  • Jeremy Anderson
  • Jesper Sparre Andersen This is SO cool.
  • Jessica Votaw
  • Jessie van Roechoudt
  • John Chesterman (+1)
  • John Konrad Thanks
  • Jon Alloway
  • Jon Haeber
  • Jonathan Wiggins (+1) Oohh mayne. can’t wait!
  • Jonna Bennouna
  • Jordan Sudy (+1)
  • Julie Chung
  • Julie Cress (+1)
  • Kari Payne I can’t wait!
  • Katrina LeGris
  • Keith R
  • Kelly Jensen Whoa, awesome!
  • Kelsie Mazziotti
  • Keoki Seu
  • Kerri Hamernick
  • Kit Kohler
  • Kristen
  • Kristen Crooker (+1)
  • Kristen M. Kong
  • KT
  • Kurt Brown Booyah!
  • Lauren Armstrong
  • lee guerin IMPRESSMENT!
  • Lilah Johnson wow. can’t wait!
  • Lisa Ouellette Been watching some of these photographers for a long time, and have kayaked around the boats. This should be a treat.
  • Luke Stevens (+1)
  • Marc Tarlock
  • Marcy Protteau
  • maria hanafy So excited!
  • Marisa Richardson (+1) Looking forward to seeing you guys!
  • Matt Lambert (+1)
  • Matt Szczepanski
  • Matthew Blain
  • Mauricio Munoz
  • Mel Schultz
  • Michael Layefsky
  • Michael Marfell I can’t wait!
  • Michael Moore
  • Michela Cortopassi
  • Michelle Bishai
  • Michelle C (+1)
  • Mike Marfell - daughter
  • mike rosati when is the book coming out?
  • minda bohne
  • Nate
  • Nathan Shaw
  • Nichole Knepprath
  • Nick Fisher
  • Nina Mulderrig
  • Norma Leon (+1) w/ Jesus Leon
  • Patrick Joynt
  • Patrick Wang (+1)
  • Philip Hope
  • Rick Kitagawa
  • rj harris (+2) wow
  • Rob M (+1)
  • Romeo Leon
  • Ryan Wenker
  • Sabrina Merlo
  • Sam Stokes
  • Samuel C Huckaby (+1) Count my wife and me to be there. Thanks Stephen!
  • Scott Haefner
  • Sean Head
  • Serge Stepanov (+1)
  • Shadin Saah
  • shai & Tora (+1)
  • shanan delp
  • Sharon Hahn Darlin
  • Stacy Tsukayama
  • Stephanie Repp
  • Stephen Freskos
  • Steve Steele (+1)
  • Stuart Dixon (+3)
  • Susan Marie Johnson (+1) Dave Holsonback and I look forward to seeing your show….it looks very interesting.
  • Susanne Friedrich (+1) can’t wait to see this
  • Tawny Byrd
  • Ted Weinstein
  • Teresa Tam
  • Tim Baskerville
  • Todd Lappin YAY!
  • Tony Riggins (+1)
  • Tracey Dunitz (+1)
  • Troy Holden (+1) Can’t wait to see the slides!
  • Troy Paiva
  • Van (+1)
  • Winfried Would love to come, alas SF is 11 hours flying..

Share this page: