An old ship in western Washington state has been overtaken by nature in an oddly beautiful and especially eye-catching way.

The four-masted schooner in question, called La Merced — Spanish for “Mercy” — now sits as a breakwater in a spot in Anacortes, Washington, having been overtaken by trees in a beautiful case of nature and creative recycling mingling together.

However, the ship itself has a long and interesting history, and the story of how it ended up in its current place only adds more poignancy and charm to its current role and surroundings.

The Storied History of La Merced

The 232-foot-long ship known as La Merced was originally built more than a century ago in 1917. Though four-masted schooners were common in those days, they no longer are. They are so rare today, in fact, that only four of them remain intact.

The ship was used as an auxiliary vessel near the end of World War I and was then put to use bringing American oil over to Australia and New Zealand and returning with grain from down under.

In the late 1920s, the ship was turned into a floating food canning factory operating out of Alaska. This remained its role in the world until, finally, in 1965, La Merced’s masts, propellers, deck filings and engine were all stripped away and sold for scrap. What remained of the ship was moved to Lovric’s Shipyard in Anacortes, Washington, and this is where it remains to this day.

Anton Lovric — or Tony, as his friends call him — at some point got the bright idea to use the old vessel as the centerpiece of the shipyard that he opened up not long after immigrating to the United States from Croatia. Lovric repurposed La Merced and turned it into the marina and shipyard that currently still carries his name.

Right now, though, La Merced — which, amazingly, remains watertight despite more than a century of wear and tear — functions as a breakwater. And in that resting place, a group of beautiful trees has managed to grow inside the ship.

La Merced now carries within its frame a whole bustling forest whose life and verdure contrasts beautifully with the ship’s hoary age.

Some might say that as these trees live within La Merced, so La Merced has symbolically found its own new life in its current home.