The Rusty Ruins of the SS Dominator


The Rusty Ruins

of the SS Dominator

On the coast of Palos Verdes there’s a multitude of hiking trails for the avid outdoorsman - but if you are looking for a memorable destination to hike to, it’s worthwhile to take a hike down to the SS Dominator Shipwreck. The rusty ruins of the SS Dominator lie washed up on the shore of Palos Verdes Point, on the north side of Lunada Bay. The trail itself is a bit rugged, but it just takes climbing over a few rocks to be able to touch the hull and large crane from the wreck of the freight ship. If you’re planning to do this hike, it may be a good idea to take a look at the tide schedules since you can see more of the shipwreck on low tide.

The history of the SS Dominator begins in 1944, when it was launched as Melville Jacoby as a liberty ship - these were cargo ships commissioned during the war. After changing hands several times and ending as a commercial ship named the SS Dominator, the ship met its fate in March of 1961. One foggy day, the boat was en route to LA from Vancouver carrying wheat and beef, when it ran aground due to navigation problems. The Coast Guard tried to use tugboats to get the ship back into the water, but was unsuccessful as there were high winds and rough water that kept beating it back onto the rocks. After two days, the crew abandoned it on the shore.

Most of the ship was sold afterwards, and those who laid claim to it salvaged what parts they could. But most of the ship ended up strewn across the rocky beach, and is still there today. If you’re a person who is fascinated by shipwrecks, this one is a definite must-see - the rust of the ship’s remains have colored the rocks around them, and relics of its hull lie in pieces around the shore. The red rocks and darker red fragments of the ship create an otherworldly landscape that’s as beautiful as it is haunting. Fortunately none of the crew was injured, but the abandoned scraps of the hull still have a pathos about them that seems intrinsic to shipwrecks everywhere.

The Legend of the PV Mermaids

Local peninsula lore and mystery surround the shipwreck of The SS Dominator, a Greek freighter trapped in the PV cliffs in 1961. The SS Dominator was carrying ten thousand tons of wheat, with a scheduled journey from Portland to Algiers. The freighter was supposed to stop in Long Beach, but instead became trapped at the cliffs between Malaga Cove and Lunada Bay.

Although the Coast Guard tried to free the ship, they were not successful. Sightings of mermaids were reported, apparently holding the ship intact, with the goal of luring and seducing the ship crew. It is not known if the mermaid - ship crew encounters spawned baby mermaids and mermen, as the ship was abandoned and the mermaids disappeared underwater off the coast. Mermaid sightings were unconfirmed, though many that hike out to the shipwreck have reported hearing the sounds of mermaids singing among the waves.

shipwreck 2

The hike itself is straightforward, but a bit challenging in places, so it may not be for kids or for someone who struggles with mobility. From the bluff at Paso Del Mar, you can hike down to the beach using a trail, however it is very steep with loose dirt, so make sure you have proper footwear for this one. Once you’re on the beach, head to the right (north) towards Palos Verdes Point, and you’ll come across the wreckage. Most of the larger pieces of the ship are close enough to shore to walk right up to, and the crane is usually the highlight - so don’t leave until you’ve found it! If you’re looking for something a little off the beaten path, try searching for the SS Dominator shipwreck while you’re in Palos Verdes.