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The Dominator

August 14, 2020

The name Dominator probably isn’t too familiar to most people. I am only acquainted with the name by virtue of the fact that I was a surfer in the mid 1960’s. It was on the south side of Lunanda Bay in Southern California that I took this photo back in 1964. It was simply a very cool ship wreck and one that we dangerously explored in the water back then.

The ship was originally the American Liberty Ship Melville Jacoby, built during World War II in Providence, Rhode Island, and launched on 31 March 1944. It was named after the journalist Melville Jacoby.

During the war the ship was operated by the Wilmore Steamship Company of Boston, on behalf of the War Shipping Administration. In 1947 she was sold into commercial service, and flying the Panamanian flag, was renamed SS Victoria. She changed hands in 1950, and was renamed SS North Queen, then again in 1953 and became SS Dominator.

On March 13, 1961, Dominator was en route to Los Angeles from Vancouver with a cargo of wheat and beef, when she ran aground off Palos Verdes, California.  For two days, the Coast Guard and tugboats attempted to refloat her but heavy seas and high winds only forced her higher onto the rocks. After two days the crew abandoned ship. The stranded ship was then auctioned, and hull and cargo were sold separately. Eventually, the ship slowly broke up under the pounding of the waves, and large pieces of wreckage are still scattered over the shore.

I remember creeping up to the south rim of Lunanda Bay on that foggy morning back in 1964 and snapping this shot. Though the photo is of dubious quality, it is still one of my favorites. I can still taste that fog and I can still feel the awe at my first vision of the Dominator.

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From → History, Surfing

3 Comments
  1. For some reason, I’m fascinated with ship stories. We visited Duluth a few years ago and I loved watching the big ones come through the lift bridge, especially because they offered a local newsletter of which ships were due, what they were hauling, some of their history. I was so surprised when I learned that one had earned two Battle Stars! Tregurtha. Then learned that you can follow Great Lakes freighters on the internet, and even watch the big bridge at Duluth. Oh, now I’d like to visit again.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Shipwrecks are fascinating (except when they’re spilling tons of oil). I remember seeing one washed into the beach in Central America. Amazing how large the loom out of the water.

    Liked by 1 person

    • There is always something spooky about wrecked ships. When we explored the Dominator, we actually expected to see skeletons and such – No, just a lot of rust!

      Liked by 1 person

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