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From the Archives: Greek freighter Dominator runs aground off Palos Verdes

March 16, 1961: Crew of the Greek freighter Dominator are rescued from ship during hight surf. The D
March 16, 1961: Crew of the Greek freighter Dominator is rescued in high surf. The Dominator ran aground off Palos Verdes on March 13, 1961.
(Ray Graham / Los Angeles Times)

For two days following the grounding of the Greek freighter Dominator, the U.S. Coast Guard and tug boats tried to refloat the vessel. But heavy surf and high winds pushed it higher onto the submerged rocks. On March 16, 1961, the crew had to be rescued from the vessel.

March 14, 1961: The Greek frieghter Dominator sits grounded off Rocky Point section of Palos Verdes
March 14, 1961: The Greek frieghter Dominator sits grounded off the Rocky Point section of Palos Verdes Estates. The 441-foot vessel loaded with 9,000 tons of Canadian grain went onto the rocks while underway in fog.
(Charles Crawford / Los Angeles Times )
March 15, 1961: Crowd gathered at Rocky Point in Palos Verdes Estates to wtach as a tug attempts to
March 15, 1961: Crowd gathered at Rocky Point in Palos Verdes Estates to watch as a tug attempts to refloat the merchant ship Dominator. The ship would not budge.
(Charles Crawford / Los Angeles Times )

The Dominator quickly became a tourist destination. A story in the March 20, 1961, Los Angeles Times described the crowds:

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…the Dominator’s attraction for sightseers and precautions for keeping them under control turned the area into a scene that was a cross between military maneuvers and a treasure hunt.

Several thousand persons on foot and in boats, airplanes and helicopters descended upon Palos Verdes to view the once-proud ship that ran aground in the fog and was battered into a useless hulk by the giant waves.

Power cruisers and sailboats circled the freighter as if in a regatta while helicopters, light planes and even big multi-engined flying boats swooped low.

Visitors arriving by land were forced by officers to park their automobiles a good way from the area and hike in to prevent traffic congestion.

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Everything was reported under control by sheriff’s Lt. William H. Andrew, head of a 50-man special enforcement detachment assigned to handle the crowd.

Traffic in mid-afternoon was still heavy enough, however, to cause the California Highway Patrol to issue a Sigalert warning motorists to avoid the area.….

County life guards went out to the wreck Sunday morning and posted it with signs warning unauthorized persons not to board the vessel. Anyone caught on the ship or attempting to board her will be jailed.

But the heavy surf and fast currents off Palos Verdes also took a man’s life. The same March 20, 1961, Los Angeles Times story reported, “...a 25-year-old Inglewood man drowned while skin-diving near where the ship is aground...”

A Jan. 20, 1964, Los Angeles Times caption, below, reported that three skin-divers had drowned over the years near the Dominator wreck.

Summer 1961: Aerial photo of the former Greek freighter Dominator pounded by waves off Palos Verdes
Summer 1961: Aerial photo of the shipwreck of the freighter Dominator, pounded by waves off Palos Verdes. Estates. This photo appeared in the Mirror-News, an afternoon newspaper owned by the Los Angels Times.
(Gene Hackley / Mirror News )
Nov. 12, 1961: The Dominator lays broken in two off Palos Verdes. The ship ran aground in March, 196
Nov. 12, 1961: The Dominator lies broken in two off Palos Verdes.
(Bill Murphy / Los Angeles Times )
Nov. 15, 1961: Smoke billows from stern section of broked freighter Dominator at Palos Verdes. A sal
Nov. 15, 1961: Smoke billows from stern section of the broken freighter Dominator at Palos Verdes. A salvager was burning spoiled meat and other refuse, causing firemen ashore and at sea to answer alarm.
(Ken Dare / Los Angeles Times )
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The Dominator was originally the American Liberty ship Melville Jacoby, launched on March 31, 1944. It was named after the journalist Melville Jacoby. Following World War II, the ship was sold. The ship was first renamed Victoria, then North Queen before becoming the Dominator in 1953.

Remains of the Dominator are still found ashore and underwater off the Palos Verdes Peninsula.

May 21, 1963: Remains of the grounded Greek freighter Dominator off Palos Verdes Estates. This photo
May 21, 1963: Remains of the shipwrecked Greek freighter Dominator off Palos Verdes.
(Los Angeles Times )
Jan. 18, 1964: The wreckage of the Greek freighter Dominator, gradually being torn apart by the surf
Jan. 18, 1964: The wreckage of the freighter Dominator, gradually being torn apart by the surf below Palos Verdes. The wreck had lured three skin divers to their deaths since the 1961 grounding.
(Ken Dare / Los Angeles Times )

See more from the Los Angeles Times archives here


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