Obscura Society LA: Shipwrecked! - Atlas Obscura
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Palos Verdes Estates, CA

Obscura Society LA: Shipwrecked!

Investigate the rusty ruin of a wrecked freighter ship that never quite washed away

Active harbor areas throughout the world are littered with remains of boats and ships that never quite made it – due to engine failure, loss of fuel, fire, or other disastrous events. 

Join Field Agent Sandi Hemmerlein as we explore LA's own infamous shipwreck: that of the S.S. Dominator, a 400-foot Greek freighter which accidentally ran aground on the rocky beach of Palos Verdes Estates in 1961.

A lot of mystery surrounds how exactly the Dominator got there – maybe lost on its way to fueling up at Long Beach or perhaps unable to see the approaching cliffside because of low visibility – but once it did get there,  it wasn't leaving. 

The crew waited a few days before they jumped ship, hoping for rescue, but even Coast Guard tugboats couldn't tow the behemoth out. Once fire broke out aboard ship, they just left it, selling large portions of the hull for scrap metal, and hoping the natural elements would take it the rest of the away.

Most of the giant ship is still scattered over a half mile area, in increasingly smaller pieces as time passes – some underwater in the Pacific Ocean, and lots still on the rocky shore, never washed away by the tide. Among the wreckage are smoke stacks, a crane, and remnants of other equipment on the ship used to carry wheat from Portland to Algiers – as well as at least one large piece remaining from when the Dominator broke into two pieces.

On our way down to the site from the trailhead, we will pass a number of intriguing natural and industrial sites ranging from storm drains to baby sea lions and pelicans. We may even spot some shipwreck divers in their scuba gear.

Notes for this adventure:

- This excursion takes place in Palos Verdes Estates in LA's South Bay, approximately 30 miles south of Downtown Los Angeles. We will email out exact meeting location to all attendees closer to the event date.

- This is a hike consisting of at least two hours of walking along rocky terrain. Please be sure that you are in sufficient physical condition, and aware that you are responsible for your own safety and you participate at your own risk.

- Wear hiking boots or very sturdy footwear, and bring plenty of water, a snack, and sun protection (sunglasses, hat, sunscreen, etc.)

- Check weather conditions ahead of time: this is a beach walk that can be chilly, damp and windy in the morning even in the summer, so bring layers. We will email out a weather report prior. 

- We are exploring during low tide and are not going into the water, but prepare to get a little wet.

- Walking sticks / trekking poles optional (but they don't really help on the rocks).

- Please no dogs or children younger than 16. 

- No restrooms / bathroom facilities at the trailhead or along the trail. Please go before you arrive!

- Street parking is available, but limited and in a residential area. Please be respectful of the neighbors, and carpool if possible.