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The Wreck of the Steamship Dix

On November 18, 1906, the Mosquito Fleet Steamer Dix was underway from Seattle to Port Blakely with 77 passengers and crew when she struck the Steamer Jeanie two miles west of Seattle's Duwamish Head.  The Dix sank within minutes carrying thirty-nine souls into the cold waters of Elliott Bay.  This tragic loss of life proved to be the worst marine casualty in the history of Puget Sound.

The Steamship Dix was built in 1904 by Crawford and Reid in Tacoma; displacing 130 Tons with a length of 102 feet.  She was mistakenly built too narrow, about twenty feet wide, which made her very tender and caused the Dix to roll uncomfortably.  During the vessel stability testing and passenger certification, she was rejected by the inspectors twice, until seven tons of gravel ballast was placed in the hull and five tons of heavy iron strips were bolted onto the keel.   This helped offset the top heavy superstructure and the inspectors certified her for passenger service.  The Seattle and Alki Transportation Company then put the Dix to work shuttling up to 150 passengers between downtown Seattle and Alki.

Passenger Steamer DixOn the night of the collision, Captain Percy Lermond was below decks, collecting fares and Mate Charles Dennison was at the helm of the Dix.  He failed to recognize the danger posed by a larger three-masted schooner that was approaching from his starboard side after making his left turn at the Duwamish Head Light.  The SS Jeanie clearly had the right of way, but had slowed to almost a full stop to allow the Dix to pass.  Seconds before impact, Captain Philip Mason, aboard the Jeanie, blew his steam whistle and reversed his engines to try and avoid the impending crash.  For unknown reasons, Dennison turned the Dix into the Jeannie, and struck her just below the bow of the schooner.

The bowsprit of the Jeanie caught on the superstructure of the Dix and momentum heeled the smaller steamship over, putting the port rail underwater which allowed water to pour into the hull.  This down flooding, in conjunction with the added ballast proved to be a deadly combination and the Dix rolled onto her starboard side before she sank quickly, stern first into Elliott Bay.  Many passengers on the upper decks were able to escape, but the thirty nine passengers that were below decks went down with the ship and are still entombed within the wreck. 

Propeller of the Steamship DixToday the Shipwreck of the Dix rests on her starboard side in Elliott Bay,  still on course for her original destination at Port Blakely.  The Pilot house and much of the upper deck structure is still in place.  Her mast and smokestack are canted over onto the bottom but are still partially attached to the wreck.  The rudder has fallen off onto the mud, but the very impressive propeller is a breath taking sight for the intrepid explorers that visit this fascinating piece of Northwest history.

Discovered through a collaboration between wreck divers Laura James and Scott Boyd, the first glimpse of the wreck of the Dix was captured from an ROV generously provided by OceanGate LLC on Saturday March 19th 2011.   The first human eyes to view this historic wreck occurred the week of April 14th from OceanGate's amazing five person submarine, the Antipodes.   Subsequent dives and high frequency sonar imaging were used to assist with the identification of this famous old passenger steamer. 

Press release for the discovery of the Mosquito Fleet Steamer Dix can be found here

 Location:  One Mile North of Alki Point in Seattle, WA.           Approximate position
Depth:  500+'      Hazards:  Very Deep Wreck, Boat traffic.       
Passenger Windows for the Dix Pilot House Door of the Dix
Passenger Windows in the aft cabin. Pilothouse door on the Wreck of the Dix.
Fantail from the wreck of the Dix The Dive Bum loads up the ROV to locate the Dix.
Fantail of the wreck Dix. The Dive Bum in Elliott Bay locating the Dix.
ROV heading down to the wreck of the Dix Ocean Gate's Antipodes Submarine
ROV heading down to the wreck Ocean Gate's Antipodes Submarine