Steamboat Dix Sinking Worst Maritime Disaster Puget Sound History – On Sunday, November 18, 1906, the inland passenger steamer SS Dix collides with the steam schooner SS Jeanie two miles north of Alki Point and one mile west of Duwamish Head. The Dix was steaming from a Seattle dock to Port Blakeley on Bainbridge Island with 77 passengers and crew aboard. It was a calm night, with calm seas.
The steamboat Dix operated from 1904 to 1906 as part of the Puget Sound Mosquito Fleet. On November 18, 1906, Dix was not on her customary Alki route, but was acting as a relief boat for the Monticello on the Seattle-Port Blakeley run
The Dix was piloted by a confused and unlicensed ship’s mate who steered the Mosquito Fleet steamer into the much larger steamship, Jeanie. “The Dix tragedy was at a time when the Mosquito Fleet was the only way to travel because of the dense forests in the area, and 2 million people a year took these steamers.
The Dix split into two chunks and sank, all within five minutes.
Forty-two people died including Charles E. Byler, Christian Byler and Lillian Granger.
“The Dix tragedy was at a time when the Mosquito Fleet was the only way to travel because of the dense forests in the area, and 2 million people a year took these steamers.
First Officer Charles Dennison, who was not licensed to pilot inland waters was blamed for the sinking though, Dix Capt. Percy Lermond also was faulted for failing to provide a lookout. Lermond’s license was revoked and later reinstated, and he continued to work as a ship’s master on a tug boat.
The 130-ton, 102.5-foot inland passenger steamer was built by Crawford and Reid in Tacoma, Washington.
The ship, owned by the Seattle and Alki Transportation Company, was licensed to ferry 150 passengers and shuttled between downtown Seattle and Alki Beach during the summer months.
Vessel inspectors determined the Dix was top heavy due to her narrow beam, only 20.5 feet, and high superstructure. Before certifying the steamer as a passenger carrier, the inspectors required that 30 tons of ballast be installed in the hull for stability. Even with the modification, the ship rolled excessively in rough weather and was considered hard to handle.
The SS Jeanie was a large 1,071-ton, 186-foot, three-masted steam schooner built in Bath, Maine, in 1883, and had run on nearly every route between San Francisco and the Arctic Ocean. In 1906, the vessel, owned by the Alaska Coast Company, was engaged in hauling passengers and freight between Puget Sound ports and southwest Alaska. Her master was Captain Philip H. Mason.
Except for a cork fender, a life raft, and one damaged life belt, no wreckage from the Dix was ever found.
Considered Puget Sound’s worst maritime disaster, the sinking of the Dix also remains the second-worst transportation disaster in Washington state.
The New York Times, having received a dispatch from Portland, Oregon about the sinking, reported the number lost as 40; Years later, in a 1913 story about Jeanie‘s loss off Calvert Island, the Times reported the number of passengers lost by the sinking of the Dix as 54. A 2011 Seattle Times article said the number was “as many as 45”,when another source has it as over 45 people, including Charles Dennison. Mrs. Byler’s sons, Charles and Christian, and their sister, Lillian, were all trapped below deck and taken down when the ship sank.