PUGET SOUND'S WORST MARITIME CALAMITY
1:36 pm
Wed May 18, 2011

Diver's 20-year hunch turns up wreckage of century-old disaster

A diver's 20-year search for the wreckage of the worst maritime disaster in Puget Sound history has apparently ended with the discovery of the Mosquito Fleet steamer Dix off Seattle's Alki Point.

The Dix went down in November 1906 after colliding with an Alaska freighter, taking as many as 45 lives - and their bodies are believed to remain in the sunken hull.

The vessel was never found because it sank to such a depth. Then, amateur diver and surgical technician Laura James teamed up with an Everett exploration company to find the Dix - 500 feet below the surface.

Laura James told the Seattle Times' Susan Gilmore she's been looking for the Dix since shortly after she learned to dive in 1990.

"This was the wreck I wanted to find in Puget Sound for as long as I've been diving. It became almost an obsession."

She examined National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration photos of the bottom of the sound, which showed the Dix was not where it was believed to be resting.

James directed a group called Northwest Wreck Dives to another location. It did a sonar scan. And, in March and April, the Everett marine exploration company OceanGate sent a submarine that found the wreck believed to be the Dix.

They'll leave the 100-foot ferry where it is because it's too fragile to bring to the surface.

And none of the divers plan to look inside to see if skeletal remains or anything else might still exist.

"It's a grave, " James said. "We wouldn't want to disturb it. It's a resting place for quite a few souls and we have to respect it."