By Debra Smith - Herald
The morning of Oct. 11, 1923 dawned dark and dangerous for the SS City of Everett.
Overnight, a ferocious squall overtook the ship in deep waters miles off the Florida coast in the Gulf of Mexico. The crew of 26 men was headed to New Orleans with a cargo hold full of rich Cuban molasses.
The first U.S. steamship to circle the globe and chug through the Suez Canal was to meet a bad end. Churning seas and high winds battered the ship, which launched from an Everett shipyard in 1894.
The first mayday was broadcast at 7:30 a.m.
“Am lowering boats. Will sink soon. Latitude 24.30 north, longitude 86 west.”
Four words were sent before 8 a.m.: “Going down stern first.”
One last SOS was sent, then the City of Everett was gone.
Rescue ships arrived at the coordinates to find nothing but the timeless sea.
Months later a bottle washed up on a Miami beach with a note stuffed inside.
“S.S. Everett. This is the last of us. To dear friends who find this, good-bye for ever and ever.”
Everett had sprung to life in 1890. A group of wealthy East Coast investors scrambled to build a manufacturing empire of factories, shops and stick-framed houses.
A newfangled steamship design grabbed the imagination of Everett's founders, who learned of a cigar-shaped cargo fleet making money on the Great Lakes.
It was decided that one of Everett's main industries would be the production of steel-hulled ships that would revolutionize marine transport.
The Everett fleet would deliver wheat, iron ore, coal and lumber throughout the Pacific. They'd even steam goods to Atlantic ports by way of a canal that other visionaries of the time wanted to slice across Nicaragua.
Designed by Alexander McDougall, a scrappy Scottish-born ship captain and inventor, the steel ships would carry significant loads while cutting efficiently through waves and wind.
Unlike the wooden cargo ships of the time, McDougall created a ship with a flat bottom, a curved deck that shed water and a bow and stern that ended in tapered points. A wheelhouse was positioned toward the stern.