Ships 2


Ships 3

Another Ill-Fated Dakota

Great Northern’s Dakota Wrecked Near Japan

By James Donahue

Passenger ships bearing the name Dakota were an unlucky lot. We recently reported the fate of the steamship Dakota of the old Guion Line, an experimental vessel that wrecked off the North Wales coast in 1977. Then in 1903 the Great Northern Steamship Co. launched the second steamer to bear the name Dakota. This vessel was lost when it struck a reef off Japan in 1907.

There were some peculiar synchronicities.

Both Dakotas proved to be financial disasters for their owners. Both ships were steered into the rocks and could not be recovered. Happily both vessels sank slowly so that all passengers and crew members escaped alive. Both vessels were launched with sister ships that bore the names of U. S. states beginning with the letter “M.”

The Great Northern Steamship Co. was founded by John Jay Hill in 1900 who had ambitious plans to compete for passenger and freight service between Portland, Oregon, Hong Kong and Japan. The company ordered the construction of two  large liners of over 20,000 tons each.

The Dakota was launched in 1905 and its sister ship, the Minnesota slid down the ways in 1904. At 622 feet, the Dakota laid claim to be the largest steamer in the world flying the American flag. She had the capacity of carrying 200 first-class and 1,800 steerage passengers.

The ship offered an impressive profile with three passenger decks, four masts and a single funnel. It was propelled by twin screws and could travel at over 14 knots when at sea.

While his ships were lavish and his ambitions were large, the Great Northern Steamship Co. failed, they said, because Hill did not understand the shipping business.

The primary cause of the business collapse may well have been the loss of the Dakota. The ship was wrecked when it struck a reef off Yokohama, Japan, on March 3, 1907. Even though both passengers and cargo were removed before the wreck broke up and sank, Hill changed his tactics. He vowed not to make any more ships under the American flag because of the high cost of maintaining a ship in America.

The line was never successful and was for sale when World War I broke out and the Minnesota was commandeered by the government for the war effort. This spelled the end of the Great Northern Steamship Company.