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Whidbey Island
and The Legend of Deception Pass

Chapter Three

First Woman to Captain a Ferry

A Whidbey Island native, Berte Olson, born in 1882 the oldest of 14 children of Andrew Olson, owner of a large parcel of land near Clinton, has the distinction of being the first woman ferry boat captain on Puget Sound, if not the entire nation.

Olson began her maritime career on commercial fishing trips with her brothers and on one trip she met Agaton Olson (no relation), and they were married. The couple took over an automobile ferry service between Fidalgo Island and Cornet Bay on North Whidbey, using as their first ferry Agaton's fishing boat towing a scow.

Berte became an accomplished pilot, business manager and supervisor of ship's maintenance. She designed two auto ferries, the Acorn and the Deception Pass, considered quite a feat at that time. The Pass ran between Fidalgo and Whidbey and the Acorn from Strawberry Point to Utsaladdy on Camano Island.

Berte Olson became an influential voice in Island affairs. She was one of the few opponents to the Deception Pass Bridge, using her not inconsiderable clout in Olympia to fight to save her livelihood, but finally lost the battle.

Berte Olson died in 1959 at age 77.

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