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The SS Baychimo

The SS Baychimo stranded in an ice pack.

The SS Baychimo stranded in an ice pack.

There are many stories about ghost ships: phantom ships occasionally seen by people which, the stories go, foretell doom to those that encounter them.

One ghost ship, however, is not a ghost ship in the traditional sense, as it is/was very real.

Built in 1914 in Sweden, the SS Baychimo was used for trading routes between Hamburg and Sweden. After WWI, the ship’s ownership was transferred to the Hudson’s Bay Company. The ship made numerous sailings for Hudson’s, mostly carrying cargo to and from the Arctic region.

On October 1, 1931, the Baychimo was on a routine voyage, filled with recently acquired furs. An unexpected storm blew in, trapping the ship in a sea filled with ice. The closest city was Barrow, Alaska, the northern most city in the United States – too far to get to in the blowing snow and high winds. The captain and crew had to stay inside the trapped ship, where they hoped to wait out the storm.

By October 15th, the ship remained locked in the ice, so 15 of the crew were airlifted to safety, while the captain and 14 other crew members made a temporary camp on the ice near the stranded ship.

The terrible weather continued to pound down on the crew and the “temporary” camp went on for weeks. A fierce blizzard hit the area on November 24th and the snow was so heavy that the campers could no longer see the Baychimo, which was still trapped in the ice. The following morning their worst fears came true. The ship had vanished, no doubt sunk by the preceding blizzard. The remaining crew made their way back to civilization.

Less than a week later, however, a hunter told the captain that the Baychimo could not have sunk, as he had just seen it floating in the icy waters almost fifty miles from the location where it had been abandoned. The captain was somewhat reluctant to battle the snows to try and find the ship, but he gathered his crew and indeed found the Baychimo in the location the hunter had described. The ship looked to have sustained significant damage, and so the captain feared it wouldn’t be seaworthy for much longer and would soon break apart and sink, so the crew gathered the cargo of furs and had everything (including the captain and the crew) airlifted out of the area.

And so, the captain thought, the story ended.

But it didn’t.

Over the years residents of the area and other ships have spotted the empty SS Baychimo numerous times, gliding silently across the Arctic waters, drifting from one location to another, totally intact.

In March of 1933, some Eskimos, trapped by a storm, took shelter in the Baychimo for a week until the weather improved enough to journey back to their homes.

In November of 1939, another ship came close enough to the Baychimo that they were able to board the abandoned ship. Due to the approaching ice floes, however, the captain did not have the time to bring it back to a port, although he did report the empty ship’s location.

In 1969, the Baychimo was spotted at a distance, once again trapped in an ice pack. This was the last recorded sighting of the ship, and after a few years it was commonly believed that the ship did eventually give in to its deteriorating condition and sank to the bottom of the frigid seas.

Not all believed this, though, because in 2006, seventy-five years after the ship was first abandoned, the state of Alaska formally began an effort to find the mysterious SS Baychimo, the Arctic’s elusive wandering ship.

References:

“SS Baychimo,” Wikipedia, pulled 4-30-13
“The Mystery of the Baychimo,” From the Deck Chair website, pulled 4-30-13
“The Baychimo SS,” Ghost Ships of the World website, pulled 4-30-13

About Doug MacGowan

Doug MacGowan lives on the San Francisco peninsula with his wife, a dog, and far too many cats. He has published three books on the topic of historic true crime. In his free time he enjoys reading.

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