At first glance, you may think there was nothing special about the SS Baychimo. She was a steel-hulled 1,322-ton cargo steamer that was built in Sweden in 1914 for the Hudson’s Bay Company, she was used for trading supplies and food for pelts in Inuit settlements along the Northwest Territories in Canada. But in 1931 she got away from her crew and wandered the ocean as a Ghost Ship for the next 40 years!
The building of the SS Baychimo
The SS Baychimo started out as the Ångermanelfven and was used on routes for trade between Hamburg and Sweden. When the First World War began in August 1914 trade was interrupted and the ship was used sparingly. At the end of WW1, she was given to the United Kingdom as part of Germany’s war reparations for shipping losses. In 1921, she was purchased by the Hudson’s Bay Company.
She was renamed Baychimo and was based out of Scotland. She successfully completed nine trips along the north coast of Canada, trading and collecting pelts.
The Abandonment of the SS Baychimo
On 1 October 1931, the Baychimo was completing the end of a trading run and loaded heavy with a cargo of fur.
The ship became stuck in pack ice. The crew briefly abandoned the ship, intending to return for it later. The crew traveled over a half-mile of land covered with ice to the town of Barrow to take shelter for two days. By the time the crew returned the ship had broken free of the ice!
Stuck in ice again!
The ship soon became stuck again on October 8, more soundly this time. On 15 October the Hudson’s Bay Company retrieved 22 of the crew by aircraft. 15 men remained behind. They built a wooden shelter, intending to wait out the winter and take the ship when spring came.
On 24 November a powerful blizzard struck, and after it was over there was no sign of Baychimo. Her captain decided she must have broken up and sunk during the storm.
A few days later, an Inuit seal hunter reported to the crew that he had seen Baychimo some 45 miles away.
The crewmen tracked the ship down. It was decided the Baychimo was unlikely to survive the winter, the furs were removed and the rest of the crew was airlifted.
The SS Baychimo was abandoned.
The SS Baychimo Adrift At Sea
Against the odds, Baychimo did not sink, and over the next 40, she was sighted on numerous occasions. People managed to get on board her several times. Each time they were either unequipped to salvage her or bad weather deterred them.
Sightings in the 1930s
A few days after Baychimo had disappeared on 24 November 1931, the ship was spotted about 45 mi away, stuck again in the ice.
After several months, she was seen floating about 300 miles from her original location
In March of 1932, she was seen slowly floating near the shore
A few months later, she was seen by a company of gold prospectors
In August 1932, she was boarded by a 20-man Alaskan trading party off the coast near Wainwright, Alaska
March 1933, she was found by a group of Alaska Natives who boarded her. Unfortunately, the Inuits were trapped aboard for 10 days because of a sudden storm.
In July of 1934, she was boarded by a group of explorers.
September 1935, she was seen off Alaska’s northwest coast
November 1939, she was boarded by a Captain Hugh Polson. The captain wished to salvage her. The creeping ice floes intervened, however. The captain had to abandon her. This is the last known boarding of Baychimo.
After 1939, she was seen floating alone and without crew several times.
Sightings in the 1960s
For some reason for the next 20 years, where the ship was or traveled is a mystery. It was suspected that she had sunk. However, she turned up again in the 1960s
March 1962, she was seen slowly drifting along the Beaufort Sea coast by a group of Inuit.
She was found frozen in an ice pack in 1969, 38 years after she was abandoned.
This is the last recorded sighting of Baychimo, and what happened to her after that, no one knows.
The Ghost Ship of the Arctic
In 2006, the Alaskan government began a project to try to solve the mystery of “the Ghost Ship of the Arctic” Baychimo and locate Baychimo, whether still afloat or on the ocean floor. She has yet to been found.