The Mystery of the Ghost Ship SS Baychimo

abandoned ghost ship SS Baychimo trapped in the ice off the coast of Alaska (Image: Aldus Books London; the abandoned ghost ship SS Baychimo)

Today, long-distance travel might be uncomfortable and inconvenient, but it’s come a long way since the first intrepid mariners took to the high seas, risking their lives in a bid to discover the world beyond its known borders. Over the years, they ventured far and wide, encountering distant cultures and remote territories, and opened up the oceans for future trade and expansion. But the world’s oceans remain mysterious and largely undiscovered, and it’s no great surprise that, over time, various legends have arisen around the ghost ships which, some think, still ply the high seas. But, as we’ve reported before, not all ghost ships are the stuff of legend.

The 1,322 ton cargo vessel SS Baychimo was a part of the fleet of the Hudson’s Bay Company, built in Sweden and tasked with navigating the trade routes throughout Canada’s remote Northwest Territories. She was launched in 1914, used in Europe during the Great War, and first headed across the Atlantic Ocean to Canada in 1921.

SS Baychimo spent the next decade skirting the Canadian coastline and collecting pelts. But on October 1, 1931 the vessel became trapped in the ice off the coast of Alaska, and her crew fled in the face of a fierce storm. After several attempts to return to her, 15 men decided to build a shelter on the ice and weather the storm in the hopes of ultimately freeing their ship. Then, on November 24, a blizzard swept through the area and when it cleared, SS Baychimo was gone.

Victoria-Island-Canada (Image: NASA; Victoria Island was on the trade route once plied by SS Baychimo)

The captain and crew assumed that she had sank in the storm, but it wasn’t long before they heard rumours that SS Baychimo had drifted away, by which time she was some miles away from where she had become trapped in the ice. They caught up with the ship, stripped her of her cargo and abandoned her, thinking she was too damage to save.

She wasn’t, nor did she sink. The Baychimo has been spotted along the Alaskan coast on many occasions over several decades. Sightings weren’t merely confined to reports of the eerie form of a ghost ship on the horizon, either; several groups boarded the SS Baychimo. In 1933, one group who had found themselves in the grips of a relentless storm not only boarded her, but spent ten days trapped within her superstructure.

She has also been sighted by dog sled teams and groups of prospectors in this remote, icy corner of North America. One captain who boarded the ghost ship in the hopes of salvaging her was ultimately chased off by the advancing ice. Others efforts have similarly been stymied by poor weather. And all the while, the ghost ship remained afloat.

The last sighting of SS Baychimo was in 1969, almost four decades after she was abandoned in the Alaskan ice. For years, it seemed like she would become yet another vessel claimed by the abyss of the ocean. In 2006, the Alaskan government decided to investigate in an attempt to determine the abandoned ghost ship’s fate. No trace of her was found, and though it’s likely the Baychimo has finally perished, there’s also a chance the ghost ship still haunts the icy waters off Alaska.

Related – Aviation Mysteries: 10 Strangest Aircraft Disappearances in History



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