The mystery of the Arctic ghost ship: Abandoned 1914 cargo vessel SS Baychimo drifted for decades – but is she still out there?
The Baychimo was last seen in 1969 – but no wreckage has ever been discovered
She became stuck in ice in 1931, then drifted free and was sighted 12 more times
In 1969 she was spotted between Point Barrow and Icy Cape in the Chukchi Sea
Somewhere out there a phantom ship could well be drifting, having roamed the seas without a crew for decades.
She was last seen in 1969, 38 years after she was abandoned in the Arctic – but since then no one has laid eyes on the SS Baychimo.
Her fate, to this day, is unknown and she endures as one of the most mysterious ghost ships of modern times.
She was last seen in 1969, 38 years after she was abandoned in the Arctic – but since then no one has laid eyes on the SS Baychimo, pictured
In 2006 the Alaskan government expressed an interest in solving the puzzle once and for all, but its efforts came to nothing.
This steel-hulled cargo steamer was launched in 1914 in Sweden, but back then was called SS Angermanelfven.
Her job was to transport goods between Hamburg and Sweden, but after the First World War she was handed over to the British as part of Germany’s war reparations and in 1921, having been acquired by the Hudson’s Bay Company, was renamed the Baychimo.
For the next 10 years her triple expansion steam engine powered her up and down the bitingly frigid northern coast of Canada, collecting and off-loading pelts.
Then, on October 1, 1931, her life as a ghost ship inched closer when – on a trip to Vancouver – she became stuck in pack ice near the Alaskan town of Barrow, the 11th northernmost community in the world.
The SS Baychimo first became stuck in ice near the Alaskan town of Barrow, pictured, the 11th northernmost community in the world
The crew abandoned her for a couple of days while they warmed up in Barrow, then returned to find her floating free from her sub-zero prison.
But the 1,322-ton vessel became stuck fast again on October 8 – more drastically this time – and Hudson’s Bay Company decided to rescue its employees from the grip of the perilously icy environment.
In all, 22 were retrieved, but 15 very hardy sailors – including the captain – decided to stay, despite the punishing weather. They built a wooden shelter nearby and dug in for the winter.
Then the spookiness inched closer still, because after a blizzard hit on November 24, the Baychimo disappeared.
The captain and the rest of the crew simply thought that she’d broken up and sunk in the storm.
But a week later a native Inuit seal hunter told the crew that he’d seen the ship about 45 miles away.
The excited crew tracked it down and boarded it, but it was in such bad repair that it was abandoned there and then and left to its fate.
After that she was sighted another 12 times – including in 1932 off Wainwright, Alaska, by a trading party who boarded her, in March 1933 by Eskimos, who sheltered in her for 10 days during a storm and in November 1939 by Captain Hugh Polson, who wanted to salvage her.
Polson was the very last person to board her.
In March 1962 she was spotted drifting in the Beaufort Sea and seen stuck in ice in 1969, between Point Barrow and Icy Cape in the Chukchi Sea.
That was the last recorded sighting of her and since then, no one has set eyes on her, but no wreckage has ever been found either.
Did the sea finally claim her? Or is she still out there somewhere on her eerie odyssey? We may never know.