Tales of ghost ships haunting the open seas have been a staple of spooky storytelling for centuries. From the tales of the Mary Celeste to the Ourang Medan, these aren’t aren’t always reserved for the newest Pirates of the Caribbean film.
Enter the SS Baychimo, a 1,322-ton cargo ship launched in 1914, which eventually became known as one of the most infamous (supposed) ghost ships in history.
The tale of the SS Baychimo is simultaneously heartbreaking and utterly eerie…
Initially launched in 1914, the SS Baychimo was a a 1,322-ton cargo ship built in Gothenburg, Sweden, and was originally named the Ångermanelfven. Its main function was to shuttle goods between Hamburg and Sweden and back again.
In 1921, as part of Germany’s reparations for shipping losses stemming from World War I, the Ångermanelfven was transferred to the Hudson Bay Company in Great Britain. Soon after, it was renamed the SS Baychimo and shipped to Ardrossan, Scotland, for good.
Once there, the Baychimo shipped tea, weapons, sugar, and tobacco between Scotland and Canada during the summer months. From 1924 to 1931, it shipped fur and pelts around the world. On one fateful trip, however, the ship became trapped in an early season ice pack…
The crew members, then stranded and alone, hiked half a mile to Barrow, Alaska, to wait for the ice to break apart. A few short days later, they attempted to sail home, but became trapped again. This time, they had to be rescued and airlifted to safety. Several men stayed behind, however, seeking shelter in a nearby town. Their intention was to keep an eye on the Baychimo through winter and sail it back the following summer.
On November 24, 1931, the temperature suddenly rose drastically from negative 60 degrees Fahrenheit to a flat zero degrees. During this time, an intense blizzard swooped in. Once the storm had passed, the men went outside—only to find that the SS Baychimo was gone!
Even though the crew members initially assumed the ship had sunk, an Inuit seal hunter explained to them that the ship broke away from the ice and was last seen floating 45 miles away at sea. Sydney Cornwell, captain of the Baychimo, found the ship a few days later, but after ruling it unworthy of sailing, he unpacked all of their goods and valuables and surrendered the ship to the whims of the sea.
Soon after, though, Sydney was proven wrong about the Baychimo! Not only that, but it was done in quite an embarrassing fashion. Just a couple months after he’d deemed it unfit for sailing, the ship was reportedly seen 250 miles from where he’d originally abandoned it.
Over the following year, reports of the SS Baychimo were reported by several sailors from all around the world. Later in 1932, the Hudson Bay Company heard it was still afloat, but deemed it too far away to rescue.
Within a year, several different crews had attempted to board the ship, all to no avail. Several years later, in 1935, Captain Hugh Polson attempted to board the ship, but was unable due to icy conditions. Nevertheless, the ghostly ship sailed on.
Similar reports and sightings of the SS Baychimo continued to pour in over the proceeding 38 years, right up until 1962. Then, in 1969, the ship was spotted for the last time floating in Alaska’s Chukchi Sea. While the Alaskan government launched a search for the ship, either floating or sunk, in 2007, it had yet to yield any results.
The SS Baychimo might never be found, but its legacy will live on forever. How wild is it that it sailed for so long, seemingly crew-less?