SS Baychimo

SS Baychimo was a steel-hulled 1,322 ton cargo steamer built in 1914 in Sweden and owned by the Hudson's Bay Company, used to trade provisions for pelts in Inuit settlements along the Victoria Island coast of the Northwest Territories of Canada. She became a notable ghost ship along the Alaska coast, being abandoned in 1931 and seen numerous times since then until her last sighting in 1969.

SS Baychimo, 1931
 German Empire
Name: SS Ångermanelfven
Owner: Baltische Reederei GmbH, Hamburg
Builder: Lindholmens Mekaniska Verkstad A/B, Gothenburg, Sweden
Yard number: 420
Launched: 1914
Fate: To the UK as war reparations
 United Kingdom
Name: SS Baychimo
Owner: Hudson's Bay Company
Acquired: 1921
Homeport: Ardrossan, Scotland
  • Abandoned and lost, 1931
  • Last seen, 1969
General characteristics
Type: Cargo ship
Tonnage: 1,322 tons
Length: 230 ft (70.1 m)
Propulsion: Triple expansion steam engine
Speed: 10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph)

Early history

Baychimo was launched in 1914 as Ångermanelfven (Yard No 420) by the Lindholmens shipyard (Lindholmens Mekaniska Verkstad A/B) in Gothenburg, Sweden, for the Baltische Reederei GmbH of Hamburg. She was 230 ft (70.1 m) long, powered by a triple expansion steam engine and had a speed of 10 kn (19 km/h; 12 mph). Ångermanelfven (named after Swedish river Ångerman) was used on trading routes between Hamburg and Sweden until the First World War began in August 1914. After World War I, she was transferred to the United Kingdom as part of Germany's reparations for shipping losses and was acquired by the Hudson's Bay Company in 1921. Renamed Baychimo and based in Ardrossan, Scotland, she completed nine successful voyages along the north coast of Canada, visiting trading posts and collecting pelts.

On 21 July 1928, Baychimo ran aground off Pole Island in Camden Bay on the north coast of the Territory of Alaska. She was refloated the next day.[1]


On 1 October 1931, at the end of a trading run and loaded with a cargo of fur, Baychimo became trapped in pack ice. The crew briefly abandoned the ship, travelling over a half-mile of ice to the town of Barrow to take shelter for two days, but the ship had broken free of the ice by the time the crew returned. The ship became mired again on October 8, more thoroughly this time, and on 15 October the Hudson's Bay Company sent aircraft to retrieve 22 of the crew; 15 men remained behind. Intending to wait out the winter if necessary, they constructed a wooden shelter some distance away. On 24 November a powerful blizzard struck, and after it abated there was no sign of Baychimo. Her captain decided she must have broken up during the storm and been sunk. A few days later, however, an Inuit seal hunter told him that he had seen Baychimo about 45 mi (72 km) away from their position. The crewmen tracked the ship down, but deciding she was unlikely to survive the winter, they removed the most valuable furs from the hold[2] to transport by air. Baychimo was abandoned.

Ghost ship

Surprisingly, Baychimo did not sink, and over the next few decades she was sighted numerous times. People managed to board her several times, but each time they were either unequipped to salvage her or were driven away by bad weather. The last recorded sighting was by a group of Inuit in 1969, 38 years after she was abandoned. She was stuck fast in the pack ice of the Beaufort Sea between Point Barrow and Icy Cape, in the Chukchi Sea off the northwestern Alaskan coast.[3] Baychimo's ultimate fate is unknown.


  • A few days after Baychimo had disappeared on 24 November 1931, the ship was found 45 mi (72 km) south of where she was lost, but was again ice-packed.
  • After several months, she was spotted again but about 300 mi (480 km) to the east.
  • In March of the following year, she was seen floating peacefully near the shore by Leslie Melvin, a man travelling to Nome with his dog sled team.
  • A few months after that, she was seen by a company of prospectors.
  • In August 1932, she was boarded by a 20-man Alaskan trading party off Wainwright, Alaska.[4]
  • March 1933, she was found by a group of Alaska Natives who boarded her and were trapped aboard for 10 days by a freak storm.
  • August 1933, the Hudson's Bay Company heard she was still afloat, but was too far a-sea to salvage.[4]
  • July 1934, she was boarded by a group of explorers on a schooner.
  • September 1935, she was seen off Alaska's northwest coast.[4]
  • November 1939, she was boarded by Captain Hugh Polson, wishing to salvage her, but the creeping ice floes intervened and the captain had to abandon her. This is the last recorded boarding of Baychimo.[5]
  • After 1939, she was seen floating alone and without crew numerous times, but had always eluded capture.
  • March 1962, she was seen 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.
  • In 2006, the Alaskan government began work on a project to solve the mystery of "the Ghost Ship of the Arctic" and locate Baychimo, whether still afloat or on the ocean floor. She has not yet been found.

In education

"Alaska's Phantom Ship", an article about the vessel, was printed in the textbook Galaxies (Houghton Mifflin: Boston, 1971, 1974 p. 180.)


  1. "Casualty reports". The Times (44959). London. 31 July 1928. col G, p. 25.
  2. "Aeronautics: Flights & Flyers". Time Magazine. Time Inc. February 29, 1932. Retrieved January 4, 2011.
  3. Gunston, David (August 1991). "The ghost ship of the Arctic" (PDF). The UNESCO Courier. XLIV: 63–65. Retrieved 11 March 2015.
  4. Dalton, Anthony; Delgado, James (2006). Baychimo: Arctic Ghost Ship. Surrey, BC: Heritage House Publishing Co. ISBN 978-1-894974-14-1.
  5. Gilliland, John Robert Colombo; with drawings by Jillian Hulme (2000). Ghost stories of Canada. Toronto: Dundurn Press. ISBN 9780888822222. Retrieved 11 March 2015.

Further reading

  • Dalton, Anthony, Baychimo: Arctic Ghost Ship, Heritage House, 2006, ISBN 1-894974-14-X
  • Gillingham, Donald W., Umiak!, Museum Press, 1955

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