The SS Baychimo was a 1,300 ton cargo ship that sailed the Arctic with neither fuel nor crew for nearly four decades before she disappeared over 50 years ago.
SS Baychimo was launched in 1914, named Angermanelfven, after a river in Sweden. The ship had a 230 foot long steel hull and was powered by steam and was used as a trading vessel around the Baltic Sea until WWI.
Following the war, Baychimo was ceded to the British Government as part of Germany’s war reparations and was acquired by the Hudson’s Bay Company in 1921, and renamed Baychimo.
Based in Ardrossan, Baychimo made trips across the North Atlantic to Canada visiting trading posts and collecting pelts. She wasn’t legally allowed to carry passengers, but sometimes travellers were listed as part of the crew and worked on the ship in return for room and travel.
In September 1931, Baychimo ran into a blizzard near Alaska, and became trapped in pack ice and remained stuck for the winter. The crew left the ship and set up camp at the nearby town of Barrow. Throughout the October and November, men would return to the ship every day to clear away ice from Baychimo, but when the men went to do this on 24th November, Baychimo was gone!
All assumed that the ship had sunk, but soon received word that she had been spotted around 72 kilometres south of where the men were encamped. The crew tracked the ship down but, deciding she wouldn’t survive the winter, they removed the cargo and abandoned ship for the last time.
Soon after, Baychimo was spotted about 480km east of the previous sighting, and the next year, was again seen floating near the Alaskan coast. Through the following decades Baychimo was sighted amongst the ice and many times was boarded by explorers or by the crews of passing ships, but each time she disappeared again. Once, some Alaskan people boarded and found themselves trapped aboard for 10 days by a storm.
In 1969, 38 years after Baychimo was abandoned, she was found trapped in ice in Beaufort Sea off the Alaskan coast. That was the last recorded sighting.
In 2006, the Alaskan government began a project to find around 4,000 ships that had disappeared along the Alaskan coast, including our Baychimo, but she was never found.