Although the coast of Alaska is remote, and the region of the high arctic remoter still, you would not think that an abandoned ship could float unmanned in the region for almost 40 years. However, this is the case with the ‘S.S Baychimo’ – a 1,300-ton cargo and passenger ship operated by the Hudson’s Bay Trading Company.
The Baychimo operated for 11 years as part of the Company’s fur trading business before it became lodged in ice not far from Point Barrow, Alaska. After several attempts to rescue the vessel from pack ice, the company decided to abandon the Baychimo. Engineers believed that the tight pack ice would have caused irreparable damage to the hull. Once the ice had thawed they expected the ship to sink.
This never happened however. Instead, the now-unoccupied vessel drifted away, and kept drifting through the ice flows of the high Arctic Ocean for nearly four decades. It was spotted on numerous occasions in that time, an eerie ghost ship somehow surviving the regular freezing and thawing of the northern seas.
In 1932, it was spotted by a dog musher who was traveling from remote Herschel Island in the Yukon Territories to Nome. He was even able to board the vessel. In August 1933, the vessel was sighted and boarded by the crew of the Miss Hutchinson. The sighting was reported to the Hudson Bay Company, who considered her to be too far a-sea to be salvaged.
It was boarded again in 1934, this time by the crew of a much smaller trading vessel named Trader, on the northwestern coastline between Nome and Barrow. It was reported that the crew salvaged goods, including unbolted chairs and ripped mattresses, from inside the derelict ship.
From then on there were various sightings from villages along Alaska’s coastline and by passing vessels, navigating the remote waters. By the 1960s the Baychimo had not been spotted for many years, with many believing it must have sunk.
However, a final sighting came during the passage of the icebreaker Manhattan in 1969 as it traveled the Northwest Passage in a bid to examine the feasibility of reaching the then-recently discovered oil fields of Alaska’s North Slope. By then the Baychimo was more than 50 years old and had been adrift without the guiding hand of mariner for 38 years.
Given the absence of sightings in recent years, many believe that the Baychimo must have finally succumbed to the freezing waters of the Arctic; sinking to the cold blue depths and never to be seen again.