The Phantom Ghost Ship of the Arctic
Cargoship Baychimo somewhere in Canada – Aldus Books London, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

In the annals of nautical lore, few tales are as chilling and mysterious as that of the SS Baychimo, a cargo steamer that became known as the Ghost Ship of the Arctic. Its story is one of survival and mystery, a ship that refused to sink, wandering the icy waters long after being abandoned, a spectral reminder of human endeavor against the relentless forces of nature.

The SS Baychimo was a cargo steamer owned by the Hudson’s Bay Company, used for trading goods like furs and pelts along the coasts of Alaska and Canada. Its odyssey began in 1931, when it became trapped in pack ice near Barrow, Alaska. The crew briefly abandoned the ship, seeking shelter and safety in the nearby town. Expecting the vessel to eventually succumb to the ice, they were surprised to find it had broken free when they returned.

However, the ice quickly closed in again, and this time, the decision was made to abandon the Baychimo for good. The crew was airlifted to safety, leaving the ship to its presumed fate. But the Baychimo was not ready to disappear into the annals of forgotten wrecks. Instead, it began an eerie existence as a ghost ship, drifting unmanned through the Arctic.

Over the following decades, the Baychimo was sighted numerous times. Sailors, explorers, and inhabitants of the Arctic region reported seeing the ghostly vessel adrift in the icy waters, often shrouded in mist or appearing suddenly from the fog. Each sighting added to the ship’s legend, a vessel seemingly unclaimable by the sea.

The last confirmed sighting of the Baychimo was in 1969, almost 40 years after it was abandoned. Trapped in ice in the Beaufort Sea, it was seen by a group of Inuit. After that, the ship vanished, fueling speculation about its final fate. Some believe it finally succumbed to the ice and sank to the ocean floor. Others like to think it still drifts in the Arctic, a ghostly sentinel of the north.

The tale of the SS Baychimo is more than just a ghost story; it’s a testament to the unpredictable nature of the Arctic environment and the resilience of man-made constructions. It also speaks to the fascination that abandoned and ghostly places hold for us. The image of a ship, crewless and adrift in one of the most inhospitable places on Earth, stirs the imagination and speaks to the mysteries that the world’s oceans still hold.

In the end, the story of the Baychimo is a blend of history and legend, a narrative that spans the realm of factual maritime history and the folklore of the seas. It encapsulates the allure of the Arctic, a place of beauty and danger, where the line between reality and myth is often as blurred as the line between sea and sky in the northern mists. The Ghost Ship of the Arctic continues to sail in the realm of legend, a phantom vessel from a bygone era, eternally wandering the icy waters of the north.

Don Leith

By Don Leith

Retired from the real world. A love of research left over from my days on the debate team in college long ago led me to work on this website. Granted, not all these stories are "fun" or even "trivial" But they all are either weird, unusual or even extraordinary. Working on this website is "fun" in any case. Hope you enjoy it!