The SS Baychimo was built in 1914 in Sweden. A steel-hulled 1,322-ton cargo steamer, she was originally christened Ångermanelfven, named after one of the longest rivers in the country. The ship was originally used as a trading vessel in the Baltic Sea.
The ship (being owned by Germans) was sourced during WWI to serve the German war efforts. With the conclusion of the war, the ship was ceded to the British Government under the Treaty of Versailles. The British government sold the ship to the Hudson’s Bay Company for 15,000 pounds which renamed her the Baychimo. Her first voyage for the Bay Company was in the Eastern Arctic in 1921.
In 1922, Captain Sidney Cornwell assumed command of the ship. Initially used in the fur trade with Siberia, the Baychimo was later reassigned to travel between Vancouver and HBC posts along the Yukon and Northwest Territories’ northern coast from 1924 to 1931.
In September 1931 she was unexpectedly hit by a blizzard at the Seahorse Islands, near Point Barrow off Alaska’s northern coast. The crew quickly anchored her, intending to ride out the storm, however, it soon became apparent that the ship was caught in the ice and would have to winter in the Arctic.
As the ship could not be heated fully throughout the long winter, the crew constructed makeshift accommodations near the town of Barrow, just over half a mile away. The few passengers and the rest of the crew were flown back to Vancouver. The remaining crew would trek to the ship daily, clearing away ice from the rudder and other critical pieces of equipment.
On November 24th that year, the ship was once again hit by a blizzard. When the blizzard cleared up, she was gone. Assuming that the ship sank, the crew were getting ready to leave when they heard from an Inuit hunter that the Baychimo had been spotted approximately 72 kilometres away. The crew found the ship but decided that she would not make it, so they removed the most valuable cargo and flew back to Vancouver.
This is where the story gets interesting. Contrary to predictions, the Baychimo did not sink but was spotted several months later floating along 480km from where the crew abandoned her.
In March 1932 the ship was spotted again by a man travelling to Nome with his dog sledge team. A few months later she was seen by a group of prospectors. In March 1933 she provided shelter to a group of Iñupiat who boarded her during a freak storm.
In the years and decades that followed, the ship has been spotted numerous times. While many have tried to salvage her, none have been successful. The last recorded sighting of the Baychimo was in 1969.
The Alaskan government began work on a project in 2006 to find and solve the mystery of the Baychimo. To date, any sign of her is yet to be found. Given that almost fifty years have elapsed since her last sighting, it is highly likely that she has ultimately found her final resting place in the depths of the Beaumont Sea.