Ghost Ship of the Arctic
The SS Baychimo
The Baychimo was a Hudson’s Bay Company supply ship that plied the waters of the Western Canadian Arctic. The business of the Hudson’s Bay Company was to hunt the animals of the Arctic, the sea lions, polar bears, etc., for their furs and oils. The sailors who hunted them had to be really tough and courageous to withstand the very severe weather conditions. The voyages were always dangerous and could only be done during the short Arctic summer.
Baychimo was built in Sweden for the Baltic trade in 1914, she was 229 feet in length and powered by triple-expansion three-cylinder engines. The Hudson’s Bay Company purchased her in 1921, renamed her Baychimo, and refitted her in Europe. She sailed for Montreal that same year and was put into immediate service, going north to Pond Inlet to establish the Bay’s farthest northern post.
By 1925 she had been reassigned to serve the Western Arctic. A sailor who travelled aboard her described her unflatteringly in these terms: “She was a strange and disappointing craft. I looked desperately for some redeeming feature… She bore no resemblance to the traditional barque-rigged steam whalers. She hardly differed from a hundred other coasting tramps. She was iron and steam, all bulk, not designed to fly with canvas… She was no beauty.” Captain Cornwell who commanded her was apparently no beauty either: “Short, tubby, red, somewhat like John Bull in a bowler hat.”