Phantom Treasure Ship
from the book, "Petrified Lightning"

Petrified Lightning

Phantom Treasure Ship

Phantom ships, such as the classic Flying Dutchman, are the substance of many legends. The ghost ship, because of some curse or as retribution for some unpardonable crime, is unable to reach any port and must wander endlessly over storm—tossed seas. Not all of these ships have sprung from the storyteller's imagination. A more recent story about a phantom ship, the freighter Baychinco, is based on recorded fact.

The Baychinco became stuck in the ice off Point Barrow, the northernmost promontory of Alaska, in the year 1931. Freighters have often become immobilized by encroaching Arctic ice, and the crew met the emergency in a most reasonable and prudent way. They remained with the ship to await a breakup of the ice. When the area was hit by a sudden severe blizzard, the ship rocked so violently that the crew feared that it would break up. So the captain ordered all aboard to abandon ship. The crew descended onto the thick ice alongside the imprisoned ship and lay flat on the solid ice sheet for protection from the storm.

Finally the storm abated, and the air cleared enough for them to see around them. To their shocked amazement the freighter was gone without a trace, with no debris or any other evidence that it had broken up and sunk during the storm. The only explanation was that the intense winds had broken the ship loose from the confining ice and, with the help of the wind, it had drifted free. To the bewildered and stranded crew the ship had simply vanished from their sight, forever.

The Baychinco became one of those spectral ships that loom indistinctly on the horizon, enshrouded by fog, snow, squalls, or other tempestuous weather. It was a true "ghost ship" that continued to drift aimlessly among the Arctic ice packs. For a number of years the ship was much sought after because it carried a heavy cargo of valuable furs. It has been seen several times, but ice packs have always prevented any ship from making contact. The Baychinco was sighted and identified at a distance as recently as 1964.