Alkimos (ship)

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Alkimos as viewed from the shore, August 2012
Alkimos as viewed from the shore, August 2012
Career (Norway)
Name: Viggo Hansteen
Namesake: Viggo Hansteen
Owner: U.S. War Shipping Administration
Operator: Nortraship
Builder: Bethlehem-Fairfield Shipyards Inc., Baltimore[1]
Laid down: 18 September 1943[1]
Launched: 11 October 1943[1]
Acquired: 18 October 1943[1]
In service: 21 October 1943
Fate: Sold, 1947
Career
Name: Alkimos
Owner: Alkimos Shipping Company
Acquired: 1947
Fate: Wrecked, May 1964
General characteristics (as built[2])
Type: Type EC2-S-C1 liberty ship[1]
Tonnage: 7,176 gross register tons (GRT)
10,865 long tons deadweight (DWT)
Displacement: 14,245 long tons (14,474 t)
Length: 441 ft 6 in (134.57 m)
Beam: 57 ft (17 m)
Draft: 27 ft 8 in (8.43 m) (full)
Propulsion: 2 oil-fired boilers
Three cylinder triple expansion steam engine
2,500 hp (1,864 kW)
1 screw
Speed: 11 knots (20 km/h; 13 mph)
Range: 17,000 nmi (31,000 km) at 11 kn (20 km/h; 13 mph)
Crew: 41

Alkimos was a Greek-owned merchant ship which was wrecked on the coast north of Perth, Western Australia in 1963. A nearby locality was later named after the vessel. The wreck is a popular diving venue, and is also reputed to be haunted, making it of interest to ghost hunters as it is thought also to be a jinxed ship as it has brought a lot of bad luck to people who have gone on the ship itself.

History[edit]

The ship was built during World War II by Bethlehem-Fairfield Shipyards in Baltimore as part of the United States' Liberty ship program and was originally scheduled to be named George M. Shriver. It was launched on October 11, 1943.[3] However, on October 20, the vessel was reassigned to the Norwegian Shipping & Trade Mission, was re-christened Viggo Hansteen.[3] and saw war service for about 18 months, primarily in the Mediterranean and was crewed by mariners of various nationalities. It served as a troopship and transported cargo, in convoys that were sometimes attacked by German aircraft and U-boats.

A murder-suicide took place on board Viggo Hansteen in August 1944, while the ship was at Naples (some sources say Piombino);[3] Canadian radio operator Maude Steane is reported to have been shot by another crew member, who then killed himself.

After the war it was sold to a Greek shipping company and renamed Alkimos, after a word meaning "strong" and a Greek god, Álkimos.

As Alkimos, the ship plied the world's oceans for some two decades. In March 1963, the vessel was on a voyage from Jakarta to Bunbury when it struck a reef off the Western Australian coast. It was salvaged and towed to Fremantle, the port city for Perth, where it underwent repairs for two months. After settlement of a dispute concerning payment for the repairs, the Alkimos left Fremantle under tow by an ocean-going tug from Hong Kong.

Only a few hours out of port, the tow line gave way and the Alkimos was driven onto the shore. Although the ship remained intact, it could not be floated off at that time, and so it was filled with water to secure it in place and left in the charge of an on-board caretaker. Another tug returned in January 1964 and the ship was refloated, but the planned journey to Manila had hardly begun when the tug was seized at sea by authorities and the Alkimos was left anchored. In May 1964, the vessel broke anchor and was driven onto the Eglinton Rocks near present-day Yanchep. On this occasion it was more severely damaged, and all thought of salvaging it intact was abandoned.

It was later sold by the owners for scrap. However, in 1969, salvage workers were driven off the wreck by a fire. One of the salvage workers also reported hearing ghostly noises. After that time, the partly dismantled remains of the ship sat in several metres of water, visible to visitors, but gradually disintegrating.

Ghost stories[edit]

A variety of events and allegations throughout the vessel's history have given rise to it being regarded as being 'jinxed', cursed or haunted, both during its working life and since it was wrecked. This aspect is the main focus of present-day interest in the ship.

Regular references are made in radio and television shows regarding the superstitions. Jack Wong Sue, who co-authored a book on the subject, appeared on ABC television describing the hauntings.

Other reported, or apocryphal, unusual or paranormal events linked to the Alkimos (many of them detailed in Wong Sue's book) include:

  • allegations that,[by whom?] during its hasty construction – a defining characteristic of Liberty Ships – welders were sealed between hulls and their ghosts have haunted the vessel ever since (similar to stories regarding an early British steam ship, the Great Eastern);
  • apparitions of a small dog in the engine room during the ship's service;
  • a woman, working on board as a caretaker, suffering a serious fall, resulting in the birth of a premature stillborn baby;
  • phenomena reported by salvage workers[by whom?] occupying the wreck, including:
    • footsteps heard on ladders and following workers around the vessel at night
    • cooking smells and noises emanating from the galley
    • tools were reported to be moved by unseen hands
  • an apparition of a human figure in rubber boots and oilskins (nicknamed "Henry"), has been sighted on the wreck by various people[4] including local cray fishermen
  • the ship being bought and sold at least eight times while stranded, along with suggestions[5] that purchasers suffered bad luck (such as bankruptcy and life-threatening illness);
  • bad luck is also said to have plagued other people associated with the wreck:
    • a US Navy submariner by the name of Ted Snider was killed in a plane crash after assessing the wreck;[citation needed]
    • Jack Wong Sue was hospitalised, in intensive care, with an unidentified respiratory disease after researching the ship.;
  • numerous other stories of near drownings, engine failures and accidents near the wreck are reported[by whom?];
  • horses riding along the beach are claimed[by whom?] to refuse to pass the wreck.

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e Colton, Tim (2012). "Bethlehem Fairfield". shipbuildinghistory.com. Retrieved 13 December 2012. 
  2. ^ "MaritimeQuest - Liberty Ship (EC2-S-C1) Class Overview". maritimequest.com. 2008. Retrieved 13 December 2012. 
  3. ^ a b c "D/S Viggo Hansteen - Norwegian Merchant Fleet 1939-1945". warsailors.com. 2012. Retrieved 13 December 2012. 
  4. ^ http://www.abc.net.au/stateline/wa/content/2003/s1000949.htm
  5. ^ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dnaVC1sgqFs

References[edit]

Print[edit]

  • Jack Wong Sue and Barry Sue Ghost of the Alkimos (Revised edition: Perth, 2005)
  • Sunday Times Magazine (Perth), 19 March 2006, p. 14

Online[edit]

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 31°36′38″S 115°39′13″E / 31.61056°S 115.65361°E / -31.61056; 115.65361