50km north of Perth, and only a few hundred metres off shore, lies the ghost ship Alkimos. Once part of the United States’ Liberty ship program at the tail end of World War II, it was re-assigned to the Norwegian Shipping & Trade Mission under the name Viggo Hansteen. It served as a troop and cargo ship within convoys often attacked by German aircraft and U-boats.
Only a year after birth, the ship became the stage of it’s first real trauma – a murder-suicide. It is said that the radio operator, Canadian born Maude Steane, was heard being shot by another crew member. The shooter then committed suicide.
After the war the ship was sold on to a Greek shipping company who re-christened her to the name we refer to now. Alkimos, in reference to the Greek God Álkimos, a God of Strength. For nigh on twenty years the ship plied the world’s oceans.
In March 1963, the Alkimos was on voyage to Bunbury, Western Australia, when she collided with a reef. The damage was extensive requiring a tow to nearby Perth for repairs. Two months later, after a dispute about the cost of repairs, the ship left port on-tow to Hong Kong. Only hours after departure the tow line snapped leaving the ship to drift. Unable to re-secure the tow-line, the ship was weighed down with water and left with an on-board caretaker until another tow could be arranged.
In January 1964, the Alkimos once more left it’s resting place on tow to Manila, but was immediately seized by authorities. The ship was left anchored once more only to break her bindings and collide once more with the reef. The damage was even more extensive than before, and any hope of salvaging her intact was fruitless. This became the final resting place of the troubled ship Alkimos.
Stories of ghosts on-board the Alkimos started date back to the ships first construction in 1943. During her hasty construction, which was usual for Liberty Ships, it is said a number of welders were sealed between the hulls. Their ghosts were said to have haunted the ship ever since.
During the ship’s service there were numerous reports during the ships service of a ghostly dog being sighted in the ship’s engine room, and it is said a female caretaker suffered a serious fall resulting in the premature birth of her stillborn baby.
The stories of hauntings have continued since the wreck. In 1969, during salvage work for scrap metal, a number of welders were aboard the ship when it caught fire. A number of salvage workers have reported hearing eerie noises on the ship, wholeheartedly believing it to be haunted. The welders claimed to have heard footsteps on the ship, following them around at night, as well as strange cooking odours emanating from the galley.
Various onlookers to the wreck have claimed to see a ghostly man in rubber boots and oilskins walking along the wreck. Caretaker’s who worked on the wreck nick-named the apparition “Harry”, which has stuck with local cray fisherman who work near the Alkimos.
The Alkimos has had eight different owners since being abandoned. It is believed that all eight suffered trauma during their ownership, from bankruptcy to severe illness. The skull of long-distance swimmer Herbert Voight was found near the wreck after he went missing on an attempt to swim from Cottesloe Beach to the island of Rottnest. The bad luck doesn’t end there; the US submariner Ted Snider was killed in a plane crash shortly after assessing the wreck, and researcher Jack Wong Sue was struck by an unknown respiratory disease and taken to intensive care shortly after writing the book Ghost of the Alkimos.
Number of other rumours have been relayed about the Alkimos. It is said that horses won’t pass the wreck along the beach, and dogs have become erratic and distressed in the area. A number of reports of near drownings and engine failures have been reported by people attempting to get close to the wreck by ship.
Visiting the Alkimos
In previous years it has been possible to see the wreck of the Alkimos by venturing over the dunes in a four-wheel drive. Unfortunately, since the start of development of the suburb of Alkimos, it is now difficult to gain entry. The land between the developed houses of Alkimos and the beach are being prepared for further development and as such have been fenced off. It may be possible to access the beach from Pipidinny Road a few kilometres further north, but this may prove difficult.
For more information on the Alkimos, try and get hold of a copy of Jack Wong Sue’s Ghost of the Alkimos or Dana Rasmussen’s Sunken Ships in the World’s Waters, Vol 6: Shipwrecks in Australia.