Oct 22, 2014 I Brent Swancer

The Cursed Shipwreck of Australia

Throughout the world, there have long been various objects and places that have been deemed as having a certain evil presence pervading them. It is not always clear from where this intangible aura of menace and wickedness comes. Is it ghosts? Dark magic or curses? Or is it some unseen sinister force that we can not comprehend, that permeates the world around us and pools around certain areas, infecting them with its insidious, inscrutable stain? Whatever this evil is, it can certainly be found clinging to one old shipwreck off the coast of Western Australia, about 40km north of Perth. Here lies the skeletal remains of the Alkimos, a WWII era cargo ship that from the moment of its creation was infused with a menacing force that has still not let go even as the ship's remains slowly rot and melt away into the sea. 

The Alkimos was a merchant shipping vessel that began its career when it was hastily built during World War II at the Bethlehem-Fairfield Shipyards in Baltimore. It was originally named the George M. Shriver, and even at this early stage in the ship’s life there was a certain darkness hanging over it. The vessel was what was known as a Liberty Ship, which were basically cargo ships that were designed to be mass produced quickly and cheaply. As such, the construction of such ships was rushed and few safety precautions were in place. Like others of its kind, the George M. Shriver was built in only 10 days, and during this rushed construction, some unfortunate welders were reportedly sealed between the hulls of the vessel, where they perished. In addition to the deaths, it was said that the construction of the ship was fraught with an unusual number of bizarre, freak accidents, even considering the less than favorable working conditions. Before it had even been launched, the George M. Shriver was already garnering a reputation as being unlucky.

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The Alkimos when it was in service

The ship was officially put into service on October 11, 1943, as the George M. Shriver, but did not retain that name for very long. On October 20, it was assigned to the Norwegian Shipping & Trade Mission, and its name was changed to the Viggo Hansteen. The vessel embarked on an 18 month tour of duty during the war, serving as a troop ship and a cargo ship, often under fierce enemy fire. During these tumultuous days of the war, the ominous specter of bad luck and misfortune once again loomed over the ship. The ship was prone to a myriad of technical difficulties and was often known to break down at sea. Other unfortunate things befell the ship as well. On one mission, the two merchant boats in front of it were blasted to smithereens by German U-boats and although the Viggo Hansteen was not hit, it became stranded for 6 hours on an unmapped reef, where it sat vulnerable to attack before it was finally able to break free. An even more menacing incident occurred in August, 1944, when the ship became the scene for a brutal murder-suicide. While the ship was at port in Naples to unload ammunition and gliders, a female Canadian radio operator was shot by another crew member, who then proceeded to shoot himself. It was a shocking and senseless crime that further punctuated the growing consensus that the ship was cursed. The rumors circulated and it got to the point that some crewmen refused to serve aboard it, calling it the unluckiest vessel afloat.

After the war, the vessel changed hands several times and eventually ended up with a Greek shipping company, where it was rechristened to the Alkimos. The end of the war and the change of name apparently did not free the ship from the insidious cloud of bad luck and strangeness that seemed to follow it around. In 1963, after nearly two decades of service with the Greek company, the Alkimos ran aground at a reef called Beagle Rocks, off Western Australia, as it was on a voyage from Jakarta to Bunbury. With the ship’s propeller badly damaged, the decision was made to tow it to Fremantle so that basic repairs could be done, after which it would be towed to Hong Kong for more extensive repairs. While awaiting repairs at Fremantle, the Alkimos mysteriously caught on fire, and the ensuing blaze caused even more damage to the vessel. When the minor repairs were finally finished and the Alkimos was on its way to Hong Kong, the tow line inexplicably snapped just an hour after departure and strong waves sent it hurtling towards shore, where it ran aground just north of Fremantle. The beached ship could not be moved at the time, and so was weighed down with water and left with a caretaker until proper salvage efforts could be mounted.

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The Alkimos when it was beached

The beaching of the Alkimos did nothing to dilute whatever strange force was influencing it. Caretakers who stayed aboard the vessel often reported hearing inexplicable noises such as footsteps, voices, and tapping sounds. On occasion, phantom smells were detected, the most commonly reported being the smell of cooking from the empty galley. It was also said that the ship projected a peculiar feeling of menace, causing an uncomfortable sense of being watched and hair to stand up on end for no immediately discernible reason. 

A salvage operation was finally launched in 1964, and after being dislodged from the beach, the Alkimos was towed towards Manila by the vessel the Pacific Star. The ship apparently did not want to be moved. Soon after departing, the Pacific Star was ordered to cease it's operations due to a financial dispute with a company in Manila. Unable to legally tow the Alkimos any further, the Pacific Star anchored her about 4 kilometers south of Yanchep Beach, near a place called Eglington Rocks, and left it there. Shorty thereafter, strong waves broke the ship free of its anchor and it became badly damaged and stuck upon the rocks. In a further bizarre and somewhat sinister turn of events, the Pacific Star mysteriously caught fire as it was docked and awaiting legal proceedings. The Alkimos remained perched where it was, and began a long process of changing hands between various salvage crews and caretakers. The ship's curse had not faded, and there would be a myriad of accounts of high strangeness in the ensuing years, some comparably innocent, and others with a much darker leaning.

Several salvage crews who came to try and repair the Alkimos complained of having their tools mysteriously move from one place to another, or to disappear altogether only to reappear later in a completely different location. Once again the mysterious sounds and smells plagued the salvage crews as well. Some workers reported being followed around by disembodied footsteps, and voices were often heard in the dark or behind bulkheads. The galley once again proved to be one of the centers of weirdness aboard the vessel, as again it emitted the smells of cooking and sounds of activity, all of which ceased the moment anyone went to investigate them. There were also accounts of being pushed or tapped by unseen hands. In a deadlier turn of events, one female caretaker who spent some time aboard the vessel suffered a serious fall and lost the baby she was carrying.

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The Alkimos wreck before significant disintegration

In 1969, giving up all hope of trying to salvage the vessel intact, workers began the process of dismantling it for scrap, only for bad luck to strike again with a vengeance. A Navy submariner by the name of Ted Snider was called in to make measurements of the propeller and rudders of the Alkimos in order to estimate the amount of explosives needed to dismantle them and start the operation. Shortly after, Snider and three others were mysteriously killed in a freak plane crash while on their way to another, unrelated project. Subsequent salvage workers started the dismantling process only to be driven off by a fire that suddenly broke out. After this, it is reported that the wreck of the Alkimos was bought and sold by eight different companies who all failed to successfully salvage the stranded ship. In addition to this failure, it is said that the Alkimos exuded its malicious influence far beyond its physical location to bring dire misfortune onto all those who attempted to buy it, such as sudden illness, bankruptcy, and unexplained deaths.

In the end, the ship stayed where it was, and where it remains to this day. The vessel's dark presence has seemingly not gone away, and a wide variety of strangeness and unusual phenomena surrounds the wreck. The area is notorious for having boat motors stop or other equipment break down when in the vicinity of the wreck. Divers investigating the shipwreck have complained of malfunctioning diving equipment and cameras. Visitors climbing upon the ship have allegedly suffered an inordinate amount of slips, falls, and other inconveniences, and the whole wreck is generally described as being jinxed. It is said that horses on the beach near the Alkimos become extremely agitated and will either wildly bolt or refuse to pass it altogether.

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The Alkimos not long after being stranded on the rocks

There are also ghost sightings made here. Fishermen in the area have reported the presence of an apparition aboard the wreck said to wear rubber boots and oilskins, and is referred to as Harry. Once thought to be a vagrant or hermit living on the wreck, it has been ascertained that no one currently lives there, thus raising the speculation that it is perhaps a ghost. The ship is also allegedly home to the ghost of a small dog, which was most often sighted during its days in actual service.

More dangerously, there have been several near drownings around the half sunken ship, and a long distance swimmer named Herbert Voight disappeared while training nearby, only for his skull to later be found washed up upon the wreck. Even stranger is the tale of author Jack Wong Sue, who visited the Alkimos in order to do research for his book Ghost of the Alkimos, became suddenly and inexplicably ill with a rare respiratory illness shortly after his trip. Although he ultimately lived, the condition got so bad during his 10 month struggle with it that at one point he was not expected to survive. He lived to tell the tale and finish the book, which has proven to be the best and most comprehensive account of the ship's strange, haunted history and phenomena associated with it.

Presently, the remains of the Alkimos can still be found where it was abandoned all of those years ago, just a short drive north of Perth. The wreck has steadily disintegrated over the years, and now there is very little left visible above the water line. Divers often come here despite all of the spooky stories, but it is dangerous as portions of the wreck have been known to collapse without warning. The ship has also become very popular among paranormal investigators looking for signs of its ghosts or other oddness. 

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The Alkimos wreck in 2012

What is it about this ship that gives it its dark powers? It there some supernatural force at work or is this all a string of interlocked, weird coincidences and scary tall tales? No matter what the answer may be, there is not much doubt that the Alkimos wreck is certainly an eerie place with its share of shadowy history. Perhaps it is best left to its watery grave in the hopes that its eventual total deterioration will dispel whatever malevolent presence powers it. 

Brent Swancer

Brent Swancer is an author and crypto expert living in Japan. Biology, nature, and cryptozoology still remain Brent Swancer’s first intellectual loves. He's written articles for MU and Daily Grail and has been a guest on Coast to Coast AM and Binnal of America.

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