The Alkimos Shipwreck is a famous haunted wreck in Perth with a jinxed past. I dived it on Halloween with friends. Here’s what happened.
There is a haunted shipwreck in Perth… and I dived it on Halloween.
Haunted ships have been a facination of the human mind ever since man inhabited the seas. One of the most famous ghost ships that boasts paranormal experiences, activity and scary ghost stories is situated right here in Perth, Western Australia – The Alkimos.
The ship was built in Baltimore USA in 1943, constructed fast in ten days as part of the American Liberty ship program for World War II. Launched on October 11, it was reassigned to the Norweigian Shipping & Trade Mission and re-christened under the name ‘Viggo Hansteen’.
For 18 months, she provided war service primarily in the Mediterranean, crewed by mariners of various nationalities, transporting cargo and serving as a troopship in convoys that were often attached by German aircraft and U-boats. During this time, rumours of construction workers having been welded between the ships plating during construction began, with crew starting to report paranormal activity on board, all the while the ship mysteriously dodged U Boat torpedoes while sibling ships took hits and sunk.
In August 1944, a mysterious murder-suicide took place on board the World War II merchant ship when it was stationed in Naples, Italy. Canadian radio operator, Ms Maude Steane, was shot by a Norwegian gunnery officer who then killed himself. Because the incident was so horrific, the incident was hushed up from public knowledge, with the Military saying Steane had been killed by enemy fire. She was classed as the first woman from Toronto to die in service.
Post war, the ship was unarmed and eventually sold to a Greek shipping company and again re-named to Alkimos. For the next 18 years up to 1963, she sailed the world’s oceans with various crew members coming and going, many recounting real ghost sightings and frightening experiences they had whilst on board.
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 a settlement of a dispute concerning payment for these repairs, the Alkimos left Fremantle under tow by an ocean-going tug company from Hong Kong.
Only a few hours out of Fremantle port, the tow line mysteriously gave way, and the Alkimos was driven back onto the shore. Although the ship remained intact, it could not be floated off at that time, and so was filled with water to secure it in place and left in charge of an on-board caretaker.
In January 1964, another tug returned to refloat the ship for a planned journey to Manila. But during the route, authorities seized the tug, leaving the Alkimos anchored and abandoned at sea. Four months later, Alkimos broke anchor and without any form of power or human control, she drove herself onto Eglinton Rocks near present-day Yanchep. During this time, she was more severely damaged and all thought of salvaging it intact was abandoned.
The Alkimos was later sold for scrap by her owners. However, in 1969, salvage workers were driven off the wreck by a mysterious fire. One of the salvage workers also reported hearing ghostly noises during this time. After this time, the partly dismantled remains of the ship sat in several metres of water, visible to visitors, but gradually disintegrating.
For the next 40 years, the Alkimos existed as a landmark for the area, rusting away from the relentless pounding of the Indian Ocean. Over these years, several salvage crews visited and numerous caretakers lived on board. Reported injuries, disappearances, strange sightings, boats engines failing nearby and even deaths have been associated with the Alkimos.
With bizarre events and allegations plaguing the vessel’s history, it is no wonder it has been given a ‘jinxed’ and ‘haunted’ reputation. Some of the more widely-known stories of the bad-luck wreck include:
- Allegations during its hasty construction – welders were sealed between hulls and their ghosts have haunted the vessel ever since.
- Apparitions of a small dog in the engine room during the ship’s service.
- A woman, working onboard as a caretaker, suffered a serious fall, resulting in the birth of a premature stillborn baby.
- Phenomena reported by salvage workers occupying the wreck; hearing footsteps on ladders, cooking smells and noises coming from the kitchen gallery and tools 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, including local cray fishermen.
- The human skull of Herbert Voigh, a prominent long distance swimmer, being found near the wreck after he vanished in 1969 on an attempted swim between Cottesloe Beach and Rottnest Island.
- The ship being bought and sold at least eight times while stranded, along with suggestions that purchases suffered bad luck (bankruptcy and life-threatening illnesses).
- A US Navy Submariner by the name of Ted Snider was killed in a plane crash after assessing the wreck.
- Jack Wong Sue, author of Ghost of Alkimos, was hospitalized under a respiratory diseases after researching this ship.
- Numerous stories of near drownings, engine failures and accidents near the wreck were reported.
- Horse riding enthusiasts claim their horses refuse to gallop past the wreck.
- Dogs became erratic and distressed in the area.
Ray Krakouer of Yanchep, one of the ship’s original caretakers, served abroad the wreck for weeks at a time after she ran aground in 1963. He claims he is not superstitious by nature, but recalled some scary moments to the local newspaper.
“I particularly remember the eerie sight of seeing something coming towards me like a bright light the size of a man” he said.
I picked up a piece of three-by-two timber and stood their waiting. I said something like ‘Come on, you bastard’ but then thought better of it and dropped the lump of wood and climbed the ladder out of the hold. There was also the clatter of the Morse key in the radio room, though it was locked and sealed by the customs people” he finished.
MY STORY: SCUBA DIVING THE WRECK ON HALLOWEEN
When I was a little girl, my dad shared these eerie stories to me about the ‘haunted’ Alkimos shipwreck whenever we visited Yanchep Beach. From vague memory, I remember seeing the ship (at that time still visible above water) looking very black with torn sails. I thought to myself at those times it looked like a frightening pirate ship.
Growing up, I don’t consider myself too much of a superstitious person, but I won’t lie, this dive trip to the Alkimos wreck on Halloween got me a little nervous. As an adventurous scuba diver, I enjoy challenging myself. Shipwrecks have always been fascinating to me, this has been something I’ve always to do dive. What better way to explore one of the most famous ‘bad-luck’ ships in history then on the one night of the year where bad spooky luck can happen…
I put the word out to the Perth diving community on my plans to dive Alkimos wreck on Halloween. The feedback was positive, with many other Perth divers wanting to join in. However, finding a boat charter that would go to the wreck was more difficult, as even still to this day, many superstitious Perth skippers refuse to go too close. Luckily Western Blue Charters got in touch with me, with skipper Michael not afraid to venture out to the wreck.
To be in theme for the Halloween night dive at the haunted Alkimos shipwreck, I decided to be a scuba-diver vampire. Bought the fangs and everything. This seemed like a great idea right up until the point when I realised on the boat I’d need to take the fangs out of my mouth in order to put the regulator in so I can breathe underwater. (I swear sometimes I have the strangest blonde moments).
After preparing equipment and me downing two anti- sea sickness tablets, we departed Mindarie Marina at about 6:00pm, with conditions being (at the time) perfect.
Everyone was having a great time on the way to the site, of which takes 15 minutes from Mindarie.
As we approached the wreck, I started to feel a bit funny. Sea sickness was taking over me. Which was odd, because I did take two sea sickness-tablets in the appropriate time before our departure. In the past, anti sea-sickness tablets always protected me, but that night, it didn’t work. Instantly, I felt physically sick.
I pushed on of course despite the onslaught of sickness starting. After the skipper talked through our safety briefing while I tried not to spew in front of everyone, I was the first to quickly jump into the waters so to help ease my symptoms. At the time, sharks and ghosts weren’t on my mind – I just wanted to get in that damn water! At this time, it was 7pm and it was starting to get dark. Once everyone was in the water, we paired into our buddy system to explore the famous wreck.
This is when things started to get interesting.
My buddy and I, Andrew, descended 10 metres to start diving towards the wreck. I was still feeling nauseous, but held on. Conditions grew worse, with visibility underwater becoming more poorer as Andrew and I got heavily swayed side by side. Keeping buoyant was extremely hard, and this did not help my existing nauseousness. I have to admit, I was hanging onto Andrew’s little finger for dear life, so to not fly away from him underwater. After being underwater for about 10 minutes, I signaled to Andrew I needed to ascend (I knew I was going to be sick). We ascended together only to realise…. we actually never left the spot we were in. For the past 15 minutes, we didn’t make any progress underwater, and the wreck was still 200 metres away from us. We were dumbfounded. It was at this point I got sick and decided I couldn’t physically continue the diving expedition. Thankfully another diver by the name of Chris submerged (who lost his buddy underwater) and offered to look after me, while Andrew could continue diving.
This is when the night took a worse for me (not so much for the others, just me). Weather suddenly changed to become more severe and windy. The seasickness I experienced on the night was the worst I ever had – the waves become wild and choppy, stormy clouds set in and so I had no choice but to hang onto the rope trailing behind the boat to try and ease my symptoms. Luckily I had Chris there to help me hang on, but I have to admit – I was ruined. I was the only one on that boat to get sick, and I got sick bad.
Once everyone got back on the boat, some divers mentioned they saw a big 4m Port Jackson shark and a big octopus, but otherwise visibility was too poor for anyone to see too much.
Michael the skipper, observed a mysterious flashing light that kept spiraling in circles not too far from the boats line underwater. Originally thinking it was a diver, it remained there even after all divers boarded on the boat. After brief amusement, they realised it was a lots torch (thanks to me, which reminds me, I still owe Chris a replacement torch).
All in all, it was a great novelty dive on Halloween and I thoroughly enjoyed mingling with other Perth scuba divers. We all shared stories on the way there about the wreck, but on the way back, I was passed out, sleeping in the corner. It was an amusing night, that’s for sure!
I did find it very bizarre how the weather took a sudden dramatic change once we arrived to the wreck, and how seasickness overcame me (despite me taking medication). Whether this was the work of the haunted Alkimos, I’ll never truly know. But one thing I definitely know is bad luck got me that night.
I wholeheartedly recommend Western Blue Charters for boat trips in Perth’s northern waters, the skipper Michael is a friendly, funny and all-round great guy who looks after everyone. He made our trip so memorable and he cared for me well.
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.