In mid-July 1925, the SS Bayeskimo ran into heavy drift ice at the entrance to Hudson Strait. The ice carried her north, squeezing the steamer and testing the strength of her rivets. Helpless until the tide changed and the ice moved, the officers and crew could only watch and listen to the ship’s tormented groans. Slowly at first, trickles of freezing water seeped through the steel plates on her bow. The trickles became a flood, and Bayeskimo began to sink.
Bayeskimo was one of hundreds of ships in the Hudson’s Bay Company’s fur-trade fleet. For much of the company’s history, they roamed Hudson Bay, the subarctic and beyond the Arctic Circle, servicing far-flung posts. Some even battled their way around the tip of South America to open up trade on the west coast of North America. During these arduous voyages, many came to grief under conditions that would test the mettle of any ship. Here are some of their stories.