On the coast

The Alkimos in 1964. Picture: Wanneroo Regional Museum
The Alkimos in 1964. Picture: Wanneroo Regional Museum

In Jack Sue’s book The Ghost of the Alkimos, John Nairn wrote about the history of the ship.

‘On May 2, 1964, she snapped her anchor chain, and in a heavy swell, spurred on by the vicious autumn winds she leapt towards the shore,’ Nairn said.

‘She was declared a wreck in July 1965, and salvage work started soon afterwards.’

According to the book, the story of the ill-fated ship started two decades earlier in the US, with the prefabricated wartime freighter launched in October 1943 as George M. Shriver, renamed Viggo Hansteen days later, and eventually named Alkimos in 1953.

Nairn said it required repairs in 1949, 1950 and 1951 in the US, collided with another vessel in England in 1961 and underwent ‘costly structural repairs’ in China later that year.

On March 20, 1963, the ship went aground on Beagle Island reef off WA, with the master reporting a badly damaged propeller, but it refloated itself three days later and the master asked for a tug escort for the 266km journey to Fremantle.

Under its own steam, the freighter crawled in the harbour on March 29 where it was awaiting repairs when mysteriously set ablaze a month later.

On May 23, the ship’s master was presented a writ for debts, but those were lifted days later.

‘On May 30, 1963, WA tug Pacific Reserve, with the burnt and battered Alkimos in tow, steamed out of Fremantle harbour, bound for Hong Kong,’ Nairn said.

‘Early on May 31, foul weather sprang unexpectedly. The Alkimos, dragging heavily, snapped the tow rope. She had travelled only 50km north from Fremantle.

‘Great white foamed waves spewed the Alkimos onto a reef, and, devoid of power, she wedged herself amidst rock and sand.’

There the ship sat for several months, leaking in its engine room, until salvage experts decided to try refloat it.’A heavy swell lifted the Alkimos, and slowly the part-flooded Alkimos was refloated,’ Nairn said.

‘(The crew) spent the next two weeks pumping the Alkimos dry, patching holes and water-proofing fractured bulkhead seams.

‘On the calmest of days, with the sky like a dome of a hothouse class, the Pacific Star began towing the Alkimos (to) Hong Kong for multiple repairs.’

However, it had only travelled 4km when another vessel drew alongside the Pacific Star and served a writ on the tug’s master.

‘The Pacific Star, under arrest, could no longer give aid to the Alkimos, so the Alkimos was set at anchor between the reefs off Eglinton Rocks, about 4km south of Yanchep beach,’ Nairn said.

Little remains of the freighter where it finally came to rest off the suburb that is its namesake.