Norway group prepares for next year’s attempt to retrieve the Maud
“Our main challenge is to get into the Northwest Passage”
The people behind the Maud Returns Home project are back in Nunavut – this time to learn more about how to transport the famous sailing vessel through Arctic waters back to its Norwegian home.
The group’s travel plans include leaving Norway next June with a tugboat and barge, which they plan to sail past Greenland and up the Davis Strait and along to Cambridge Bay, the resting place of the sunken Maud.
Cambridge Bay is where the ship, known locally as the Baymaud, sank in its mooring in 1930 after Norwegian polar explorer Roald Amundsen tried unsuccessfully to sail her around North Pole.
Jan Wanggaard, project manager the Maud Returns Home, visited Iqaluit last week to meet with the Canadian Coast Guard to update the group’s travel plans for 2014.
“Our main challenge is to get into the Northwest Passage, where the ice situation is very different every year,” Wanggaard told Nunatsiaq News.
“From what we’ve heard, it really varies — this September has been very good, but we want to get in as early as possible.”
The Maud was originally supposed to be transported back to Norway in 2013, but plans were pushed ahead a year while Wanggaard’s group waited to secure its tugboat, the Tandberg Polar and have it inspected by Norwegian shipping authorities.
With plans set for 2014, Wanggaard calculates the trip to Cambridge Bay will take about a month.
Once there, the Norwegian group will spend three weeks raising the sunken ship with balloons and securing it to a custom-built pontoon barge, before embarking on a journey back to Greenland for the winter.
The Maud won’t make its final journey back to Norway until 2015, where it will be put on display at a museum in Asker, a suburb of Oslo.
To ensure the ship remains in good enough condition to transport, Wanggaard is in Cambridge Bay this week where he plans to dive down to get a close look at the submerged Maud.
“We’ve been [in Cambridge Bay] the last two summers, and we mostly want to update people on our plans,” Wanggaard said. “We’ve gotten to know people there quite well.”
Wanggaard said whatever local tension there may have been over the Maud’s future has now gone.
“The atmosphere is good,” he said. “They know this is an important historical object for Norway and I think they’re happy to see that we’re taking care of the ship and preserving it for the future.”
Amundsen, the first European adventurer to travel the Northwest Passage in 1906 and the first person to reach the South Pole in December 1911, left Norway in 1918 with the Maud, planning to drift with the ice across the Northeast Passage westwards and over the North Pole.
But his crew never got into the westward current, although the expedition did produce some excellent scientific results — mostly after Amundsen had given up and left the ship. Amundsen is still a revered national hero in Norway.
Creditors sold the Maud in 1925 to the Hudson Bay Co., which renamed it the Baymaud. The ship ended its days as a floating warehouse and radio station, and sank at its mooring in 1930.