Norwegians win converts for removing the Maud from Nunavut
"If Ottawa tells them they can take it, they can"
People in Cambridge Bay have been watching Jan Wanggaard and a fellow diver from Norway this week as they check out the sunken hulk of the Maud.
The ship once sailed by Norway’s polar hero Roald Amundsen has been a landmark in the community since it sunk at its mooring 80 years ago.
The visiting Norwegians’ plan to bring up what remains of the Maud back to Norway, and then build a futuristic museum around it, has met less opposition than they imagined.
An Aug. 8 meeting between Wanggaard, the project manager of “Maud Returns Home,” and the hamlet council of Cambridge Bay to discuss the project produced no municipal resolution condemning the plan.
Cambridge Bay mayor Syd Glawson said there was no consensus among the councillors about the plan presented by Wanggaard, who represents the current owners of the Maud in Norway and has promoted the plan on a website called “Maud Returns Home.”
Some liked the plan, others opposed it and still others didn’t have any opinion at all about it, Glawson said.
Glawson, who started out a critic of their plan to remove the Maud, now says it’s in the hands of the federal government to decide whether to issue an export permit to the Norwegian investment company that now owns the ship.
“I want it to stay here, but if Ottawa tells them they can take it, they can,” Glawson said.
Without an export permit, the Norwegians won’t be able to move the Maud next summer, by first raising the Maud with balloons, dragging the hulk over to a barge, putting it into a kind of “cradle,” raising it out of the water, slowly, and then towing it back to Norway — a 7,000-kilometre journey.
“I feel comfortable about the plan that they have,” Glawson told Nunatsiaq News. “Now they have to determine that it works, and I hope they do.”
At the council meeting, Glawson suggested that the “Maud Returns Home” promoters might like to make a replica of the Maud and sail it back and forth from Cambridge Bay as a way of promoting Amundsen’s achievement as the first European explorer to sail through the Northwest Passage — an idea Wanggaard didn’t pick up on, he said.
But Glawson said Cambridge Bay could consider doing something like that on its own, following the example of Lunenburg’s reconstruction of the Bluenose II schooner, which now gives public cruises and travels to special events.
The lack of a formal opposition to the Norwegian’s plan has taken the wind out of a group of Cambridge Bay residents who want to keep the Maud — better known to them as the Baymaud, the name given to it by the Hudson’s Bay Co. — right where it is: in the waters outside their community.
They formed a committee called “Keep the Baymaud in Canada” and circulated a petition that says the Baymaud, which sunk near today’s community of Cambridge Bay in 1930, is “an archaeological site that needs to be protected as she is where she is.”
The petition notes that the Baymaud also served as a supply vessel and a floating warehouse, then later as a wireless radio station, broadcasting from the Arctic to what is now the CBC.
“While we don’t deny the importance of the Maud to Norway, one also cannot deny the fact that she is a Canadian archaeological site that has been here since 1930 and should not be removed,” the petition reads.
Spokesperson Vicki Aitaok now says “I feel like I lost the battle.”
“But it’s not really my battle,” Aitaok told Nunatsiaq News — it’s up for the people in the community to decide how they feel, she said.
And many young people in the community don’t feel any connection to the ship.
They may regret letting the [Bay]Maud leave Nunavut, Aitaok predicts: “Twenty or 30 years from now they’ll be saying, why did we let it go?”