Norway, Nunavut clash over shipwreck

The wreck of the Maud, as seen from Cambridge Bay, Nunavut.

By Tristin Hopper - National Post

Rather than see it preserved in a Norwegian museum, a committee in Cambridge Bay, Nunavut would rather see the Maud end its days on the bottom of the Arctic Ocean.

Maud Returns Home, a salvage group backed by Norwegian investors, is planning a multi-million dollar expedition to restore the Maud, a 1918 polar exploration vessel once commanded by legendary Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen.

The group aims to raise the wreck with special balloons, mount it on a barge and tow it through the Northwest Passage back to Norway, where it would be preserved in a museum outside Oslo.

“This initiative will be a last opportunity to bring the remains of this once proud polar ship back home and give it a respectable place to rest in the years to come,” reads the project’s website.

Meanwhile, Keep the Baymaud in Canada, a committee of 20 Cambridge Bay residents, is aiming to block the Norwegian’s efforts and keep the 95-year-old ship underwater. The shipwreck is one of the community’s few tourist attractions, say committee members, and locals earn money by motoring visiting cruise ship passengers to the wreck site.

“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 there since 1930 and should not be removed,” reads a petition circulated by the group.

Amundsen had already conquered the South Pole and the Northwest Passage when, in 1918, he set his sights on the North Pole.

Pulling out from Oslo on the newly-christened Maud, Amundsen plan was to deliberately strand the vessel on a chunk of pack ice, where he believed ocean currents would soon carry the ship to the pole.

The 46-year-old explorer was soon plagued by accidents on the expedition. He broke his arm in a fall from the ship, was lightly mauled by a polar bear and nearly died of carbon monoxide poisoning.

The ship, meanwhile, was not drifting anywhere near the North Pole. By 1924, strapped for cash, the expedition was forced to sell the Maud to the Hudson’s Bay Company.

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