Norway wants Amundsen’s Maud back from Nunavut
No way, says Cambridge Bay
(updated 8:00 a.m., May 16)
OSLO — For more than 80 years the wreck of the Maud has stayed right where it sank in 1930: in a bay outside today’s community of Cambridge Bay.
However, wealthy Norwegian investors have now cooked up a plan to bring the Maud back to Norway and build a futuristic museum around it.
“No” is Cambridge Bay mayor Syd Glawson’s response to this scheme, which would see his community lose a tourist attraction — and a piece of its local history.
Officials from Parks Canada, the Government of Nunavut, and the International Polar Heritage Committee, whose president, Susan Barr, works in Oslo, are also wary of the plan to take the Maud away from Nunavut.
But the Norwegians are serious, Barr told Nunatsiaq News during a recent interview in Oslo.
Bringing the Maud back to Norway is all about the enduring hoopla that surrounds their home-grown polar hero Roald Amundsen, the first European explorer to make it through the Northwest Passage in 1906 and to the South Pole in 1911.
“A future Maud Museum… will present the remains of the ship, which will become a national treasure, well taken care of,” says a website called maudreturnshome.no.
The plan is to raise the Maud from underwater with balloons, drag the hulk over to a barge and bring it back to Norway — a 7,000-kilometre journey.
To that end, a Norwegian investment company, Tandberg Eiendom AS, has already purchased a barge and is willing to spend $5 to $6 million — or more — to bring the Maud back to Norway.
Espen Tandberg of the company Tandberg Eiendom AS recently told the Norwegian broadcasting organization NRK that patriotism and cultural history are the driving forces behind its plan to bring the Maud back to Norway.
The wrecked Maud actually belongs to the Norwegian community of Asker, a wealthy seaside suburb of Oslo, which bought the Maud, as is, for $1 back in 1990.
At the time, that seemed like a fair deal to the hamlet of Cambridge Bay.
Then, officials in Asker applied for and received a cultural properties export permit from Canada’s federal government, but never acted to bring the 36.5-metre boat back. The permit expired.
But now Asker, with the financial backing of Tandberg Eiendom AS, is expected to apply for new permit, so the Maud could be back in Norway this year for the 100th anniversary of Amundsen’s successful trek to the South Pole.
Amundsen left Norway again in 1918 with the Maud, planning to drift with the ice across the Northeast Passage.
The Maud was launched in June 1917 and christened by Amundsen by crushing a chunk of ice against her bow. “For the ice you have been built, and in the ice you shall stay most of your life, and in the ice you shall solve your tasks,” he said.
The Maud was to sail through the Northeast Passage to get into the ice northwest of the Bering Strait. The plan was to drift in the ice from there westwards and maybe over the North Pole.
But they 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).
The Maud was finally sold by creditors in 1925 to Hudson Bay Co., which renamed it the Baymaud.
The ship ended its days as a floating warehouse and radio station, sinking at its mooring in 1930.
In 1990, the Hudson’s Bay Co. sold the Maud to the hamlet, which then transferred the ship’s ownership to Asker.
While the Maud hasn’t budged since, public opinion has.
Many Cambridge Bay residents, including Glawson, don’t want to see the Maud leave Nunavut.
Officials argue the Maud should be left in the Arctic as part of its heritage.
Barr says they’re crossing their fingers that the Canadian government doesn’t grant a second export permit allowing the Maud to go to Norway.
In Canada, Maud could some day become part of a United Nations world heritage site, organized around the voyages of the early European explorers in the Arctic, Barr said.
This world heritage site would lead visitors on cruise ships or in communities to several places of interest across Canada’s North, such as the location of the Maud.
Other stops could include the recently-found Investigator, used by Capt. Robert McClure, and Gjoa Haven, where Amundsen wintered over.
Some people in Asker also say they’re lukewarm to the Tandberg scheme.
They’ve told local news organizations that the design for the Maud museum project would clash architecturally with the surrounding fishing harbour.