The Maud, a storied Norwegian exploration ship, will soon leave Cambridge Bay, Nunavut, after sitting off shore at the bottom of shallow coastal waters for 86 years.
Last summer, after a six year effort, members of the Norway-based organization Maud Returns Home raised the sunken vessel from the icy grip of Davey Jones' Locker. Bringing the Maud to the surface was part of a repatriation effort to bring the well-preserved remains of the vessel home to Norway.
The boat was in shallow water, a portion of its hull breaking the surface. The wreck was a well-known landmark in the community and a tourist attraction. The thought of having the Maud leave the waters of Cambridge Bay was regarded as bittersweet by some.
"When residents of Cambridge Bay first heard Norwegians wanted to take the Maud home we were a little resistant because it's been here so long and it's been part of the community for so long," said Jeannie Ehaloak, mayor of Cambridge Bay.
The vessel, owned by Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen, travelled Arctic waters between 1918 and 1920 before financial hardships saw Amundsen sell the ship to the Hudson Bay Company, which used it as a floating warehouse. In 1930, it sank near what is now known as Cambridge Bay, where it remained underwater until last year.
The Maud was built in 1917 at the shipyards of Vollen near Asker, Norway, by master boat builder Christian Jensen.
Lene Conradi, the mayor of Asker, travelled to Cambridge Bay recently where she met with community members and Ehaloak as final preparations were underway for the first leg of the Maud's journey home.
She described Amundsen as a kind of father of Norway's modern identity.
"The Maud expedition was one of the most important expeditions of its time," Conradi told CBC.
"The ship is of great historic and cultural value for us. It symbolized an era of exploration and the trade of ship building, which was also very important.
"It was a period of Norwegian nation building, of identity and of belonging."
Ehaloak said the community has come to terms with seeing the Maud leave its waters.
"After they presented their reasons as to why they want to take the Maud home and why it's so important and had such a significant impact in their lives, we the residents of Cambridge Bay… decided, 'Yes, let them take it home.'"
The Maud will begin its return journey via barge this summer, but will only make it as far as Greenland for a winter stop over. It is expected the Maud will be back in Norway by 2018, 100 years after originally setting sail from Norway.
Conradi described the return home to Norway as a new chapter in not only the ship's rich history, but in the shared history of the nations and communities involved.
"The history of the ship — and the future of the ship — will strengthen the bonds between us, both [between] Canada and Norway, and Cambridge Bay and Asker."
She said the Maud will need further restoration in Norway and a dedicated museum is hoped for within a few years. A documentary of the project is also in the works.
"I can see why it's such an important part of their lives," Ehaloak said of the Maud.
"In a way I'm sad to see it going but I'm glad to see it going back to its home country."