Norwegian group seeks Amundsen's ship from Canada
The sunken remains of a ship belonging to famed Arctic explorer Roald Amundsen could be lifted out of Canadian waters and returned to Norway if a group of investors has its way.
The Norwegian investors behind the group Maud Returns Home want to take the wreck of the Maud, one of Amundsen's ships, out of the shallow waters of Cambridge Bay, Nunavut, and bring it back to the explorer's home country.
"We really think that the Maud deserves a better destiny than to stay forever, falling gradually more and more apart," Jan Wanggaard, a project manager with Maud Returns Home, told CBC News via Skype from Lofoten, Norway.
Wanggaard said he has spent the past year studying the possibility of floating the Maud back to Norway, where Amundsen is a national legend, and making the shipwreck part of a museum exhibit.
Amundsen, who in the early 1900s led the first successful sailing expedition through the Northwest Passage, had sailed the Maud to the Arctic in the hopes of reaching the North Pole.
Floating trading post
But after several unsuccessful attempts, Amundsen was not able to pay his debts and the Maud was eventually seized and sold to the Hudson's Bay Company, which used the ship as a floating trading post for a few years before it sank.
Today, from the shores of Cambridge Bay, the wreck of the Maud looks like a hulk of bleached driftwood. The exposed parts of the ship have long been picked clean.
Underwater photographs give a better picture of what the vessel looked like, preserved for years by the cold Arctic waters.
But Wannggaard said time and Arctic conditions are taking their toll on the wreck.
"It's gradually being destroyed by the ice," he said, adding that his group hopes to conduct a survey of the wreck this summer.
Potential risk of damage
But James Delgado, an underwater archeologist who surveyed the Maud for the Vancouver Maritime Museum in the late 1990s, warned that the wreck poses many challenges to any potential salvage operation.
"There is a risk, if the vessel were to be lifted, that it could be damaged," Delgado said.
The risk of damage is what Cambridge Bay Mayor Syd Glawson wants to avoid. Glawson said he wants the wreck of the Maud to stay where it is, even if it means leaving it at the mercy of the elements.
"She is home. This is her resting spot; this is where she should stay," he said.
Delgado said lifting and preserving the wreck of the Maud would cost more than $10 million.
And if the ship was ever to be moved out of Canada, an important piece of Canadian history would disappear from the Northwest Passage, he added.
"In coming to Cambridge Bay and being part of that community, Maud was a participant in the fur trade, of the Hudson's Bay Company," Delgado said.
As well, "Maud was the design inspiration for the famous RCMP Arctic schooner St. Roch, now a national historic site," he added.
While Norway does hold title to the Maud, that country would need to obtain permits from the Canadian government before any work towards moving the wreck away from Canada could begin.