Arctic shipwreck will not leave Cambridge Bay this year

A ship that once belonged to Arctic explorer Roald Amundsen will not be moved from Cambridge Bay this year, despite a Norwegian group's plans to salvage the Maud this summer.

Delays caused by ice may leave Maud in place until next summer

The wreck of the Maud – once belonging to famed Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen – was lost to the ice during a voyage through the Northwest Passage in 1926. The wreck is one of Cambridge Bay's historic attractions. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

A ship that once belonged to Arctic explorer Roald Amundsen will not be moved from Cambridge Bay this year, despite a Norwegian group's plans to salvage the Maud this summer.

The Maud has been partially submerged in the waters near the community for more than 80 years. The Norwegian group Maud Returns Home plans to move it back to the town where it was built a century ago. 

But ice in the Northwest Passage has delayed a tug and a special submersible barge arriving from Norway. The vessels left Norway in the middle of June to make the 7,000-kilometre trip. They should arrive in Cambridge Bay on the weekend but that may not leave enough time to raise the ship.

"Most likely we will not be able to lift Maud before the freeze up," said Jan Wanggaard. "We will just do some preliminary testing of the principles and then we will wait until next year in the spring to do the lifting operation. That's how I think it will happen now."

Wanggaard has been in Cambridge Bay for several weeks. He and another diver are clearing away the loose material and debris around the Maud.

Wanggaard said the plan now will likely be to move the Maud to Greenland next summer and then on to Norway the following year. He said 2017 is the 100th anniversary of the launching of the ship.

"We need the time now to lift her and prepare her for the transport," said Wanggaard. "That will take the whole autumn and also probably the spring and summer, next summer, before we can depart out of Cambridge Bay."

He said that will be good because the Maud will spend some time in the community and it will give locals and people from Canada in general a chance to a look at the ship when she is out of the water.

Vicki Aitaok, the cruise ship co-ordinator in Cambridge Bay, said the Maud is always a big tourist attraction, but for residents she is a member of the community.

"It is a bit bittersweet," she said of the Maud's future departure. "I mean, it certainly will be a good place for her. We know she is going to be well looked after. But I think for sure we're going to miss her."

Wanggaard said dignitaries from Norway are coming to Cambridge Bay within the next two weeks to meet the mayor and others in the community. They include the mayor of the municipality where the Maud will be housed.

"We will build a museum house only for Maud and it will present the whole expedition history and also the whole history around the ship because it was a very important scientific expedition," Wanggaard said.