Back at it again: Norwegians make another attempt at lifting the Maud

A team of Norwegians are once again trying to lift a sunken ship from shallow waters in Cambridge Bay, Nunavut, where it’s been resting for decades. They've been trying to repatriate the Maud for years.

Roald Amundsen's ship sunk in 1930 near what is now Cambridge Bay

A bird's eye view of the wreck of the Maud, taken in July 2015 with the help of a kite. Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen made his second traverse of the Northwest Passage in the vessel in 1918-1920. (Jan Wanggaard)

A team of Norwegians are back at it again — trying to lift a sunken ship from shallow waters in Cambridge Bay, Nunavut, where it's been resting for decades.

The Maud started its life between 1918 and 1920, when explorer Roald Amundsen sailed it to the Arctic in an attempt to cross the North Pole. After he went bankrupt, the ship was sold to the Hudson Bay Company, which used it as a floating warehouse. It sunk off Cambridge Bay in 1930, and has been there ever since.

Wanggaard's team is using balloons to lift the Maud off the seabed. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)
Jan Wanggaard, project manager for the Norway-based organization Maud Returns Home, has been working to repatriate the century-old ship for more than six years. He had hoped to lift the vessel out of the water last summer, but that didn't happen.

"We were not very skilled in the lifting," says Wanggaard. "It's a thing that nobody has done before, so we had to learn as we go along."

He says one of the most important things they learned last year was how much the ship weighs.

"It's very hard to define the weight before you actually feel the weight of her when you start lifting her. We also had some experiences in how to tie the straps for the air buoyancy."

The long way home

Wanggaard's team is using balloons to lift the Maud off the seabed. Then they will sink a barge and move it underneath the ship. Once the barge is in place, it will be raised up so the Maud rests on top of it. After all that, they'll have to get it ready for the journey home to Norway.

Wanggaard says the first thing they have to do is dry the ship out.

"We will dry her in a cold climate because that is ideal for the wood," says Wanggaard. "We really have to consider what we'll do. Maybe we will leave her in Cambridge Bay for the winter. Or we will start moving."

Jan Wanggaard, Bjorn Myrann and Stig Pettersen - the base team in Cambridge Bay last summer for the Maud Returns Home project. (Jan Wanggaard)
Once it's ready on the barge, the team will tow the Maud back home with their boat that's already in Cambridge Bay. But what route they'll take still needs to be determined. Wanggaard says there are two options: one is through the Northwest Passage and Greenland, the other has more historical significance.

"We have actually considered going over Russia because that's where the Maud came from originally. She sailed the Northeast Passage to here."

Wanggaard is hesitant to put a date on Maud's arrival in Norway, but admits it would be great if it coincided with some significant anniversaries on the horizon.

"She was launched in 1917, and she sailed from northern Norway in December 1918. It would be nice to arrive in Norway so it fits with some kind of dates, but we can take it as it comes."


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