After six years of hard work, a team of Norwegians has succeeded in pulling the Maud - a ship that once belonged to famed Arctic explorer Roald Amundsen - from its icy grave in Nunavut waters near Cambridge Bay in Canada. The ship has been lifted to the surface and is now being preparing for winter before it can be brought back home to Norway

The Maud, named for Queen Maud of Norway, was designed and built for Roald Amundsen’s voyage through the Northeast Passage. 'It’s a beautiful ship and she’s very strong,' says Jan Wanggaard, the project manager for the Norwegian recovery team Maud Returns Home. Picture: Jan Wanggaard
The Maud, named for Queen Maud of Norway, was designed and built for Roald Amundsen’s voyage through the Northeast Passage. 'It’s a beautiful ship and she’s very strong,' says Jan Wanggaard, the project manager for the Norwegian recovery team Maud Returns Home. Picture: Jan Wanggaard

The Maud was launched on June 7, 1917, and captained by Amundsen during his 1918-20 expedition into the Northeast Passage without getting far enough north to start the drift from east to west and maybe over the North Pole. After one more failed try from the Bering Strait in 1920-21, he finally gave up. The Maud was sold to Hudson's Bay Company in 1925 and was rechristened Baymaud. It ended its days as a floating warehouse and the region's first radio station, before sinking at its moorings in 1930 after getting trapped in the ice near Cambridge Bay, Nunavut, Canada. Luckily, the Maud's egg-like shape helped maintain its structure even under heavy ice pressure, says Wanggaard. And despite being submerged in Arctic waters for more than 80 years, the ship has maintained much of its integrity.

The Maud’s egg-like shape helped preserve its structure under heavy ice pressure, says Wanggaard. Picture: Jan Wanggaard
The Maud’s egg-like shape helped preserve its structure under heavy ice pressure, says Wanggaard. Picture: Jan Wanggaard

Wanggaard and his team have been coming to the area to work on the wreck every summer for six years. In June, the team began inflating air bags and balloons around the ship. Their experience with an unsuccessful lift last year helped them come better prepared with additional flotation devices. Finally in July, the Maud floated for the first time since it sank. Throughout July and August, the team worked on placing the ship on top of a barge. And for most of September their work consisted of cleaning out the inside of the ship. "She was quite covered with mud and other debris," says Wanggaard.

A bird's eye view of the wreck of the Maud. The picture was taken last year with the help of a kite. Picture: Jan Wanggaard
A bird's eye view of the wreck of the Maud. The picture was taken last year with the help of a kite. Picture: Jan Wanggaard

The Maud now rests on a barge near the coast. Over the winter it will freeze in place. The drying process will reduce the weight and decrease the pressure on the Maud's structure from its own waterlogged girth. But drying a massive wooden ship with a thick hull soaked for 85 years can't be rushed. The cold weather will help, says Wanggaard, because the low temperatures will put less strain on the wood.

Stig Pettersen carries a heavy load of mud from the Maud while Terje Morved digs out the old engine. Picture: Jan Wanggaard
Stig Pettersen carries a heavy load of mud from the Maud while Terje Morved digs out the old engine. Picture: Jan Wanggaard

Since the Maud has emerged above water, locals have been dropping by to take a look at the historic ship and snap a few photos. "Everybody is surprised that it's so big and it's in such good condition," says Wanggaard. He says that even after all these years of working on the ship, his team still spends some time every day talking about what actually happened on the Maud and her journey of scientific discovery. "It's fascinating," says Wanggaard. He adds that the team is constantly finding small clues about what life might have been like on board the ship. Wanggaard says most people in Cambridge Bay have reconciled with the fact that the ship is travelling back to Norway. "It's worth taking her back to protect her for the future, because sooner or later she would have been completely destroyed by nature."

A historic view of Roald Amundsen's ship Maud that was built in 1917. Picture: Anders Beer Wilse/Norwegian Museum of Cultural History
A historic view of Roald Amundsen's ship Maud that was built in 1917. Picture: Anders Beer Wilse/Norwegian Museum of Cultural History

The Maud's excellent shape gives Wanggaard and his team renewed hope that it can begin the journey back to Norway next summer when the team returns to Cambridge Bay. Their task next year will be to stabilize the ship on the barge and make it seaworthy. Wanggaard has already looked at two possible routes home: either through the Northwest Passage and Greenland, or "going over Russia because that's where the Maud came from originally." Either way: "we have a long trip home," says Wanggaard.

Source: Sima Sahar Zerehi, CBC News