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Amundsen's ship to be towed home

The Maud will be supported on a large barge and towed 7,000 kilometres across the Atlantic Ocean. Photo: Jan Wanggaard/Maud Returns Home

More than 80 years she sank off the northern coast of Canada, a ship designed and sailed by Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen will start its journey home next year.

Location

Jan Wanggaard, who is spearheading efforts to return the Maud to Norway, says his crew is excited to head to Cambridge Bay in Nunavut to raise the ship from the ocean floor, lift her onto a barge and tow her 7,000 kilometres across the Atlantic Ocean to Vollen where she will live out the rest of her days in a museum.

“We want to take care of the ship in the best possible way in respect of its history,” Wanggaard says.

He initially planned to lift the ship from the seabed this summer, but says timelines have recently been pushed back a year because he hasn’t been able to get his tugboat inspected by the Norwegian shipping authorities yet. Since Cambridge Bay is locked in ice 10 months of the year, Wanggaard says his crew has to leave in mid-June or can’t go at all.

Wanggaard’s carefully planned schedule now sees his crew arriving in northern Greenland in July 2014 where they will watch and wait for drift ice to melt. As soon as it becomes safe to move forward, the group will sail into Cambridge Bay, spend up to three weeks lifting and securing the boat onto the barge and then return to Greenland where the Maud will spend the winter. It will make the trans-Atlantic voyage to Norway during the summer of 2015.

“We’ll move slowly and securely,” Wanggaard says, adding that both he and the Tandberg Eiendom investment company financing the operation are more concerned about being careful than being quick.

The Maud was built in Asker, Norway in 1916 for Amundsen’s voyage across the Northeast Passage to the North Pole. But the expedition ultimately failed and the bankrupt explorer sold the vessel to the Canadian Hudson’s Bay Company. It eventually sank at harbour in 1930.

Plans for the ship’s recovery took off in 2011 when Tandberg Eiendom started the Maud Returns Home project, which is overseen by Wanggaard. Over the last two years, Wanggaard has examined the boat at its Cambridge Bay cemetery, obtained paperwork necessary to remove the ship from Canada and acquired the vessels and equipment needed for the rescue operation.

Though some people have been sceptical that such an undertaking is possible, Wanggaard says the ship, which was almost brand new when it sank, has been well preserved in Canada’s cold Arctic waters and is not as fragile as most people tend to think.

“This ship is extremely strong and it will be no problem to lift it up and put it on a barge and bring it home,” he says.