Monday, September 18, 2017

A Norwegian Returns Home

This is the incredible story of a man and his ship wanting to prove the nearly impossible. It is also the story of his ship going home after having spent 80 years in a foreign country on the bottom of the sea.

The man’s name was Roald Amundson, a Norwegian, obsessed with exploring the polar region.

As the leader of the Antarctic expedition of 1910–12, which was the first to reach the South Pole, on 14 December 1911, he was a key expedition leader during the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration. In 1926, he was the first expedition leader for the air expedition to the North Pole, making him the first person, without dispute, to reach both poles. He is also known as having the first expedition to traverse the Northwest Passage(1903–06) in the Arctic.

In 1918 Amundsen began another expedition. This time the plan was to try the North-East Passage. The goal of the expedition was to explore the unknown areas of the Arctic Ocean, strongly inspired by Fridtjof Nansen's earlier expedition with Fram. The plan was to sail along the coast of Siberia and go into the ice farther to the north and east than Nansen had.


Amundsen planned to freeze the Maud into the polar ice cap and drift towards the North Pole (as Nansen had done with the Fram), and he did so off Cape Chelyuskin. But, the ice became so thick that the ship was unable to break free, although it was designed for such a journey in heavy ice. In September 1919, the crew got the ship loose from the ice, but it froze again after eleven days somewhere between the New Siberian Islands and Wrangel Island.

After two winters frozen in the ice, without having achieved the goal of drifting over the North Pole, Amundsen decided to go to Nome to repair the ship and buy provisions.

During the third winter, Maud was frozen in the western Bering Strait. She finally became free and the expedition sailed south, reaching Seattle, Washington, in the US Pacific Northwest in 1921 for repairs. Amundsen returned to Norway, needing to put his finances in order.

In June 1922, Amundsen returned to Maud, which had been sailed to Nome. He decided to shift from the planned naval expedition to aerial ones, and arranged to charter a plane. He divided the expedition team in two: one part was to survive the winter and prepare for an attempt to fly over the pole. This part was led by Amundsen. The second team on Maud, under the command of Wisting, was to resume the original plan to drift over the North Pole in the ice. The ship drifted in the ice for three years east of the New Siberian Islands, never reaching the North Pole. Maud was seized by creditors in Seattle and sold at an auction. The Hudson's Bay Company purchased the ship to supply its Arctic outposts. After refitting in Vancouver, and with a new name, Baymaud sailed for the Western Arctic in June 1926. It never returned. After freezing in for the winter of 1926-1927, the ship was moored close to shore and used by the Hudson's Bay Company as a floating machine shop, warehouse and wireless station.

Baymaud developed a leak and sank at its anchorage in Cambridge Bay, Nunavut, Northern Canada, in the winter of 1930. A small portion of the ship remained above the ice and water, and the masts, rigging and cabins were stripped from the hull. The rest of the ship was allowed to settle into the water.

An Idea Is Born

The idea of bringing “Maud” home took hold in 2011, during a 3 weeks visit to Cambridge Bay, Nunavut, in August 2011 when “Maud” was surveyed extensively over and under the water both with still photographs as well as film. Maud was still in a satisfying technical state to be saved, despite having spent the last 80 years at the seabed.


But the removal of Maud from it’s icy location was not to happen without a fight against the Federal Government of Canada which at first denied the Norwegians the removal of the ship, citing polar region’s cultural interests, but the Norwegians were holding the title to the ship and finally the action lifting the ship got underway, starting preparations in 2014.


         Maud submerged at Cambridge Bay, Nunavut


A float is brought into position to lift Maud




    Maud resurfaced after 80 years

Maud016 Maud013



Yesterday, the expedition posted the following on their Facebook page:   

After 3 weeks of sailing MAUD and the tug Tandberg Polar has reached Aasiaat, Greenland, safe and sound. We are extremely tired but happy to have arrived here in Aasiaat where Maud will stay this winter before continuing to Norway next summer.
Tricky ice conditions in the Northwest Passage and stormy weather across to Greenland gave us a good challenge, but Maud and Jensen as well as our crew stood the test. The old Queen of the ice is on her way home. We are full of joy and gratitude to be part of Maud´s journey back to her home country, after 100 years


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