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After 100 years abroad – the last 85 of which were spent at the bottom of the sea – the polar explorer’s expedition boat “Maud” has finally been brought back home from Canada.

Published: 16 August 2018

The polar explorers embarking on bold expeditions on the outskirts of civilization at the turn of the 20th century have their own special place in Norway’s collective soul.

Pioneers such as Fridtjof Nansen, Otto Sverdrup and Roald Amundsen weren’t just adventurers and scientists – in addition, they contributed to the building of a young nation in search of its own identity. This part of Norway’s history is still kept alive by new generations of explorers – and proudly celebrated to this day.

However, a very specific piece of the puzzle Roald Amundsen and Norway has been missing for a long time – until now.

From ice christening to the sea bottom

Maud
Maud.
Photo: Nasjonalbiblioteket

While “Fram” and “Gjøa” – the boats carrying Amundsen and his crew to the South Pole and through the Northwest Passage, respectively – are now exhibited in all their glory at the Fram Museum in Oslo, another one of the polar legend’s vessels would meet a far more dramatic fate.   

“Maud” was launched in 1917. The ship was appropiately christened by Amundsen crushing a block of ice against its bow, according to Store Norske Leksikon (The Great Norwegian Encyclopedia). The following year, Amundsen and his team set out on an expedition through the Northeast Passage, the sea route connecting northern Europe and the east coast of Asia.

Roald Amundsen
Roald Amundsen.
Photo: Nasjonalbiblioteket

This would prove a troublesome and exhausting project. The ship was frozen in ice on several occasions, personal conflicts and tragedies complicated the mission and in 1924, economical hardships forced Amundsen to sell the ship to the Canadian shipping company Hudson’s Bay Company. Four years later, he disappeared during a mission to rescue his Italian rival Umberto Nobile in the Barents Sea, never to be found. 

“Maud” was docked in Cambridge Bay, Canada and used for storage and radio transmissions until it sank in 1930. The boat remained at the bottom of the sea right up to 2016.

– A rectification for Amundsen

Maud
Maud.
Photo: Maud Returns Home

For years, Jan Wanggaard, the project manager for Maud Returns Home, has been working to bring the ship back to Vollen in Asker, where it was constructed by boatbuilder Christian Jensen in 1917.

 “'Maud' was the boat Amundsen commissioned for his last great science-driven expedition. It was a scientific success, but Amundsen went bankrupt during the expedition, and the ship was sold to creditors – a bitter end of a long ordeal for Amundsen, who vanished a few years later. 'Maud'’s homecoming 100 years later is a solid rectification for Amundsen”, Wanggaard says to Visit Norway.     

The comprehensive task of raising “Maud” from the Canadian seafloor and towing her home started in 2011, and Maud Returns Home has been initiated and implemented by the real estate company Tandberg Eiendom AS.

Worn, but beautiful

After years of hard work, the ship is finally home where it belongs, and this summer, the long voyage has been concluded with a tour along the Norwegian coast. 

“To us, it’s overwhelming to be able to sail 'Maud' into the Oslo fjord and back to Vollen this Saturday”, says Jan Wanggaard. 

He was part of the crew during the 7000 kilometres from Canada to Norway

Maud
Maud.
Photo: Ansgar Walk

“'Maud' was frozen in the ice of the Northwest Passage, and getting her out of there and sailing her home behind our tugboat “Tandberg Polar” turned out to be a massive challenge. But being able to save her has been immensely joyful.”    

The plans for “Maud”’s future have already been laid, and the 101-year-old is facing a far more comfortable existence than the many decades spent in icy water. 

“We’re going to build 'Maud' a house in Vollen, where her amazing expedition history through seven years will be presented. Our efforts will go into presenting the boat as she appears today – worn by time and elements, but still breathtakingly beautiful.” 

With that, Norwegian polar history – a fascinating and exciting field to this day – will have another important chapter added.

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