It’s first stop Greenland for Amundsen’s Maud after departing Nunavut

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On winter days in Cambridge Bay, the hamlet’s mayor, Jeannie Ehaloak, would often go for walks along the shore.

“I would go to the Maud and back,” she said.

But lately, she’s had to look for a new end mark for her outings, since the sunken vessel of the famed Norwegian polar explorer, Roald Amundsen, will soon leave Cambridge Bay.

After 86 years in Cambridge Bay, the wreck of Roald Amundsen’s Maud will return to Norway. (Nunatsiaq News file photo)
After 86 years in Cambridge Bay, the wreck of Roald Amundsen’s Maud will return to Norway. (Nunatsiaq News file photo)

The wreck will have arrived in Greenland this fall, by barge, and settle in for a year-long wait that explorers such as Amundsen would have called “overwintering,” before carrying on to Norway, a 7,000-kilometer (about 4,300-mile) journey in total.

The Maud will eventually go on display in Asker, where it was built.

“It’s sad to see it going but people are aware that it means a lot to the Norwegians,” Ehaloak said. “We wish them all the best, we know how fierce our fall season can be.”

Last summer, the wooden hull of the surprisingly well-preserved wreck was lifted out of the waters near Cambridge Bay, after 85 years of submersion.

The ship’s good condition is attributed to the fresh waters of the Coppermine River.

Knowing the vessel has been an important part of Cambridge Bay for nearly a century, the “Maud Returns Homes” team hosted some local community members, including Ehaloak, on board Aug 9 when the mayor of Asker, Norway visited the western Nunavut town of about 1,700.

During the visit, the hull was christened with a piece of iceberg in preparation for its coming journey.

“To say good luck and safe travels to the crew,” Ehaloak said.

And although she’s walked past it hundreds of times, Ehaloak’s goodbye visit was her first time aboard the vessel.

“It was really emotional. I’ve always seen it sticking out of the water,” she said. “It’s a beautiful ship… I could imagine her sailing when I was on it.”

While the hamlet has no plan yet to create a historical site for the Maud in Cambridge Bay, the “Maud Returns Home” project leader, Jan Wanggaard has built a round stone cairn to honour the Maud.

“It’s a huge cairn,” said Ehaloak. “That will be a reminder to the community that the Maud was there.”

We reached out to Wanggaard for a departing interview, but he did not respond by our press time.