Jan Wanggaard is back in Norway preparing the barge that will raise a ship, designed and sailed by famed Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen, from the bottom of the Nunavut harbour and float her back to the country of her birth.
It won’t happen this year. “It’s already too late for that. It’s a big project,” said Mr. Wanggaard, the head of a project that will eventually see the ship known as the Maud become the centrepiece in a museum in Asker, a suburb outside of Oslo.
But the summer of 2013 could see the vessel begin its two-year journey home after Mr. Wangaard persuaded the Canadian Cultural Property Export Review Board last week to reverse an earlier decision denying an export permit.
In a statement to announce the ruling, the board said it was sensitive to both sides of the story and recognized the heritage shared in the ship by Canada, Norway and the world. But it determined that the Norwegians, who bought the Maud for $1 two decades ago, could claim her.
“It was very emotional to read the good news and I felt so happy and couldn’t stop myself from thinking for a moment about Amundsen himself and what he would have told me,” said Mr. Wanggaard.
“I am sure he would have felt happy,” he said. “This will be an incredible basis to tell the incredible story of Maud to future generations. It is really a story worth an eternal life” for the ship.
The Maud was designed by Mr. Amundsen for an unsuccessful voyage to the North Pole. The explorer went bankrupt in 1925 and was forced to sell the boat to the Hudson’s Bay Company. She sank in 1930 in the harbour of Cambridge Bay, Nunavut where a small area of the ship's starboard side is still left visible above the waves.
Although it has become part of the Cambridge Bay seascape, some residents of the tiny hamlet celebrated the news of her eventual departure. Others, however, had signed a petition declaring the wreck to be a Canadian archeological site that should not be moved.
Former mayor Syd Glawson said he wonders why the Norwegians didn’t come to the rescue of the ship 80 years ago.
“They have good intentions,” he said in a telephone interview. “But my belief – and I really believe this – is that when they try to move it, it’s going to fall apart and all they’re going to get is a pile of garbage. My concern is that when they discover this, they will just pack their bags and move on and leave everything where it is and leave the mess for Cambridge Bay.”
Mr. Wanggaard and the Norwegians, however, seem committed to the project. And they say there will be benefits to the people of Cambridge Bay.
First, said Mr. Wanggaard, his group will be developing a wealth of historical material that it will share with the Nunavut hamlet.
And second, he said, the Oslo suburb of Asker is hoping that Cambridge Bay will consider joining in a special friendship relationship to become a sister city. It would be especially good if the young people of both communities could go to the other place to study and to learn about the culture, said Mr. Wanggaard.
But, for now, his thoughts are with the Maud.
“It is so good now finally again to be able to focus on the practical progress of this project without having this bureaucratic obstacle to deal with,” said Mr. Wanggaard. “Still, we feel a great responsibility now to take every challenge in this project with great respect and seriousness.”