September / October 2019

MAUD Returns Home

Roald Amundsen’s last ship joins her peers

Roald Amundsen’s Arctic exploration ship MAUD breaks the surface of Cambridge Bay, Nunavut, Canada, for the first time in more than 87 years, with the barge JENSEN lifting her hull and the tugboat TANDBERG POLAR by her side.

Toward the end of the Arctic spring in 1928, the Italian airship ITALIA, captained by pioneering aviator and polar explorer Umberto Nobile, crashed near Spitsbergen in the Barents Sea. Although Nobile wasn’t a particular favorite of the Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen—they’d had a bitter and public feud after flying together on an earlier expedition—Amundsen, by then the world’s most renowned explorer, climbed into a Latham flying boat in Tromsø, Norway, on June 18 to join the search for the missing aviator. Ironically, Nobile was among those rescued, but Amundsen, whose plane crashed, was never heard from again.

It was Amundsen, however, who left the most astonishing legacy as a remarkable adventurer of the early 20th century—a legacy carried on today by the preservation of the three ships he used in his explorations of the North and South poles. FRAM, his Antarctic expedition ship of 1910–12 which had returned to Norway after that voyage, was saved for public exhibit in the 1930s. GJØA, in which he led the first transit of the Northwest Passage in 1903–06, joined FRAM there after being repatriated from San Francisco, California, in 1972. And finally, in 2018, the third ship, MAUD, which took Amundsen on his attempt to reach the North Pole, also returned to Norway. She had been raised from the bottom in Arctic Canada in 2016 and then towed home to the town of Vollen, where she had been specially built for Amundsen in 1917.

MAUD’s homecoming was cause for a national celebration in Norway. Tens of thousands of people turned out to greet the tow ship’s crew as they cruised southward toward Vollen, which is now a neighborhood of Asker, a suburb a scant 11.5 miles away by sea from Oslo. As MAUD approached, she was at last in well-protected coastal waters, and the only danger she faced on the last leg of her journey was being held up by the crowds.

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