Jan Wanggaard, project manager for the Norway-based organization Maud Returns Home, has been working for four years to bring the ship back to Norway, Amundsen's country of origin.
Maud Returns Home is planning to raise the nearly 120-foot ship by attaching a series of straps to its hull. Those, along with inflatable balloons, will lift the wreck off the ocean floor just high enough to guide a submersible barge underneath.
"It's a technical challenge." says Wanggaard. "On the one side, the ship is a wreck and is vulnerable, but at the same time, we have concluded that it's strong enough to take the load."
'Integral to Norway'
In 1903, Amundsen led the first successful navigation of the Northwest Passage in a small fishing vessel, the Gjoa.
The Maud was built for Amundsen in anticipation of his second expedition to the Arctic, and was launched in 1916. It was christened by Amundsen by breaking a chunk of ice across the ship's bow.
"It is not my intention to dishonour the glorious grape," said Amundsen, "but already now you shall get the taste of your real environment. For the ice you have been built, and in the ice you shall stay most of your life, and in the ice you shall solve your tasks."
Amundsen's words proved prophetic. Between 1918 and 1920, he traversed the Northeast Passage, a shipping lane that runs along the Russian Arctic coast, in the Maud. The vessel was later sold to the Hudson Bay Company, and sank near Cambridge Bay in 1930 after being frozen in the ice for four years. It remains there today.
"The Maud is one of those ships that represents the sometimes insane, sometimes remarkable, sometimes impressive effort by Europeans to try to make their way through the Arctic ice," says Arctic historian Ken Coates.
Coates adds that despite the fact that the Maud has spent the better part of the past century in Canadian waters, the real impact of the proudly Norwegian Amundsen — as well as his Norwegian-built ship — has been in their home nation.
"There is no question Amundsen and the Maud are integral to Norway and their self-image," says Coates. "To their view of their own history, and their own culture, and very much a part of how Norwegians see their place in the world."
Lift expected next week
Raising the Maud has stalled as organizers sort out permits and technical issues, says Wanggaard, but he's confident his team will begin their lift in the next week.
The project has also proved to be costly.
"You can just imagine it's cost a lot of money," Wanggaard says. "We don't have a budget, basically, because it's impossible to have a budget on this.
"Because it's never been done before."