Maud was built specifically for Amundsen’s expedition to drift across the Arctic Ocean. When the expedition ended, the ship was sold to the Hudson’s Bay Company and saw a few years’ use in Canadian Arctic waters. It then lay for nearly 90 years as a wreck in Cambridge Bay, Nunavut, before being transported back to Norway in 2018.
- Built: 1916–17
- Ship type: three-masted schooner
- Length: 120 feet (36.5 m)
- Breadth: 40 feet (12.3 m)
- Draught: 16.9 feet (5.15 m)
- Sail area: 600 m²
- Main engine: Bolinder semi-diesel, 240 hp
- Tonnage: 292 gt
Maud was built at Christian Jensen’s yard in Vollen, Asker. Jensen said that Amundsen’s reaction to seeing the first contours and sketches was to declare, “This vessel will be the best polar ship in the world.” Maud would be constructed on the same principles as the polar ship Fram, but be both shorter and broader, and considerably lighter. Jensen’s original estimate for the job was around 300,000 Kroner.
The keel was laid in July 1916 and Maud was launched a year later, on June 7, 1917. But material and labour costs had now more than doubled, partly because suitable timber had to be ordered from the Netherlands, so Maud’s final construction cost reached around 650,000 Kroner. On top of this came costs for equipment, crew and provisions.
With Queen Maud’s consent, Amundsen christened the ship with a block of ice: “It is not my intention to scorn the noble grape, but even now you should get a little taste of your proper element. For the ice you are built, and in the ice you will spend your best years, and there you will do your work. With our queen’s permission, I christen you Maud.” 📜
Blueprints of the polar ship Maud
Amundsen was allowed to reuse on Maud some of Fram‘s materials and equipment, including the rudder, anchor winch, propeller and masts. Both rudder and propeller could be raised to protect them from ice damage, as had been the case on Fram.
Amundsen thought that a crew of eight men was the minimum required to handle the ship, so around Maud’s saloon lay ten one-man cabins, each identically furnished at the basic level, with desk, washbasin and single bunk. There was a galley, of course, and also a laboratory. Amundsen describes the interior in his book about the expedition:
“On the walls hung photographs. Linoleum was laid on the floor, and coir runners over this. Around the saloon lay the 10 cabins, one for each man. From the expedition’s side, these were equipped with a desk, a bunk with linen, linoleum with carpet on top, and curtains for the windows and doors. […] Friends had equipped my cabin, and so nicely and beautifully was it done that I blushed and lowered my eyes the first time I went in there. You would have thought I was going on honeymoon.” 📜
When the expedition had to end for lack of money in 1925, the ship was bought by Hudson’s Bay Company in a forced sale for 40,000 dollars. They renamed it Baymaud and used it to supply several of their northern outposts 📜. In the summer of 1927, Baymaud was brought into Cambridge Bay, Canada, where it served for several years as a floating workshop, warehouse and radio station. In 1930, according to radio operator W.G. Crisp, “a leak developed at the Baymaud’s propeller shaft which could not be repaired without docking. She sank at her moorings and became a complete wreck.” 📜 Through the 1930s, the decline of Baymaud continued.
It is perhaps a sad irony that Maud’s working life should end here, for Cambridge Bay lies at the western end of Queen Maud Gulf, a stretch of water separating Victoria Island from mainland Canada and named by Amundsen himself for the Queen of Norway in 1905, during the first ever transit of the Northwest Passage in the Gjøa.
In 1990, Asker municipality bought the Baymaud from Hudson’s Bay Company for one dollar, with a plan to transport the wreck back to Norway. Neither this, nor plans to bring the wreck to Tromsø, met with any success, and some advocated leaving the wreck in Cambridge Bay, but in 2011 the project “Maud Returns Home” began its work to salvage the ship and return it to Norway. The wreck was lifted in 2016 and towed the following summer to Greenland to spend the winter there. Finally, in August of 2018, came the symbolic moment when the wreck of the Maud was towed into Bunnefjord to lie briefly off Amundsen’s home, Uranienborg, before continuing to its temporary residence at Tofte in Oslo Fjord.
The Oslofjord Museum, MiA is located in Vollen in Asker and has several resources and collections related to Maud.
Read Christian Jensen’s description of the building of Maud (in Norwegian).
Follow the “Maud Returns Home” project.