Fram Museum Oslo


The Polar Ship Maud

Roald Amundsen had the Maud built in 1917 for his expedition which was to drift over the Arctic Ocean as the Fram had done, but this time further north and maybe over the North Pole. After seven years in the drift ice she was sold to the Hudson’s Bay Company and the wreck lies today in Cambridge Bay (Iqaluktuutiaq), Canada. The Maud was the second vessel specially built in Norway for scientific expeditions into the polar ice.

The Polar Ship Maud

Roald Amundsen gained Nansen’s approval for the loan of the Fram for his planned drift over the Arctic Ocean in 1910. This time the expedition would hopefully freeze into the ice further north than in 1893 and thereby have a better chance of drifting over or close to the North Pole itself. As is well known, the expedition went to the Antarctic and the South Pole instead, and when the Framreturned to Norway in 1914, she was in too bad a state to be used in the ice again. Amundsen therefore had a new polar ship built, this time at Christian Jensen’s shipyard at Vollen in Asker County. The keel was laid in 1916, and the ship was christened on 7 June 1917 by Amundsen shattering a block of ice against the hull instead of a bottle of champagne, and declaring that: “…already now you shall feel a little of your proper element. You are built for the ice, and you will spend your best time in the ice, and there you shall solve your tasks. With our Queen’s permission I christen you “Maud””.

The Maud is built

The following description is quoted, with the author’s permission, from James Delgado’s report on the Maud in 1996:

According to the ship's plans (Jensen 1917), the Maud as built was 118 feet long on deck, with a waterline length of 98 feet, 3 inches, an overall beam of 40 feet, a waterline beam of 34 feet, 9 inches, a depth of hold of 16 feet, and was registered at 380 gross tons. When registered by the Hudson's Bay Company in Lloyds' Register in 1926, the vessel was described as a three-masted auxiliary schooner, 106.8 feet long, with a 40-foot beam, and a 15.3-foot depth of hold. The vessel was registered at 385 gross and 339 net tons. The difference in the measurements came from surveyors measuring different locations.

The hull was heavily built of 12x12-inch floors, doubled and spaced at 13 inches. The frames gradually tapered to form 12x8-inch frames. The keel was oak, 13½ x 10½ inches, with a fir 12x12 false keel bolted to it. The keelson was formed with two 13½ x 10½ -inch timbers, with two bilge keelsons or strakes to port and starboard, equally spaced in the hold and running fore and aft. These strakes were formed with two 7x7-inch timbers. From the tween deck to the weather deck, two additional, equally spaced 7x7-inch strakes also gave the ship longitudinal strength.

At every second frame, both at the ‘tween deck and the weather deck, diagonal struts, or "ice beams" were installed. These were formed by diagonal timbers and natural compass timber knees, iron fastened. The ice braces were located at every deck beam. The deck beams were 10x10-inch timbers, braced with wooden lodging knees fore and aft, and with 3-inch thick decking at the weather deck and 2½-inch thick decking at the ‘tween deck. The weather deck was supported by iron hanging knees, through-bolted to the frames and a hold-beam shelf made from three 7x7-inch beams, and ran down to the tween deck. The ‘tween deck was supported only by a hold beam shelf formed from three 7x7-inch timbers. The decks were also supported by 6x9-inch wooden stanchions on every beam, which were chamfered into the beam and braced with iron straps on their fore and aft faces. The hull was also braced with three solid thwartship bulwarks made with 3-inch thick, tongue-in-groove planks, with wooden diagonal braces iron bolted through them.

The outer hull planking was 4-inch oak, treenailed to the frames. A 2½-inch ice sheathing was laid over the hull. It was oak from the keel to halfway to the deck, and greenheart from there to just above the waterline. The ice sheathing from above the waterline to the weather deck level was pitch pine. The ceiling planking was 4-inch oak. Amundsen noted that while building the Maud "I was not satisfied to use the timbers available in Norway, so I imported specially fine timbers from Holland." (Amundsen 1928:79)

The ship carried three masts rigged as a barkentine. Each mast, with a topmast, carried a fore-and-aft rig with fixed gaffs, and the sails on runners, to avoid sail handling in icy conditions, and making it possible for a small crew to sail her. The foremast carried a single yard. Maud was also powered by a four-cylinder, 240-horsepower Bolinder semi-diesel engine that drove a single, two-bladed screw.

The screw and the rudder were both retractable, an important feature for a vessel intended for use as a scientific research station frozen into drifting, shifting pack ice that could shear off rudders and propellers. Amundsen later said that the Maud's "crowning glory was the engine room." Chief engineer Sundbeck “managed to arrange a control centre down there, from which he controlled the whole ship. He could do the most unbelievable things just by pressing a button. A network of pipes was gathered here, so that he could have everything he needed - diesel oil, lubricating oil, etc. In my enthusiasm, when I first saw it all...I asked Sundbeck if he couldn't turn a tap, and give me an ale? “No”, he answered faintly, “but you can always have a lager." (as quoted in Huntford 1987:167)

Bolinder engines were described in 1914 as "one of the comparatively few direct-reversible engines" then on the market (Motor Ship and Motor Boat 1914:91). Bolinder engines were manufactured in Stockholm, Sweden […].

The Maud had a raised forecastle deck that partially protected the hand and power windlass. Immediately abaft the raised forecastle head were two enclosed water closets. Aft of them and the foremast was a single, 9-foot, 9-inch by 7-foot, 3-inch cargo hatch leading into the midships hold. A hand and power winch was located forward of the hatch and just abaft the foremast. Aft of the mainmast was a large deckhouse, or cabin that housed the crew quarters in ten individual cabins, a galley, laboratory, a central dining saloon. The cabin was made from 4x5-inch timbers, which was insulated with thick felt and then sheathed inside and out with 1½-inch tongue and groove planking. The portholes were manufactured with double panes of thick glass to provide better insulation. The helm was located atop the forward end of the cabin. Aft of the cabin was a hatch and ladder leading into the engine room.

According to Jensen’s plans, the Maud was thus a little shorter and narrower than the Fram. Amundsen states that the Maud drew 13.6 feet of water at the bow and 14.2 feet at the stern. He was satisfied with this when he compared the Fram’s 19 feet on departure from Kristiansand in 1910. “It has a lot to say when one is to manoeuvre in shallow waters as we shall now”, he wrote.

As with the Fram, both the rudder and propeller could be lifted up out of the reach of the ice and this was designed so that the heavy oak rudder could be lifted up by one man. It was the Swedish machinist from the Antarctic expedition, Knut Sundbeck, who got the job of looking after the engine during the expedition. Amundsen made good money in investments during the First World War and he put these into the ship building. The new ship was to follow the same principles for withstanding the ice pressure as the Fram and was calculated to cost NOK 300 000. However, it came to NOK 650 000, and with the addition of instruments, supplies and equipment the total cost was around 1 million NOK. The government gave NOK 200 000 for the expedition, and other sponsors contributed NOK 150 000, but this was still not enough and Amundsen gives a clear impression of bitterness in his book of the expedition over the lack of support from others whom he meant should have contributed. He did, however, get the government’s permission to take valuable equipment from the Fram, including the masts, anchor windlass, rudder and propellers.

The interior

The Maud lay winter 1917-18 over at the quay beside Akershus castle in Oslo and the interior fittings were gradually completed. In addition she was loaded with the huge amount of equipment and provisions needed for the expedition. The North Pole had been publically claimed in 1908/1909 and the Maud expedition would instead have a clear scientific profile as its main goal.

Amundsen was proud of the saloon. Photographs of the King and Queen, which they had presented to the Fram in 1910, hung on the wall and on a small shelf under them stood the large silver tankard, presented on the same occasion. A magnificent pathephone was “the most welcome of all gifts. How much pleasure it has given us and made many a Saturday evening a festive occasion”, Amundsen wrote. Otherwise on the walls there were other photographs. The floor was covered with linoleum and coir (coconut fibre) mats. The cabins were fitted with bunk beds, desk, linoleum with rugs over, curtains and portieres. The portholes had double glass for insulation. Lux lamps were hung under the skylights to give a good light during the darkest period. After Tessem and Knudsen had left the expedition in summer 1919, Wisting took down the wall between Rønne’s and Amundsen’s cabins and made a double-size cabin for Amundsen. Rønne moved into Tessem’s cabin.

Amundsen was just as proud of the engine room. In addition to the main engine, there was also a 15 hp Bolinder motor which powered the winch and windlass, and a small Delco motor with accumulator battery for the electric lights. As a modern touch a small telegraph receiver was taken along, mainly in the hope that they could receive time signals. When telegraphist Olonkin arrived on board it was thought that messages could be sent and received, but the apparatus never worked.

Stuck in the ice

The planking that was used as a roof over the Maud during her construction was taken along on the expedition and used as a winter roof over the entire deck. This both insulated and formed an extra room while the ship was frozen into the ice. The temperature here kept a constant 10° over the outside temperature. The room was about 5 m high under the ridge and was provided with windows and electric light. In front of the foremast a steam bath with dressing room was established.

After two winters and three summers in the Northeast Passage the Maudexpedition arrived at Nome in Alaska 27 July 1920. A new attempt to sail further north from the Bering Strait resulted in yet another wintering in the ice without the Maud having reached far enough north into the east-west current. She returned to Seattle 31 August 1921 where Amundsen left the expedition. However, the Maud expedition continued for three more years under the command of Oscar Wisting, but still without reaching the current across the Arctic Ocean. When they again arrived at Nome 22 August 1925, they were met by creditors whom Amundsen was unable to pay. Wisting managed to get the ship away, but when they arrived in Seattle 5 October 1925 the ship was again seized by creditors.

The Maud becomes the Baymaud

The Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) bought the Maud at a forced auction in Seattle for $40 000. The idea was to use the ship to serve the Company’s outposts around the Northwest Passage. She was rechristened the Baymaud and was sailed to Vancouver to be modified for her new tasks. New, revised plans were made by naval architect Tom Hallidie and dated 15 February 1926. They show that a pilothouse was built on top of the deckhouse and that the interior of the deckhouse was changed. The entrance was moved from the aft to the forward end, the two after cabins were extended and the galley was moved.

The Baymaud sailed from Vancouver 21 June 1926 with her new captain Gus Foellmer, and loaded with timber and case oil. They called in on Herschel and Baillie Islands and several other outposts eastwards in the Northwest Passage. At the southwest coast of Victoria Island materials were unloaded for building a new HBC station, Fort Harmon. The ship then wintered over in Bernard Harbour on the mainland by the Dolphin and Union Strait, which provided more protection from the ice than the Fort Harmon area. In August 1927 the Baymaudcontinued with the planned tasks and ended up in Cambridge Bay (Iqaluktuutiaq) where yet another HBC-station was to be established. The materials and supplies were unloaded, and it was decided to leave the Baymaud at anchor there, since the voyage so far had shown that her draught was too deep for the area. Also Amundsen had experienced during his Gjøa expedition that the Northwest Passage had many shoals and shallow areas where a shallow-draughted vessel was the only answer.

Stuck in Cambridge Bay

The Baymaud was anchored up near to land and used by the HBC as a floating machine workshop, storehouse and radio station. Twice a day weather observations were sent from the ship and these were the first regular winter reports sent over the radio from Canada’s arctic coast (quoted from wireless operator W.G. Crisp’s article “Amundsen’s Maud” in The Beaver, Summer 1955:43-47).

Norwegian-Canadian Henry Larsen visited Cambridge Bay in 1928. He was employed in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police as mate of the St. Roch, and later famous for having captained the St. Roch as the first ship west-east through the Northwest Passage (1940-42) and back again (1944). The St. Roch was in many ways a copy of the Maud. Both the shape of the hull and a number of other construction details were copied, including the way the rudder could be raised up on deck. The ice sheathing of ironwood, the thick beams to brace the hull against the ice pressure, and the large deckhouse towards the stern were probably also copied from the Maud. Larsen noted that it was sad to see Amundsen’s fine ship lying like any other floating radio station. The HBC reported, however, that the Maud’s engine was disassembled, lubricated and stored together with other equipment from the ship, and that the ship could be made ready for sea again within two days.

The St. Roch was also the first ship to circumnavigate North America. She was purchased by the city of Vancouver in 1954 and lies permanently by the quay at the Maritime Museum. The St. Roch was declared a National Historic Site of Canada in 1962.

According to W.G. Crisp the Baymaud developed a leak by the propeller axel in 1930 and, since there were no docking facilities to repair her where she was, she sank at her mooring in shallow water that winter. The starboard side and the stern were still over water, together with the deckhouse and the masts. In September 1931 the St. Roch’s radio operator took out some equipment, and some of the wood was used in 1933 to build a storehouse for the HBC in Cambridge Bay. This was probably only timber from the deckhouse. In 1934 the masts were apparently still in place and the decks were intact and over the waterline. Gradually more of the wood from the ship was taken ashore and used for building or for fuel in this treeless region. The foremast is said to have been erected as a flagpole at the HBC’s trading post. Henry Larsen stated that he in 1935 dynamited the hull to get the oil out that the Inuit complained was ruining the fishing in the area. Probably the damage was done to the stern end to enable removal of some of the fuel tanks. That same year the ship’s wheel was apparently returned to Norway, but it is not clear where it may have been deposited. In 1939 the deck had gone. Later it is mainly the ice that has worked on the wreck, and has pushed it a little further out from the shore. The wreck is still visible, but mostly under water not far from the shore. The cold arctic water prevents shipworms from establishing themselves in the area, which are otherwise a common destructive element in shipwrecks.

Plans to return the Maud to Norway

In November 1990 Asker County bought the Baymaud for $1 from the HBC, which had never given up the ownership. There were great plans to bring the wreck back to Vollen, where it was built, and to restore it to a floating condition. It was calculated to cost 8.8 million NOK to bring it back to Norway, and a further 11.2 million NOK for restoration work. A total sum of 230 million NOK was also named in some reports.

A Norwegian diving inspection concluded that the hull was in fairly good condition and could be raised and secured to enable it to be floated and towed back to Norway. Their report concluded that the state of preservation in the cold water was very good, but that in ten years’ time it would be far less interesting to save the wreck (i.e. in 2000). In February 1992 the Cambridge Bay Council offered the windlass to the Fram Museum in Oslo since it had originally come from the Fram, which was then celebrating its centenary. However, Asker Council was against anything being removed from the wreck. In 1993 Asker Council received a Canadian Cultural Properties Export permit for the wreck, but the whole project fell flat. After this Asker Council apparently transferred the ownership rights to the Tromsø Council in north Norway, who developed their own plans to fetch and display the wreck of the Maud. In 1996 they declared, based on the 1990 inspection report, that it was still possible to save the wreck, but that it was now in a very bad condition due to ice action, and that it within 5-10 years (i.e. 2001-06) would be so damaged that any restoration would have little interest. The ownership was then returned to Asker Council, without the transfer process being quite clear. The export permit has expired.

A detailed professional cultural heritage inspection of the wreck was carried out in 1995 and 1996, led by the internationally-acknowledged marine archaeologist James P. Delgado. He confirmed that the wreck has international significance as cultural heritage and that it is an archaeological locality of special interest to both Norway and Canada. The Maud’s association with Amundsen belongs mainly to Norwegian history, while the expedition’s voyage through the Northeast Passage and by the Bering Strait is also Russian and American history. The Baymaud’s role in its turn is important in the history of the development of Canada’s arctic area from an isolated region to an active trading region joined to the rest of the country by radio.

Early in 2011 negotiations were well underway to have the ownership transferred back to Canada, to Nunavut and Cambridge Bay. There were plans in Canada to have the wreck declared a Historic Site of Canada, and maybe to nominate it together with other famous shipwrecks in the Northwest Passage as World Heritage. Before this was concluded, however, a new project was announced to move the wreck back to Norway, conserve it and build a museum for it at Vollen in Asker. Asker Council has now transferred the ownership to the private company Tandberg Eiendom in Vollen which is behind the new project, and it remains to be seen whether a new export permit will be granted from Canada.

on August 5, 2018 Maud passed Hellisøy Lighthouse and crossed her own trail from 100 years ago. She has finally completed the circle around the North Pole and Maud has returned home to Norway, now continuing her journey towards her final destination Vollen and Asker next Saturday the 18th of August.

Read all about the project here:


James P. Delgado: Report on “The wreck of the Hudson’s Bay Company ship Baymaud, ex-polarskibet Maud (1917-1930)”. Vancouver Maritime Museum, September 1996

Bård Kolltveit (oversetter): “Til isen er du bygget”. Oversettelse av Delgado-rapporten. Norsk Sjøfartsmuseums Årbok 1997:11-47

Susan Barr: Roald Amundsen, Tidenes polfarer. Stenersens forlag, Oslo 2005