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Cam Bay seeks to protect coveted ship

Karen Mackenzie
Northern News Services
Published Monday, August 20, 2007

CAMBRIDGE BAY - The Hamlet of Cambridge Bay is looking for new ways to protect the remains of a historic three-masted schooner that has lain dormant in its waters since sinking in 1930.

The Baymaud, commonly known as the Maud and built for explorer Roald Amundsen in Norway in 1917, has long been a considered a cultural landmark by the community.

NNSL Photo/Graphic

Residents of Cambridge Bay would like to protect these remains of a historic three-masted schooner, the Baymaud, which sank outside the community in 1930. - photo courtesy of Vicki Aitaok

"It's something like a piece of history, and it's also something here that can link us to the past," said Steve Anavilok, who has lived in the hamlet since 1951. "I remember my mom and dad telling me about the three-masted schooner bringing in supplies for the Hudson's Bay Company, supplying their trading camps."

Over the years, much of the boat has been scavenged for building material.

"The first time I saw that ship was in 1951. Most of the structure was still up, but the masts were gone. It was almost intact, the ship part," said Anavilok, who has a tent on the shore by the boat. "Throughout the years people had been taking one piece of wood here, one piece of wood there, and now it's almost sinking."

Now the hamlet hopes to enhance protection of the ship through national heritage designation, according to Vicki Aitaok, a hamlet councillor who also works at the local visitor's centre.

Everything is currently "in limbo" until the next sitting of hamlet council, but they would like to see the ship remain in place, she said.

"The Maud is a historic ship which had a purpose in Cambridge Bay. It served the residents and it served Hudson's Bay Company," Aitaok said. "And, from a tourism standpoint, it's an international symbol that places us in history that other people can relate to."

But while residents value its presence, the hamlet does not own the vessel. In 1990, a town in Norway bought the ship from HBC. Although its new owners intended to raise and return her to the country where she was built, the plan never went through, and their last cultural properties export permit expired in 1995.

More recently the hamlet was approached by Norwegian company Aker Kvaerner, which hoped to dive the Maud and retrieve a winch, which it manufactures.

They were unable this year to get the proper permits to dive the site, which is protected by Nunavut Archaeological and Palaeontological Sites regulations.

As a designated archeological site, no one can investigate or remove anything without the consent of the Government of Nunavut and the Inuit Heritage Trust.

More than a tourism destination, the vessel is a symbol of "the last phase of the age of exploration," said Robert Grenier, chief underwater archeologist for Parks Canada.

Grenier visited Cambridge Bay last week, at the request of the Department of Culture.

"This ship was a witness to a lot of things," he said. "A lot of people don't realize how a ship like this can publicize the early claim of Canada to the North."

Amundsen, the first explorer to navigate the Northwest Passage, personally designed the ship with a hull shaped to ride up on the ice rather than be crushed. The Maud was the second vessel to navigate the Northeast passage, although later attempts to reach the North Pole failed.

The ship was seized by Seattle creditors and sold to Hudson's Bay Company in a 1926 auction. It sailed to Cambridge Bay and was used as a floating radio station, where it broadcast the first winter radio reports to the Arctic coast, according to an archeological report by the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre in 1996.

The ship sank in 1930, where it has remained since.

"A lot of people grew up on the other side of town, just next to the Maud, and it's very important to them," said Michelle Gillis, the hamlet's mayor. "We know it's in a very, very fragile condition in the water right now."