Arctic| Eastern Arctic |Western
Arctic |Sub Arctic
A team of underwater archaeologists from the Vancouver
Maritime Museum conducted a series of dives to document the
shipwreck Baymaud off Cambridge Bay. Baymaud sank
in 1930 after a short but famous career in the Arctic. The
project was the first to map a shipwreck in the Arctic.
Baymaud was built in Kristiana (now Oslo) Norway as the ship Maud in 1917 for explorer Roald Amundsen. Amundsen was the
first explorer to navigate the Northwest Passage and to reach
the South Pole. He designed Maud to freeze in and drift
in the ice. Amundsen's intended destination was the North
Pole. The First World War and the fear of German submarines
led Amundsen to sail for the Bering Straits by way of the
Northeast Passage, across the top of Europe and Asia. It proved
to be a mistake.
The ship was frozen in thick ice on the coast of Siberia
for two years. Amundsen nearly died on the expedition, once
when mauled by a polar bear, the other when he nearly succumbed
to carbon monoxide poisoning while taking scientific observations
alone in a unventilated tent. When Maud arrived at
Nome, Alaska on 27 July 1920, the ship became the second to
navigate the Northeast Passage. But the North Pole remained
an elusive goal. Two other attempts also failed, and Maud retreated with damage to her propeller. Amundsen finally abandoned
the expedition in 1925.
Maud was seized by creditors in Seattle and sold
at an auction. The Hudson's Bay Company purchased the ship
to supply its Arctic outposts. After refitting in Vancouver,
and with a new name, Baymaud sailed for the Western
Arctic in June 1926. It never returned. After freezing in
for the winter of 1926-1927, the ship was moored close to
shore and used by the Hudson's Bay Company as a floating machine
shop, warehouse and wireless station. Twice a day, the wireless
operator, W. G. Crisp, sent out regular weather reports through
the R.C.C.S. Mackenzie network. These were the first regular
winter reports by radio from Canada's Arctic coast.
Baymaud developed a leak and sank at its anchorage
in the winter of 1930. A small portion of the ship remained
above the ice and water, and the masts, rigging and cabins
were stripped from the hull. The rest of the ship was allowed
to settle into the water. Today, only a small area of the
wreck's starboard side rises above the waves. The rest of
the ship lies in seven metres of frigid water.
The wreck, largely intact after 66 years on the ocean
bottom, is beginning to fall apart, and experts fear that
within the next two to five years Baymaud will disintegrate.
But the icy waters of the Arctic have preserved paint on the
hull, rope and barrels inside the ship's forecastle, and details
such as the ship's signal letters and tonnage carved on the
match hatch beam. The team discovered the ship's steering
gear lying on the remains of the deck, the anchor chain running
out of the bow and on to the bottom, the stub of a mast lying
against the hull, and machinery toppled in the hold. The engine,
a 240-horsepower, four cylinder diesel, still sits in the
Historical sources had hinted that Baymaud had inspired
the design of St. Roch. Architect Tom Hallidie, who
designed St. Roch, supervised the refit of Maud and drew plans of the Norwegian vessel in February 1926. Two
years later, he was handed the task of designing an Arctic
schooner for the Mounties. Maud's hull and fittings
had survived years of heavy ice during Amundsen's expedition,
and so Hallidie copied the ship's lines and several construction
details while planning St. Roch. These included a round,
egg-shaped hull, thick ironwood planks that formed an extra
layer of ice sheathing on the hull, a large cabin aft, a single-screw
diesel engine, a rudder that could be lifted up through a
special well to avoid being snapped off by ice, and thick
beams to brace the hold against the crushing pressure of ice
floes. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police schooner, St.
Roch, is now a National Historic Site preserved ashore
at the Vancouver Maritime Museum. St. Roch, under the
command of Henry A. Larsen, was the second ship to navigate
the Northwest Passage (1940-1942), and the first to transit
the passage's more northerly route (1944).
The team, led by underwater archaeologist James Delgado,
Vancouver Maritime Museum, included Robert Delgado, Michael
Paris, Jacques Marc and David Stone from the Underwater Archaeological
Society of British Columbia. The project was funded by the
territorial Department of Economic Development and Tourism.
Drawings, photographs and underwater video footage of the
wreck will form part of a new display at the Arctic Coast
Visitor Centre in Cambridge Bay.
Mount Pelly Territorial Park, Cambridge Bay
A survey of the proposed Mount Pelly Territorial Park,
east of Cambridge Bay, was conducted by Andrew Stewart for
Avens Associates of Yellowknife and the territorial Department
of Economic Development and Tourism. Local initiative to establish
a Natural Environment Park has lead to a series of coordinated
studies by separate investigators on archaeological heritage,
oral history, and botany.
Four people, including field assistants Richard Epelon and
Bert Maksagak of Cambridge Bay, walked much of the 16 square
km park area. Coverage was concentrated on lake edges around
the base of the esker that forms Mount Pelly and level terraces
associated with marine strandlines that encircle the esker.
More than 100 surface features were found, including over
forty tent rings and tent rectangles, more than 30 caches,
and 16 shelters or waiting places. Most of these features
lie near the base of the esker or on the lowermost strandlines.
Many of the caches are small (less than a metre square) and
carefully built as if they were intended for reuse. One small
boulder feature contained the bones of at least two loons
but it is unclear whether the birds had originally been placed
there or just the bones. Future research, particularly oral
history, will focus partially on the use of these features.
Few artifacts predating the 1960s were found. One of the artifacts
is a lance or spear head made from iron, brass, wood and repaired
with twine. No stone tools were found. Although Thule fall
and winter houses and Palaeo-Eskimo artifacts have been found
within 10 km of Mount Pelly, no similar structures were found
during this survey. It may be that Mount Pelly was used for
thousands of years but mostly during the warm season as a
place where people waited for game and caught waterfowl and
Oral history is also being recorded as part of the overall
investigation of Mount Pelly coordinated by Avens Associates.
Consultation with elders in Cambridge Bay (which occurred
before and immediately after the survey and which is continuing
under the direction of historian David Pelly) provided evidence
for interpreting some of the boulder features as possible
equipment or winter clothing caches. Some preliminary findings
of the oral history research suggest that people fished in
the Mount Pelly area during late spring and early summer while
moving inland from their winter camps on the sea ice to the
south. It may be possible to explain the large number of caches
in the context of this seasonal pattern of movement. Results
of the oral history research will be integrated into the interpretation
of archaeological features in the proposed park to show the
history and land use of this area by Kiilinikmeot, the people
living on Victoria Island.