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JENS STOLTENBERG

Norway wants explorer Amundsen’s ship back

A hearing on Thursday in Canada could determine the fate of plans to repatriate Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen's three-mast ship Maud from the Arctic.

Norway wants explorer Amundsen's ship back
Photo: Galleri NOR

A Norwegian group has asked the Canadian Cultural Property Export Review Board to revisit a decision in December denying an export permit for the ship, after residents of Cambridge Bay, Canada opposed losing a treasured artefact that has become a tourist attraction in the far north.

The remains of the ship that once belonged to the Norwegian explorer sit at the bottom of Cambridge Bay in Nunavut, but its hulk is partly visible above the frigid waters that preserved it for decades.

"We understand that the whole hearing will be focused on the importance of Maud to Canada as a historical vessel," A hearing on Thursday in Canada could determine the fate of plans to repatriate Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen's three-mast ship Maud from the Arctic., manager of the effort to bring the Maud to Norway, told AFP.

In 1906 Amundsen became the first European to sail through the Northwest Passage searching for a shorter shipping route from Europe to Asia, something explorers had been trying to find for centuries.

In 1911 he became the first person to reach the South Pole. His attempts to reach the North Pole however failed.

Amundsen again sailed through the Northeast Passage with the Maud — built in Asker, Norway and named after Norway's Queen Maud — in 1918-20, but was unable to get far enough north to launch a North Pole expedition. Amundsen tried, and failed, one more time from the Bering Strait in 1920-21.

The Maud, built in Asker, Norway, was sold to Hudson's Bay Company in 1925 and rechristened the Baymaud. It ended its days as a floating warehouse and the region's first radio station before sinking at its moorings in 1930.

In 1990 Asker Council in Norway bought the wreck for just $1 and obtained an export permit from Canada. The permit however has expired.

An expert appointed by Canada's heritage minister found that the ship is of national importance to Canada, and that its removal from Canadian waters should be delayed by six months to allow a Canadian group to buy her.

Wanggaard said his group opposes further delays.

They had hoped to obtain an export permit to return the shipwreck to Norway at mid-year so it could be the centerpiece of a new museum, but the Canadian review process has delayed that to at least 2013.

Wanggaard said the Canadian expert also recommended an archaeological survey before the vessel is moved, a move the Norwegian group opposes.

"We don't see any value in a classical excavation because the ship sunk, we have a very good record of the history of how it sunk … and we know the ship was completely stripped in the first years after it sunk," Wanggaard said.

"So we don't think it is (necessary) to go through an archaeological study."

Amundsen vanished in June 1928 while flying on a rescue mission with five other people aboard. The plane apparently crashed in heavy fog in the Barents Sea, and his body was never found.

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JENS STOLTENBERG

Russia on agenda at Nordic Nato discussions

Norwegian Nato chief Jens Stoltenberg is in Stockholm to meet Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven and defence officials from across the Nordics, with Russian aggression in the region set to be a key talking point.

Russia on agenda at Nordic Nato discussions
Former Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg at the Nato Parliamentary Assembly in Stavanger in October. Photo: Carina Johansen/NTB scanpix

Former Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg is visiting Sweden for the first time since becoming Nato’s new Secretary General last year, taking over from fellow Scandinavian, Denmark’s Anders Fogh Rasmussen.

The 56-year-old diplomat who served as Norway's Prime Minister from 2005 to 2013 with the Labour Party has promised to visit all Nato member states during his term, as well as non-members such as Sweden which have close ties to the intergovernmental military alliance.

His trip coincides with a regular two-day meeting of the Nordic defence cooperation group, Nordefco, attended by representatives from Sweden, Norway, Iceland, Finland and Denmark as well as partners from the Baltic states. Polish and UK officials have also been invited to the talks.

Sweden will hand over the rotating presidency of Nordefco to Denmark, following the discussions.

Russia’s presence in the the Nordics is expected to be a key focus of their debates, following continued jitters surrounding recent intrusions from the eastern country.

In October 2014, a foreign submarine – suspected to be from Russia, although this was never confirmed – was spotted in Swedish waters just outside Stockholm. A number of Russian planes have also been spotted in or close to Swedish and Danish airspace over the past year. Both Swedish and Danish Intelligence services have reported that Russia is one of the biggest threats in the region.

The visit from the new Nato chief also comes as public support for Sweden joining the organization is growing, according to recent polls. 

In September, 41 percent of Swedes said they thought their country should join Nato while 39 percent remained against it. A similar survey in May stated that just 31 percent of respondents were in favour of Nato membership.

Sweden's ruling centre-left coalition – made up of the Social Democrats and the Green Party – is historically against Nato membership. However, there have been indications in the past year that the Scandinavian nation is moving closer to joining the defence alliance.

In April, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland and Iceland announced far-reaching plans to extend their military cooperation. Two months ago, Swedish newspaper Svenska Dagbladet suggested that Sweden could get involved with a UK-led Nato-linked force that could be deployed in the event of war in the Baltics, although this was later denied by Sweden’s Defence Minister Peter Hultqvist.