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THE MAUD EXPEDITION (1918-1925)
Having conquered the Northwest Passage and the South Pole, Amundsen sought to emulate this success at the North Pole, adopting Nansen's idea of allowing a ship to freeze into the pack ice and drift across the Pole. The Fram was now no longer seaworthy after many years of service, so Amundsen commissioned a new vessel, the Maud, with a reinforced egg-shaped keel designed to lift under the pressure of the pack ice, therefore avoiding being crushed. The Maud and her crew, including Harald Ulrik Sverdrup and two members of Amundsen's South Polar team, embarked from Christiania in July 1918, sailing through the Northeast Passage and along the Siberian coast, with the aim of freezing into the ice north of the Bering Strait. However, the pack ice that year formed much earlier than normal, and by September the Maud was frozen in for the winter just north of Cape Chelyuskin. Amundsen was beset with difficulties: breaking an arm, being mauled by a bear and suffering from carbon monoxide poisioning over the course of the winter. In August, however, the ice finally released the Maud and the expedition continued eastward, only to be halted again in September and frozen in for a second winter 500 miles short of the Bering Strait, near the mouth of the Kolyma river. The winter of 1919 was usefully spent studying the little-known Chuckchi tribe -- Sverdrup learning the Chuckchi language and studying their customs. Once free from the ice again, Amundsen sailed for Nome, Alaska, completing the Northeast Passage and arriving there in July 1920. The Maud was refitted and a number of the crew took the opportunity to return home, leaving Amundsen with a crew of only four. Returning north once again in 1920, the Maud became frozen in again, this time in the Bering Strait, and spent a third winter stationary in the pack. When Maud eventually broke free in July 1921, she was found to have sustained damage to her propeller, forcing Amundsen to head south to Seattle for repairs. Amundsen himself now left the beleagured expedition, returning home to Norway to pursue his next venture -- a flight across the Arctic. Though he returned briefly the following summer, Amundsen handed over charge of the expedition to Oscar Wisting. Wisting led Maud north again but failed to find the drift current across the Arctic Ocean, progressing no further than the New Siberian Islands before eventually returning to Nome in August 1925.