HMS Terror Discovered After 170 Years Sinking In The Arctic

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HMS Terror discovered after 170 years sinking in the Arctic in attempt to discover the Northern Passage according to The Guardian. (The other, the HMS Erebus, was found in 2014.)

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hms-terror01According to Wikipedia, HMS Terror was a bomb vessel constructed for the Royal Navy in 1813. She participated in several battles of the War of 1812, including the bombardment of Fort McHenry. Later converted into a polar exploration ship, she participated in George Back’s Arctic expedition of 1836–1837, the Ross expedition of 1839 to 1843, and Sir John Franklin’s ill-fated in 1845.

Franklin’s expedition sailed North to chart the last unknown regions of the Arctic’s Northern Passage — a sea route that would connect the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans and help British traders save time by not sailing around Africa or South America.

hms-terror03The expedition sailed from Greenhithe, Kent on 19 May 1845, and the ships were last seen entering Baffin Bay in August 1845. HMS Terror and Franklin’s flagship, HMS Erebus, were abandoned in heavy sea ice far to the north of the eventual wreck site in 1848.

A scrawled note dated 25 April 1848, and concealed in a stone cairn at Victory Point on northern King William Island, said Erebus and Terror had been abandoned three days earlier, stuck in sea ice. Captain Francis Rawdon Moira Crozier was in command of “the officers and crews, consisting of 105 souls”, because Franklin had died on 11 June 1847, the note continued, “and the total loss by deaths in the expedition has been to this date 9 officers and 15 men”.

Crozier and Captain James Fitzjames signed the note, which had what seemed a hurried postscript, scrawled upside down in the top right corner: “and start on to-morrow 26th for Back’s Fish River”.

 The double-wheeled helm of HMS Terror. Photograph: Arctic Research Foundation

The double-wheeled helm of HMS Terror. Photograph: Arctic Research Foundation

Survivors apparently hoped to follow the river – now known as Back river – south to safety at a Hudson’s Bay Company fur trading outpost. All 129 men on the Franklin expedition died either fighting off hunger, disease and frostbite, in the worst disaster to hit Britain’s Royal Navy in its long history of polar exploration.

The disappearance of the Franklin expedition set off a massive search effort in the Arctic and the broad circumstances of the expedition’s fate were revealed during a series of expeditions between 1848 and 1866.

An image from the deck of the wreck of HMS Terror as it lies on the seabed. Photograph: Arctic Research Foundation

An image from the deck of the wreck of HMS Terror as it lies on the seabed. Photograph: Arctic Research Foundation

In 2014, the HMS Erebus was discovered in Wilmot and Crampton Bay, off the coast of Nunavut. And earlier this month, researchers from the Arctic Research Foundation discovered the second ship, the HMS Terror, in King William Island’s Terror Bay. The two wrecks were found nearly 60 miles from where historians assumed the ships had been trapped in ice and then sunk.

The HMS Terror was found in 24 meters of water with “three masts broken but still standing, almost all hatches closed and everything stowed,” according to The Guardian. The ship’s glass panes in the cabin are still intact.

The discovery of the ship in its present location and condition changes some of the narrative of the expedition’s disappearance. Jim Balsillie, who helped establish the Arctic Research Foundation, told The Guardian, “It’s almost certain that HMS Terror was operationally closed down by the remaining crew who then re-boarded HMS Erebus and sailed south where they met their ultimate tragic fate.”

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