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Terror Revisited: New Mission To Uncover Secrets of Doomed Franklin Expedition

A new mission to the Franklin expedition wreck of HMS Erebus is hoping to discover more secrets about the fate of the doomed 1845 mission that also included HMS Terror.

Nine archeologists from Parks Canada will spend the next two weeks exploring the wreck and searching for artefacts as they seek to more fully understand the fate of the ships and the crew, a mission that was lost with all hands as they sought to find the fabled Northwest Passage in the arctic circle.

A fictionalised account of the fate of the Franklin expedition was told in AMC’s The Terror earlier this year

Franklin’s lost expedition was a British voyage to the arctic that departed England in 1845. Comprising two ships, HMS Erebus and HMS Terror, the voyage was led by the vastly experienced polar explorer Captain Sir John Franklin. Seeking to finally fully traverse the Northwest Passage, the expedition was lost when both ships became icebound near King William Island with a loss of all 129 men. With the help of Inuit guides, the wreck of the Erebus was discovered in 2014 west of O’Reilly Island. HMS Terror was discovered two years later around 60 miles away and south of King William Island, the wreck being in pristine condition.

Boats from HMS Erebus and HMS Terror – Captain James Clark Ross. Sounded in open ocean at 27.43 S and 17.48 W. Recorded depth of approximately 2200 fathoms. First modern successful sounding in deep ocean. Photo: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

Headed more than 220 miles north of the Arctic Circle, the expedition will only be seeking artefacts that can better tell the story of the crew and will look to add to the collection of 65 artefacts that have already been recovered. The collection, which includes parts of clothing, boots, plates and the ship’s bell, was displayed earlier this year at the National Maritime Museum’s “death in the ice” expedition.

HMS Erebus and Terror in the Antarctic – James W. Carmichael, 1847. Photo: National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London

The focus of the new mission will be the living quarters aboard the Erebus with a particular focus on Franklin’s cabin. Jarred Picher, director of archeology and history at Parks Canada is hopeful that the arctic waters may have preserved the ship’s log and any journals made during the mission, stating that there are “thousands upon thousands of artifacts down there.” Away from Erebus, and dependent on weather and ice conditions, archeologists will also seek to collect images, videos and scans of HMS Terror with a view toward future exploration.

Anything recovered from the wreck will be flown to Parks Canada facilities in the south and preserved as experts seek to answer how the two ships ended up in their final resting place and also expand on the story of just what happened to the doomed men who abandoned them as they sought to trek their way back to civilisation.


Michael East View All

Michael East is a writer with a wide variety of eclectic tastes including politics, history, archaeology, professional wrestling and British science-fiction. A former Students' Union President and newspaper editor, he has studied at a variety of institutions and graduated in both history and politics.

He is interested in truth, justice and the unAmerican way. Named as TIME Person of the Year in 2006 and 2011, he is known variously as a rake, a libertine and as the King in the North... if to nobody else but himself.

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