HMS Terror from doomed Franklin expedition believed found in Arctic

Archaeologists may have finally located the historic vessel that disappeared 168 years ago in Canada’s north

We’ve covered the Franklin Expedition before, so this from the Canadian Geographic Society is of interest:

Map showing the search routes for Sir John Franklin's lost (and recently found) ships. The larger, more southern blue circle indicates the area that Erebus was found, whereas the smaller more northern blue circle indicates the area that the Terror has allegedly been found. (Map: Chris Brackley/Canadian Geographic)
Map showing the search routes for Sir John Franklin’s lost (and recently found) ships. The larger, more southern blue circle indicates the area that Erebus was found, whereas the smaller more northern blue circle indicates the area that the Terror has allegedly been found. (Map: Chris Brackley/Canadian Geographic)

HMS Terror, the second of Sir John Franklin’s two ships that were lost in the Canadian Arctic 168 years ago, has been located in an uncharted bay in Nunavut, according to an exclusive report in the Guardian.

The ship, which was found in King William Island’s Terror Bay on Sept. 3 by crew members of the Arctic Research Foundation, is in “pristine condition” and under about 24 metres of water, the report says.

Adrian Schimnowski, operations director for the foundation, told the Guardian that a remotely-operated vehicle had already been inside Terror.

“We have successfully entered the mess hall, worked our way into a few cabins and found the food storage room with plates and one can on the shelves,” Schimnowski said in an email to the newspaper. “We spotted two wine bottles, tables and empty shelving. Found a desk with open drawers with something in the back corner of the drawer.”

The find comes almost exactly two years after Parks Canada located HMS Erebus, Terror’s sister ship, and is already being hailed by those familiar with the Franklin story as a major step in helping solve the mystery of what happened during the ill-fated 1845-1848 expedition.

“My mind is reeling,” said Dave Woodman, who has spent years investigating and writing about the importance of Inuit oral tradition and testimony in determining Franklin’s fate. “It sounds like Terror is the wreck of my dreams from when I was a young diver. But every time you get a piece of the Franklin puzzle, you have to reconstruct it, so that’s what we have to do now.”

“The well-preserved wreck matches the Terror in several key aspects,” the Guardian states, “but it lies 60 miles (96km) south of where experts have long believed the ship was crushed by ice, and the discovery may force historians to rewrite a chapter in the history of exploration.” The Guardian noted that “A long, heavy rope line running through a hole in the ship’s deck suggests an anchor line may have been deployed before the Terror went down. If true, that sets up the tantalising possibility that British sailors re-manned the vessel after she was abandoned at the top of Victoria Strait in a desperate attempt to escape south.”

“Just like Erebus, it’s validating of Inuit testimony — it’s near the shore, it’s in a bay — and it’s almost impossible to conclude that the ice took it there,” said Woodman of the possibility of the ship having been anchored.

The Guardian details that Sammy Kogvik, an Inuk from Gjoa Haven who was aboard the Arctic Research Foundation’s research vessel Martin Bergmann as a crewmember, played a key role in the discovery when he told Schimnowski that about six years ago, he and a friend had spotted what looked like a mast sticking out of sea ice covering Terror Bay.

“In a phone interview,” the Guardian says, “Kogvik said he stopped that day to get a few snapshots of himself hugging the wooden object, only to discover when he got home that the camera had fallen out his pocket. Kogvik resolved to keep the encounter secret, fearing the missing camera was an omen of bad spirits, which generations of Inuit have believed began to wander King William Island after Franklin and his men perished. When Schimnowski heard Kogvik’s story, he didn’t dismiss it, as Inuit testimony has been so often during the long search for Franklin’s ships. Instead, the Bergmann’s crew agreed to make a detour for Terror Bay on their way to join the main search group aboard the Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker CCGS Sir Wilfrid Laurier and the Royal Canadian Navy’s HMCS Shawinigan, at the north end of Victoria Strait.”

“Great news about Sammy Kogvik — perfect symmetry of history,” said Franklin historian and author Russell Potter in an email to Canadian Geographic. In a blog story he posted today, Potter said “All the Inuit I know on King William Island have hoped, over many years, for a find like this, not simply because it would vindicate their ancestors’ stories or bring media attention — but because it would bring economic growth, which is so sorely lacking in the North.”

In the same post, Potter also expressed delight at the apparent state of Terror. “Initial images show her to be in far better condition than her sister ship, the “Erebus” … with her hatches battened, her bowsprit still in place, and many of the glass panes in her captain’s cabin still intact. It’s enough to warm the heart of any marine archaeologist — or perhaps give them a heart attack! — certainly a discovery that exceeds anyone’s (mine included) wildest imaginings as to the vessel’s state of preservation.”

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September 12, 2016 4:16 pm

Awesome news!

September 12, 2016 4:16 pm

I recall reading a book with my children about the Franklin Expedition. The take-away from that was the the Franklin Expedition succumbed to lead poisoning from eating foods in cans sealed with lead solder. Not sure how true it all is, but it was interesting.

Jeff Alberts
Reply to  ftlooseandfancyfree
September 12, 2016 9:58 pm

Ftloose, I saw a documentary some 20 years ago perhaps, about the same thing. a couple of crew members, interred in the permafrost, were autopsied, and the likely conclusion was dementia caused by lead poisoning for the exact reason you describe. Would explain why they insisted on dragging a grand piano across the ice and tundra.

Reply to  ftlooseandfancyfree
September 13, 2016 3:28 pm

The book is titled the Man Who Ate his Boots by Anthony Brandt a great story of discovery and heardship.

Bloke down the pub
September 12, 2016 4:26 pm

Strange that a wooden mast would have survived sticking up through the ice. Presumably there is very little in the way of currents at the site.

Greg Cavanagh
Reply to  Bloke down the pub
September 12, 2016 5:04 pm

When the ship is under 24 metres of ocean too. it is the odd part of the story. Nevertheless, it turned up the ship.

Darryl S
September 12, 2016 5:07 pm

The title has a typo, Franklin, not Frankin.

Bill Illis
September 12, 2016 5:27 pm

Video of the HMS Terror wreck (from the team that found it but not always the clearest) here.

September 12, 2016 5:33 pm

Fascinating story!

September 12, 2016 5:34 pm

See the other side of the island (Gjoa Haven) on aerial photo (googleearth better than bing for this area)… photos of sailboats on the water & abandoned on the shore. Looks like 30 to 40 footers.
Image of the “un-named bay” has poor resolution … can’t see anything.

September 12, 2016 5:49 pm

What are the implications vis-à-vis Canadian territorial claims on the Northwest Passage?
Does the Royal Navy still have ownership of HMS Terror?

September 12, 2016 6:23 pm

How did Terror Bay get it’s name ?

Reply to  StefanL
September 14, 2016 6:08 pm

It was named in honor of the ship, as have been other geographic features in both the Arctic and Antarctic.

Reply to  Gabro
September 14, 2016 6:42 pm

To include a mountain in the Picket Range of Washington State’s North Cascades. At least two other RN exploratory vessels are honored in the same range, Challenger and Fury.

September 12, 2016 6:33 pm

Stan Rogers never forgot…

Steve (Paris)
Reply to  Yirgach
September 12, 2016 10:29 pm

You beat me to it
“Ah, for just one time I would take the Northwest Passage / To find the hand of Franklin reaching for the Beaufort Sea / Tracing one warm line through a land so wide and savage / And make a northwest passage to the sea.”

Reply to  Yirgach
September 13, 2016 2:11 am

Pentangle – Lord Franklin

The other Phil
September 12, 2016 6:38 pm

I’m also interested in the naming history – it seems like a weird coincidence that HMS Terror would be in Terror Bay by accident.

Reply to  The other Phil
September 14, 2016 6:11 pm

Terror was thought to lie farther south, around the area in which Erebus was found. But the ship did indeed lend its name to the bay in which it was discovered.

September 12, 2016 7:15 pm

There’s a fun little “historical horror” novel based on these events, “The Terror” by Dan Simmons, that draws (and speculates) much from Inuit mythology.

Reply to  Notanist
September 13, 2016 3:54 am

Thanks – I shall look that up – Dan S has written some excellent science fiction (Fall of Hyperion)

eddie willers
Reply to  Griff
September 13, 2016 9:47 pm

The AMC channel (Madmen, Breaking Bad, Walking Dead) is filming a series of Simmons’ book starring Tobias Menzies of Rome and Outlander fame.

September 12, 2016 7:17 pm

When the HMS Erebus was found two years ago, I asked my children what this meant. Was it proof the Arctic was melting as all the people are saying? They said yes, of course.
I then asked, how did the ship get there in the first place over 150 years ago? They said, well it sailed there.
Fair enough. I asked, in water right? Well yes, was the response.
I continued. And this year, they are finding the ship mired in ice. So, I guess over 150 years ago, the Arctic had less ice than it does now. And if not less, at least very similar conditions to today.
They got the point.
In my opinion, this was a very good lesson for my children. These things do not prove the world is warming. They only prove the world was as warm in the past.
We had a similar discussion when tree stumps appears in the Arctic.

Alan the Brit
Reply to  Undercover
September 13, 2016 3:08 am

Interesting stuff, well said. I always despair at presenters & so-called scientists when they make a statement about climate, or any other thing for that matter as news, when they finish their sentence with something like, “theworst conditionsfor over 50/60/70 years!” or the like, clearly denoting that whatever it was, it hads happened before! 🙁

Reply to  Alan the Brit
September 13, 2016 1:26 pm

Agree totally.
And when it is –
The worst/Best/Coldest/Hottest since – ooooooh – 1911 [today, 20160913 – September temperature]
– or for 20/25/30 years.
Hang on – I remember 1962-3.
A blooming -except for flowers – cold winter – now some 50+ years ago.
warm – but more comfortable than two weeks ago, when it was V. Muggy.

Reply to  Undercover
September 13, 2016 3:53 am

It sailed to a certain point in the summer, then got frozen into the ice, then sailed, then frozen in again…
Much like Amundsen in the early 1900s.
So there is a truly massive difference between the 19th and early 20th centuries and now – where a huge cruise liner can sail through the NW passage entirely untroubled by ice.
I say again – navigating the open leads through the ice and getting frozen in during winter for a multi year passage or failed passage is in no way comparable to completely open, ice free water as has happened in multiple years this century.
This NSIDC news update contains a chart on declining NW passage ice levels…

Stewart Pid
Reply to  Griff
September 13, 2016 4:37 am

Grif before posting such nonsense wouldn’t it be wise to first get a chart illustrating Franklin’s voyage? As you can see Franklin sailed in areas that were all iced up this melt season and sailing would have been impossible. It was warm in the summer in the arctic in the past also and some years obviously had more melting than 2016.
See chart here:

Nigel S
Reply to  Griff
September 13, 2016 4:44 am

‘Crystal Serenity’ was accompanied by an ice breaker just to add to the cost of the cruise I suppose.

Reply to  Undercover
September 13, 2016 7:54 am

Einstein correctly stated, “No amount of experimentation can ever prove me right; a single experiment can prove me wrong.”
So, we have ships over 150 years old finally being rediscovered in the Arctic. So, at the very least, that passage in the Arctic was free of ice up until the ships got stuck showing in that area, sea ice was similar or less prevalent than it is today (First Proof).
I mentioned tree stumps before and will elaborate on now.
Melting Glacier Reveals Ancient Tree Stumps (
During the life of these trees, this place in Canada had to be relatively ice free 7000 years ago for the tree(s) to grow (Second Proof). In fact, the glaciers came on so quick, bark was still preserved on the trees (meaning bacteria (and other things) could not decompose them).
Yet, somehow the current retreat is unprecedented. Most certainly the past advance 7000 years ago was also unprecedented for the bark to still be on the trees. So, I am not sure what that statement proved other than to alarm folks.
I am not saying the climate is not changing. It is always changing. I am 50 years old. In my life, the climate has already changed both up and down as I have lived through many days and seasons that broke both coldest and hottest temperatures. 150 years ago, it was also changing. 7000 years ago it was also changing. In the past, there were times CO2 levels were much higher than they are today. In the past, it was obviously as warm (and warmer) than it is today with vastly different CO2 levels completely independent of the temperature at the time. In the past, with higher CO2 levels, it was also much cooler (Third Proof).
A myriad of factors result in a warmer or cooler Earth. Nobody, as of yet, has shown a direct (or even somewhat a direct) cause and effect relationship where CO2 is directly responsible and/or the main contributing factor in a changing climate. In fact, the main contributing factor is the Sun which brings the Earth from 3 degrees Kelvin (background temperature of Universe) to 254 degrees Kelvin (-19C) (Fourth Proof). The second main contributing factor is the atmosphere which raises the temperature another 33 degrees Celsius to ~14C (Fifth Proof).
The atmosphere contains 78.09% nitrogen, 20.95% oxygen, 0.93% argon, 0.039% carbon dioxide, and small amounts of other gases. Air also contains a variable amount of water vapor, on average around 1% at sea level, and 0.4% over the entire atmosphere (simple Google Search).
Understand CO2 is in the air (~0.04%) and absorbs energy. But so does N2, O2, O3 (ozone), Ar, and water vapor. Water vapor alone is 10 times more prevalent than CO2. Last time I checked, water was one of the very special molecules which had an extremely high absorption rate of energy for a given increase in temperature, much higher than CO2 in fact (could be Sixth Proof).
There is absolutely no way that the concentration of CO2 at 0.04%, even if doubled to 0.08%, or doubled again to 0.16%, or doubled again to 0.32% can have more effect (or affect) than the other much large components present in the atmosphere and/or the Sun.
I live in the Interior of Alaska. It is starting to get cold again for the next six months. I am going to go out and enjoy one of the last nice and relatively warm sunny days I will have for the next six months. Funny how well trees and other vegetation grow so well in the nice warm summer days up here (and ever where in fact) and nothing grows during the frigid winter days. A little bit of increasing warmth is not something we have to worry about, believe me.
Cold is much worse. Cold kills. Ask the Franklin Expedition. Ask the frozen tree stump. Warmth, on the other hand, brings and breeds life. Ask the Dinosaurs (possibly a Seventh Proof). A little more warmth will bring more life. A lot more CO2 is used by Greenhouse owners to increase yields (possibly an Eighth Proof). We are A LONG way from water boiling away and adversely affecting life, in fact about 85-86 degrees Celsius away depending on one’s math. Very large meteorite strikes which killed off almost all life several times in the past could not boil away all Earth’s water despite the incredible amount of energy, in basically an instant, they transferred to the Earth (possibly a Ninth Proof).
How many times does one need to prove something a fallacy for people to actually understand it is a fallacy is really my question. There exists several proofs out there that clearly show humans have very little to no effect (or affect) on the overall environment. Much less than the sun. Much less than the main components of the atmosphere of which CO2 is not a main component. Much less than water vapor. Much less than the oceans which cover 71% of the Earth. Much less than the Sahara Desert. Much less than several rain shadow deserts. Much less than mountain ranges. Much less than land masses. Much less than volcanoes or worse yet, super volcanoes. And much less than very large meteorites. All of which still resulted in the Earth returning to an extremely stable equilibrium very conducive to life despite the calamities they may have brought in the past.
But, we better not double CO2; we will all die (despite current proof to the opposite). Give me a break.
I am going to go out and enjoy some warmth and ponder Einstein’s quote again…….

Reply to  Undercover
September 14, 2016 8:03 pm

I enjoyed reading that, Undercover. Thank you (and enjoy the warmth while you can).

September 12, 2016 8:35 pm

If this confirmed it would be fantastic, but ( there always is) if the ship is 24 meters down but the mast still stuck up through the ice a few years ago, that is at least a 75 – 80 foot mast, are they that tall on those ships? ( I am a neophyte on that type of sailing craft)

Nigel S
Reply to  asybot
September 13, 2016 4:37 am

Hence “Tall Ships”, although HMS Terror was a bomb vessel and a bit less lofty probably. Scaling off from Wiki (30 metres long, 325 tons) it looks like at least 30 metres to mast head from waterline so 35 metres at least from the keel. Interesting that she had a 25hp steam engine. Most people would consider that small for a 10 metre yacht today.

Reply to  Nigel S
September 13, 2016 10:45 am

… HMS Terror was a bomb vessel …

Bomb ships carried mortars rather than cannons. The downward force exerted when the mortar fired was considerable. Such ships were heavily built and were thus used for arctic exploration because it was thought they would be less likely to be crushed by the ice. link

Reply to  asybot
September 13, 2016 6:38 am

Don’t forget to add the height from the keel to the deck to the height of the mast.

Nigel S
Reply to  MarkW
September 13, 2016 8:03 am

That was the calculation; 30m from waterline to top of mast (scaled off picture in Wiki, using Mannian levels of accuracy) plus 5m guessed draught (waterline to keel) = 35 metres (very approx).

September 12, 2016 9:40 pm

Asybot…. It probably wasn’t the mast sticking out of the water, but rather, a piece of the mast that had detached and floated to the surface where it became trapped in the sea ice and eventually was exposed and pushed into the air.
There is a phenomenon where water inside wood will freeze, even though standing water isn’t quite cold enough to form crystals yet. This happens on land, but it might also happen in seawater that is below zero degrees celsius, but not cold enough to freeze yet.
The water logged wood probably froze inside which made the piece of the mast or yardarm buoyant, it then floats to the surface in the general area of the wreck, where Mr Kogvik spotted it.

Steve (Paris)
September 13, 2016 7:27 am

Daily Mail has picked up on this.
Boldly states: In recent years, thanks to global warming, the passage has become more navigable.
Read more:
Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook

Nigel S
Reply to  Steve (Paris)
September 13, 2016 8:12 am

From the Daily Mail article; ‘HMS Terror was one of the British ships that took part in the bombardment of Fort McHenry in the Battle of Baltimore in September 1814.’
Interesting item for your next pub quiz.

Steve (Paris)
Reply to  Nigel S
September 13, 2016 8:17 am

“Sir John Franklin, an experienced explorer, volunteered to lead an expedition to find the Northwest Passage and he commanded two state-of-the-art ships which were even fitted with early steam engines.
But the ship ventured too far south and became trapped near King William Island.”
Too far south? Perhaps the DM thinks the NW passage is in the Antarctic?
Read more:
Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook

JJ, too.
September 13, 2016 10:19 am

Check out Google for a good look at the incredible glacier scouring of the land that is evident on these islands.

September 13, 2016 1:04 pm

I read this somewhere, but I could be wrong – in the early 1800s, the Royal Navy found that ice was receding in the Arctic which lead to speculation that the NorthWest Passage would be navigable – hence the Franklin expedition (remember things didn’t move that fast back in the olden days – it could take years for an expedition to get organized and to sail). That would suggest that global warming was probably happening way before fossil fuels were deemed evil. It would be interesting to follow up on this.
However there are two sources of historical documents that would be fascinating to research – those of the Royal Navy and the Hudson Bay Company (established 1670, but also known as Here Before Christ). Both organizations were obsessive in keeping records. The Royal Navy is probably out of bounds as they are government records, but if only some smart graduate student could get funding to do research on the HBC records and their observations about climate changes from 1670 onward (and that answers why there is no graduate student doing that – no one would fund that type of research).

Gerald Machnee
Reply to  Maureen Matthew
September 13, 2016 1:53 pm

Dr. Tim Ball had access to some of the records in Manitoba

Reply to  Maureen Matthew
September 14, 2016 6:39 pm

There were RN expeditions to the Arctic before Franklin, from 1818 onwards:

September 13, 2016 7:36 pm

This is great news. The tragic Franklin expedition has fascinated me since I first heard of it, at least two decades ago. There is something about the Arctic and Antarctic that continues to grow on me. I have fantasies about exploring Alaska and Siberia. Strange for a woman whose health has been on a downward roll for the last year. Maybe its because I no longer recognize the so-called civilized world that I dream of escaping it.

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