A scanned image of the HMS Terror submerged in Nunavut. Arctic Research Foundation image.
Just over a week ago the second piece of the 1845 ill – fated Franklin expedition was found in Terror Bay, Nunavut on the southern shore of King William Island. The illusive second grande puzzle piece of the expedition mystery was found in about 70 feet of water.
The Terror, abandoned in thick sea ice three years after it set sail from England in 1845, failed in its attempt to sail through the Northwest Passage. The wooden ship was discovered in “pristine condition” in a calm bay north of where the wreck of HMS Erebus was located in 2014.
Arctic Research Foundation’s Martin Bergmann research vessel located the shipwreck, with all three masts intact and standing while nearly all hatches closed.
“Resting proud on 24 metres of water, we found HMS Terror — 203 years old, it is perfectly preserved in the frigid waters of the Northwest Passage,” Arctic Research Foundation spokesman Adrian Schimnowski stated.
Location of the recently discovered HMS Terror. Google Maps image.
Trapped in ice somewhere between King William Island and Victoria Island the HMS Terror was found 92 kilometres south of that location. Bergmann’s crew decided to detour south to Terror Bay after an Inuk crew member, Sammy Kogvik from Gjoa Haven. Kogvik explained to the crew how during a fishing excursion about six years prior he sighted a rather large wood pillar extruding from the ice surface on Terror Bay.
“I was on my way to the lake to go put nets out,” Kogvik said in the Arctic Research Foundation’s video. “And when we got in the bay … as I was getting off the snowmobile, I looked up to my left, and there was something weird sticking out of the ocean on the ice.
HMS Erebus dive site in 2014. Parks Canada photo.
“This is tremendously exciting news,” said Geiger. “The nature of the find, as reported, underscores also the vital role of the Inuit then and now in the Franklin saga.
The doomed expedition of nearly 170 years ago, tragically culminated in 129 deaths of crewmen. The Terror and Erebus lay locked in ice and submerged in water undiscovered until a search team, led by Parks Canada, unveiled the Erebus two years ago.
The winter dive on the HMS Erebus, Sir john Franklin’s long lost but now found ship, went well but is only “scratching the surface” according to senior researchers on the expedition.
Divers were literally scratching the surface of the sunken ship. Removing the kelp that covered the old wooden hull was the first task to be able to get a better look at the wreck in relation to the overall site. Rather than strip it all away from the entire ship they cut it off only along the port side of the 34-meter long wooden vessel.
Although the Erebus has not disclosed much information about its fate as of yet, clearing the hull and mapping the site has provided more of a story.
Jonathan Moore drilling the ice for a dive hole at Erebus Dive Camp. Parks Canada photo.
Parcs Canada senior underwater archeologist Ryan Harris says the artifacts recovered so far “can help capture what life was like inside Erebus, as well as perhaps on the still-missing second ship of the Franklin expedition, HMS Terror.” Brass buttons, a cannon and ceramic dinner plates have all been discovered and are currently on display with a dozen other items in Gatineau, Quebec.
Brass buttons discovered can be narrowed down to only four crewmen. Parks Canada photo.
Ceramic dinner plates found at the Erebus wreck site. Parcs Canada photo.
In another mysterious and intriguing twist to the expedition, glass prisms were placed inside the upper deck which focused a very small amount light streaming through a skylight, and allowed that daylight to pass through, into the dark spaces below.
“It looks like something out of Jules Verne,” Harris says. “At this point in time, we’re absolutely just scratching the surface of what we might learn from this shipwreck,”
A cannon from the HMS Erebus is pulled to the surface through one of the dive holes cut in two-meter thick ice. Jonathan Moore/ Parcs Canada photo.