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Nunavut shipwreck is officially Sir John Franklin’s HMS Terror

Ian Harvey

The HMS Terror had been lost during Sir John Franklin’s expedition to discover the Northwest Passage.

The wreck was found earlier this month on a tip from an Inuit crew member that was aboard the Arctic Research Foundation’s Martin Bergmann ship.

It had taken eight days before the government of Canada was notified of one of the largest findings in the Arctic that put to rest a nearly two-century-old mystery.

Parks Canada had confirmed that a shipwreck was discovered off the shores of Nunavut’s King William Island.

HMS Terror
HMS Terror

It was indeed the HMS Terror, the doomed expedition that took place in the year 1845. The Arctic Research Foundation had reported earlier this month that it discovered the Terror on September 3rd.

It was in pristine condition and located north of where Franklin’s other ship, the HMS Erebus, had been found in 2014.

The foundation’s Martin Bergmann research ship spent days filming the underwater wreck. The rest of the team nearly 100 kilometers away was surveying the Victoria Strait.

HMS Terror was found off the south coast of King William Island, highlighted. Photo Credit
HMS Terror was found off the south coast of King William Island, highlighted. Photo Credit

The Bergmann had been part of the Parks Canada guided search for the Terror, which also involved the Canadian Coast Guard’s Sir Wilfrid Laurier icebreaker and also the Royal Canadian Navy’s HMCS Shawinigan.

It was not until September 11th that the federal government had been notified of the foundation’s finding. Bad weather had delayed the team for three days before it was able to make its way to Terror Bay.

Once they had arrived, three days were spent analyzing the ship, including one day of diving – the work was confirmed by reports of the Arctic Research Foundation.

The ship’s cabins and the gallery windows are still intact.  The hatches were closed up, and several of the partitions are potentially still in position, stated Ryan Harris, who is the senior underwater archaeologist for Parks Canada.

The ship is a largely-sealed environment that might have preserved remarkably well otherwise very delicate materials.

There were written documents, charts, and other materials.

The ultimate goal is the find out how the Terror ended up where it is. As the story goes, HMS Erebus and HMS Terror had became locked in the ice during the 1846 expedition to discover the Northwest Passage, causing the deaths of 129 men.

Joint ownership

Parks Canada has stated it is working in close partnership with Inuit organizations, especially the Nunavut government and as well the Kitikmeot Inuit Association.

They have joint ownership of the artifacts from both the Erebus and the Terror.

The Arctic Research Foundation has reported that the Terror was found with countless artifacts on board, such as the ship’s bell and wheel, that have been very well preserved.

There was as well found a double-wheeled helm, iron bow sheathings, and three masts.  Divers were able to examine a number of features that had been typical or unique in the 19th century British polar voyage.

The ships and the wrecks have a number of designs that were common to both the HMS Terror and the HMS Erebus.

'Erebus' and the 'Terror' in New Zealand, August 1841, by John Wilson Carmichael.
‘Erebus’ and the ‘Terror’ in New Zealand, August 1841, by John Wilson Carmichael.

The fact that there are no other wrecks other the HMS Erebus with these kind of features in the region has made the archaeologists positively certain of this validation, CBC News reported.

These artifacts will set the way for them to be able to tell the stories of the Nunavut’s heritage, culture, and history.

Here is another on shipwrecks, from our files: New Flyover photographs of Sleeping Bear Dunes show hidden shipwrecks

Hopefully, they will be able to discover more on these ships and will be able to learn exactly what happened, or at least close to it.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for The Vintage News