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Modern Mysteries

Scientists retrieve DNA of HMS Terror crew

April 25, 2017 | Comment icon 3 comments



The ship became trapped in the ice. Image Credit: William Smyth R.N.
A new study is aiming to identify some of the sailors who died during the ill-fated Arctic expedition.
Under the command of Sir John Franklin, the HMS Terror had originally set out for the Arctic in an attempt to traverse the Northwest Passage, but when the ice turned out to be much thicker than expected the vessel became hopelessly stuck and all 129 men on board ultimately perished.

The wreckage, which had remained lost for over 170 years, was finally located last year 24 meters underwater off the coast of King William Island in the Canadian Arctic Archipelago.
The skeletons being analyzed for DNA samples were found, not in the wreckage, but in small boats and campsites along the ship's route - an indication that the crew had attempted to reach safety.

The research team, which is led by Douglas Stenton of Nunavut's Department of Culture and Heritage, hopes to eventually identify each crew member and learn more about what happened.

"We have been in touch with several descendants who have expressed interest in participating in further research," said Stenton. "We hope that the publication of our initial study will encourage other descendants to also consider participating."

Source: Live Science | Comments (3)



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Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #1 Posted by paperdyer 5 years ago
Wouldn't it be hard to find viable relatives to get enough markers?  We're talking about 7 or 8 generations of DNA diluted with other DNA from the spouses.
Comment icon #2 Posted by oldrover 5 years ago
As long as it isn't Bryan Sykes doing this, he'll have them as the love child of Genghis Khan and an ancient Svalbard Polar bear.
Comment icon #3 Posted by Susanc241 5 years ago
I think they have a good idea of most of the crew members names. I have a book called, 'Frozen in Time', (Owen Beattie & John Geiger) a fascinating account of the fate of the expedition. Three early deaths resulted in graves on Beechey island. These had grave markers identifying the occupants and when they exhumed the bodies they were almost perfectly preserved, with faces still recognisable. These bodies were reburied with respect. This expedition has interested me for a long time, so I am keen to see the outcome of the DNA tests.


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