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Mystery of the HMS Terror continues to endure

Posted on Sunday, 14 March, 2021 | Comment icon 6 comments

The expedition was doomed to failure. Image Credit: William Smyth R.N.
Over 175 years on, researchers are still trying to figure out what went wrong during the ill-fated expedition.
Under the command of Sir John Franklin, the HMS Terror and HMS Erebus set out for the Canadian Arctic in 1845 in an attempt to become the first to traverse the Northwest Passage, but when the ice turned out to be much thicker than expected, both vessels became hopelessly stuck.

Unable to escape the ice, the crew were forced to set out on foot, however even this was doomed to failure as the bitter cold proved too much and none of them were ever seen alive again.

The wreckage of the HMS Terror, 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.

Given that both vessels had been brimming with supplies and were equipped with some of the most modern naval technologies available at that time, it continues to remain unclear exactly why the expedition had gone so catastrophically wrong.
Some researchers speculate that the crew may have succumbed to disease or suffered from lead poisoning from the food tins, while others have blamed poor leadership for the crew's demise.

While planned expeditions to the wreck site have been postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic, it is hoped that exploring the site further could eventually reveal the truth behind what happened.

"If papers on the Erebus and Terror had been kept in sealed boxes or drawers, they may have survived immersion in the very cold, dark waters," said Claire Warrior of the National Maritime Museum in London.

"Diaries or written commands would make the most meaningful difference in terms of understanding what happened. That is what we are hoping will be found."

Source: The Guardian | Comments (6)

Tags: HMS Terror

Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #1 Posted by ted hughes on 14 March, 2021, 10:25
What happened on HMS Terror? What a timely question! On Friday they killed a snow monster, last night they decided to set off on foot and are contemplating cannibalism. I'll let you know how the expedition ended in a day or so- but I will say things are not looking good! 
Comment icon #2 Posted by ted hughes on 14 March, 2021, 10:27
If anyone is interested, there is some stuff on the 2018 film: Building HMS Terror (
Comment icon #3 Posted by Eldorado on 14 March, 2021, 11:33
Related article... While John Franklin was lauded and falsely credited with the discovery of the legendary Northwest Passage, Orcadian John Rae was actually the man who first mapped out a navigable shipping route through the Arctic. However, his reputation was trashed because he was brave enough to reveal that some of Franklin’s men had been driven to cannibalism in a doomed attempt to survive. As a result, Rae, the greatest Arctic explorer of the era, was denied the status and glory he deserved, with author Charles Dickens a chief instigator of his vilification. the national scot  
Comment icon #4 Posted by Bavarian Raven on 14 March, 2021, 17:39
It's not a mystery - arrogance (and admiralty stupidity) killed them. A thousand years ago, greenlanders (and not to mention the local natives) could survive winter(s) trapped in the arctic with little issues (usually - of course as with any arctic culture, there will always be cases of famine, etc, when harvests fail, etc). But 19th century " British " were too arrogant and thought that their "modern" technology could overcome nature. Sad, really, that everyone had to die to prove that point - and created the myth of the terrible harsh arctic (not that its not harsh, but it doesn't deserve th... [More]
Comment icon #5 Posted by Susanc241 on 14 March, 2021, 17:51
This series seems to be based on the book ?The Terror? by Dam Simmons, first published in 2007 by Bantam Press. 936 pages of a very good read, which I did several years ago. Another good book is ?Frozen In Time? by John Beattie and John Geiger, published in 1987 and revised in 2004. (Bloomsbury). This is an account of what they do know and what was found re the bodies that were disinterred, studied and then respectfully reinterred, and discusses the idea that lead poisoning may have played a part in the loss of life. Some very interesting photos.
Comment icon #6 Posted by ercbreeze on 15 March, 2021, 5:52
What happened?  They named it HMS TERROR  duh . . .  .

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