Second Franklin Ship Wreck Could Rewrite History

Back in 2014, we brought you the news that one of Sir John Franklin’s legendary ships had been found after nearly 170 years of searching, head-scratching and questions. This turned out to be HMS Erebus and now, two years and one day after this discovery, the second ship, HMS Terror, is believed to have been found.

Researchers following a tip-off from an Inuk member of the crew discovered the wreck on the 3rd of September and have been working to try and confirm their assumption. Explorations using underwater remote operated vehicles seem to show various features of the ship that match with the original specifications, such as a strategically placed smokestack that would have aided the vessel in sailing through sea ice. At first, the research team thought the ship had come to rest at a 45 degree angle but closer inspections show that it is, in fact, flat on the seabed. It is said to be in excellent condition and will hopefully help in piecing together what really happened during the final stages of this ill-fated expedition.

History Re-made

Ironically, the ship was found in Terror Bay, off the coast of King William Island in the Canadian Arctic. This is a lot further south than where rescue missions and subsequent operations to recover the wreck were searching. With written notes telling us that the last known position of the two ships was towards the northern end of the Victoria Strait, it’s surprising that the final resting place of HMS Terror is nearly 100km further south.

This may well have a large impact on how historians look at the facts. Until now, it was thought that the men died as they attempted to reach safety on foot. The gruesome story tells of them dropping like flies and some even think the last few resorted to cannibalism in a desperate attempt to stay alive. However, with the wreck of HMS Terror showing signs that it was sailed to its final resting place, before being closed down intentionally, it is possible that some of the men tried to navigate their way home on board the ship before eventually abandoning it and joining the others aboard HMS Erebus.

Storytelling Tradition Leads To Breakthrough

This latest find came courtesy of a story told by an Inuk crewmember to the operations director of the foundation carrying out the research. He mentioned in passing that he had found a strange piece of wood sticking out of the ice six years ago. Him and his hunting mate had taken pictures of them with it but then lost the camera and assumed it was a bad omen. The indigenous tribes of the Arctic have always believed in spiritual reasons for certain events and so nothing was said of this discovery for fear of repercussions.

The team decided to check out the area where the piece of wood had been spotted on their way to meeting other researchers further north. Low and behold, it turned out to be just the tip-off they needed to locate a piece of maritime history that will go a long way to solving the mystery of the Northwest Passage. The wreck will now be formally assessed by Parks Canada archaeologists to confirm it is definitely the HMS Terror.

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