HMS Terror (1813)

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HMS Terror in the Arctic
Naval Ensign of the United Kingdom.svgUnited Kingdom
Ordered: 30 March 1812
Builder: Robert Davy, Topsham, Devon
Laid down: September 1812
Launched: 29 June 1813
Completed: By 31 July 1813
Abandoned:22 April 1848 (1848-04-22), Victoria Strait [1]
Rediscovered:12 September 2016, Terror Bay
General characteristics
Class and type: Vesuvius-class bomb vessel
Tons burthen: 325 (bm)
Length: 102 ft (31.09 m)
Beam: 27 ft (8.23 m)
Installed power: 30 Nominal horsepower [2]
Complement: 67
  • 1 × 13 in (330 mm) mortar
  • 1 × 10 in (254 mm) mortar
Official name Wrecks of HMS Erebus and HMS Terror National Historic Site

HMS Terror was a specialized warship and a newly developed bomb vessel constructed for the Royal Navy in 1813. She participated in several battles of the War of 1812, including the Battle of Baltimore with the bombardment of Fort McHenry. She was converted into a polar exploration ship two decades later, and participated in George Back's Arctic expedition of 1836–1837, the successful Ross expedition to the Antarctic of 1839 to 1843, and Sir John Franklin's ill-fated attempt to force the Northwest Passage in 1845, during which she was lost with all hands along with HMS Erebus.


On 12 September 2016, the Arctic Research Foundation announced that the wreck of Terror had been found in Nunavut's Terror Bay, off the southwest coast of King William Island. The wreck was discovered 92 km (57 mi) south of the location where the ship was reported abandoned, and some 50 km (31 mi) from the wreck of HMS Erebus, discovered in 2014.

Early history and military service

HMS Terror was a Vesuvius-class bomb ship built over two years at the Davy shipyard in Topsham, Devon, for the Royal Navy. Her deck was 31 m (102 ft) long, and the ship measured 325 tons burthen. The vessel was armed with two heavy mortars and ten cannon, and was launched in June 1813. [3]

Terror saw service in the War of 1812 against the United States, [4] during which the ships of the North America and West Indies Station of the Royal Navy blockaded the Atlantic ports of the United States and launched amphibious raids from its base in Bermuda, leading up to the 1814 Chesapeake campaign, a punitive expedition that included the Raid on Alexandria, the Battle of Bladensburg, the Burning of Washington, and the Battle of Baltimore. Under the command of John Sheridan, she took part in the bombardment of Stonington, Connecticut, on 9–12 August 1814. She also fought in the Battle of Baltimore in September 1814 and participated in the bombardment of Fort McHenry; the latter attack inspired Francis Scott Key to write the poem that eventually became known as "The Star-Spangled Banner". [4] In January 1815, still under Sheridan's command, Terror was involved in the Battle of Fort Peter and the attack on St. Marys, Georgia. [5]

After the war, Terror was laid up until March 1828, when she was recommissioned for service in the Mediterranean Sea, but was removed from active service when she underwent repairs for damage suffered near Lisbon, Portugal. [6]

Early polar exploration service

In the mid-1830s, Terror was refitted as a polar exploration vessel. Her design as a bomb ship meant she had an unusually strong framework to resist the recoil of her heavy mortars; thus, she could withstand the pressure of polar sea ice, as well. [3]

Back expedition

A painting by Admiral Sir George Back showing HMS Terror anchored near a cathedral-like iceberg in the waters around Baffin Island Admiral Sir George Back shows HMS Terror anchored near a cathedral-like iceberg in the waters around Baffin Island (cropped).jpg
A painting by Admiral Sir George Back showing HMS Terror anchored near a cathedral-like iceberg in the waters around Baffin Island

In 1836, command of Terror was given to Captain George Back for an Arctic expedition to Hudson Bay. [3] [4] The expedition aimed to enter Repulse Bay, where it would send out landing parties to ascertain whether the Boothia Peninsula was an island or a peninsula. Terror was trapped by ice near Southampton Island, and did not reach Repulse Bay. At one point, the ice forced her 12 m (39 ft) up the face of a cliff. [6] She was trapped in the ice for ten months. [4] In the spring of 1837, an encounter with an iceberg further damaged the ship. She nearly sank on her return journey across the Atlantic, [4] and was in a sinking condition by the time Back was able to beach the ship on the coast of Ireland on 21 September. [6] [7]

Ross expedition

"Erebus" and "Terror" in New Zealand on the Ross expedition, August 1841, by John Wilson Carmichael 'Erebus' and the 'Terror' in New Zealand, August 1841 by John Wilson Carmichael.jpg
"Erebus" and "Terror" in New Zealand on the Ross expedition, August 1841, by John Wilson Carmichael

Terror was repaired and assigned in 1839 to a voyage to the Antarctic along with Erebus under the overall command of James Clark Ross. [3] [4] Francis Crozier was commander of Terror on this expedition, as well as second-in-command to Ross. [3] The expedition spanned three seasons from 1840 to 1843 during which Terror and Erebus made three forays into Antarctic waters, traversing the Ross Sea twice, and sailing through the Weddell Sea southeast of the Falkland Islands. The dormant volcano Mount Terror on Ross Island was named after the ship by the expedition commander. [3] [6]

Franklin expedition

Sample of dishware carried by Terror, showing vessel name and the cypher for King George. Yellow flower plate from HMS Terror.jpg
Sample of dishware carried by Terror, showing vessel name and the cypher for King George.

Before leaving on the Franklin expedition, both Erebus and Terror underwent heavy modifications for the journey. [4] They were both outfitted with steam engines, taken from former London and Greenwich Railway steam locomotives. Rated at 25  hp (19 kW), each could propel its ship at 4 knots (7.4 km/h). The pair of ships became the first Royal Navy ships to have steam-powered engines and screw propellers. [4] Twelve days' supply of coal was carried. [8] Iron plating was added fore and aft on the ships' hulls to make them more resistant to pack ice, and their decks were cross-planked to distribute impact forces. [4] Along with Erebus, Terror was stocked with supplies for their expedition, which included among other items: two tons of tobacco, 8,000 tins of preserves, and 7,560 L (1,660 imp gal; 2,000 US gal) of liquor. Terror's library had 1,200 books, and the ship's berths were heated via ducts that connected them to the stove. [4]

Their voyage to the Arctic was with Sir John Franklin in overall command of the expedition in Erebus, and Terror again under the command of Captain Francis Crozier. The expedition was ordered to gather magnetic data in the Canadian Arctic and complete a crossing of the Northwest Passage, which had already been charted from both the east and west, but never entirely navigated. It was planned to last three years. [4]

The expedition sailed from Greenhithe, Kent, on 19 May 1845, and the ships were last seen entering Baffin Bay in August 1845. [6] The disappearance of the Franklin expedition set off a massive search effort in the Arctic and the broad circumstances of the expedition's fate were revealed during a series of expeditions between 1848 and 1866. Both ships had become icebound and were abandoned by their crews, all of whom died of exposure and starvation while trying to trek overland to Fort Resolution, a Hudson's Bay Company outpost 970 km (600 mi) to the southwest. Subsequent expeditions up until the late 1980s, including autopsies of crew members, revealed that their canned rations may have been tainted by both lead and botulism. Oral reports by local Inuit that some of the crew members resorted to cannibalism were at least somewhat supported by forensic evidence of cut marks on the skeletal remains of crew members found on King William Island during the late 20th century. [9] [10]

Discovery of the wreckage

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

On 15 August 2008, Parks Canada, an agency of the Government of Canada, announced a CAD$75,000 six-week search, deploying the icebreaker CCGS Sir Wilfrid Laurier with the goal of finding the two ships. The search was also intended to strengthen Canada's claims of sovereignty over large portions of the Arctic. [11] Further attempts to locate the ships were undertaken in 2010, 2011, and 2012, [12] all of which failed to locate the ships' remains.

On 8 September 2014, it was announced that the wreckage of one of Franklin's ships was found on 7 September using a remotely operated underwater vehicle recently acquired by Parks Canada. [13] [14] On 1 October 2014, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced that the remains were that of Erebus. [15]

On 12 September 2016, a team from the Arctic Research Foundation announced that a wreck close to Terror's description had been located on the southern coast of King William Island in the middle of Terror Bay ( 68°54′N98°56′W / 68.900°N 98.933°W / 68.900; -98.933 (Terror Bay) ), at a depth of 69–79 ft (21–24 m). [10] [16] The remains of the ships are designated a National Historic Site of Canada with the exact location withheld to preserve the wrecks and prevent looting. [17]

Sammy Kogvik, an Inuit hunter and member of the Canadian Rangers who joined the crew of the Arctic Research Foundation's Martin Bergmann, recalled an incident from seven years earlier in which he encountered what appeared to be a mast jutting from the ice. With this information, the ship's destination was changed from Cambridge Bay to Terror Bay, where researchers located the wreck in just 2.5 hours. [16] [18] [19] According to Louie Kamookak, a resident of nearby Gjoa Haven and a historian on the Franklin expedition, Parks Canada had ignored the stories of locals that suggested that the wreck of Terror was in her namesake bay, despite many modern stories of sightings by hunters and from airplanes. [18]

The wreck was found in excellent condition, her decks and interior spaces largely intact. A wide exhaust pipe that rose from the outer deck was pivotal in identifying the ship. She was located in the same location where the smokestack from Terror's locomotive engine had been installed. The wreck was nearly 100 km (62 mi) south of where historians thought her final resting place was, calling into question the previously accepted account of the fate of the sailors, that they died while trying to walk out of the Arctic to the nearest Hudson's Bay Company trading post. [10]

The location of the wreckage, and evidence in the wreckage of anchor usage, indicates continued use, raising the possibility that some of the sailors had attempted to re-man the ship and sail her home (or elsewhere), [10] possibly on orders from Crozier. [18]

On 23 October 2017 it was announced by British Defence Minister Sir Michael Fallon that the British government would be giving Terror and Erebus to Canada, retaining only a few relics and any gold, along with the right to repatriate any human remains. [20]

In 2018, Terror and Erebus were gifted to Canada and the Inuit, in care of the Inuit Heritage Trust, by the government of the United Kingdom. This includes all the remaining artifacts. [21] [22]

Although the exact location has not been released, Nancy Anilniliak, the Field Unit Superintendent of the Nunavut Field Unit, has restricted access to a rectangular area in Terror Bay. The area runs from Point E ( 68°54′25.45″N98°59′42.07″W / 68.9070694°N 98.9950194°W / 68.9070694; -98.9950194 (point E) ) to Point F ( 68°54′25.24″N98°51′29.08″W / 68.9070111°N 98.8580778°W / 68.9070111; -98.8580778 (point F) ) to Point G ( 68°48′46.23″N98°51′31.25″W / 68.8128417°N 98.8586806°W / 68.8128417; -98.8586806 (point G) ) to Point H ( 68°48′46.44″N98°59′42.15″W / 68.8129000°N 98.9950417°W / 68.8129000; -98.9950417 (point H) ). [23]

In August 2019, taking advantage of "exceptionally co-operative" weather conditions, Parks Canada conducted 48 dives over the course of seven days to Terror, 3D-mapping the wreck and searching the interior with ROVs. The team was able to map out ninety percent of Terror's lower deck, but were unable to access Crozier's cabin due to the buildup of sediment. Despite this, Crozier's cabin was considered the best preserved space in the lower deck, and Parks Canada has expressed the hope that written materials may be found there. [24] The planned exploration of the wreck sites in 2020 was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. [25]


In art, entertainment, and media

HMS Terror is featured, often alongside HMS Erebus, in fictional works that involve or allude to the Franklin expedition, such as:

In namesakes

See also

Related Research Articles

John Franklin British Royal Navy officer and Arctic explorer

Sir John Franklin was a British Royal Navy officer and Arctic explorer. After serving in wars against Napoleonic France and the United States, he led two expeditions into the Canadian Arctic, in 1819 and 1825, and served as Lieutenant-Governor of Van Diemen's Land from 1839 to 1843. During his third and final expedition to force the Northwest Passage in 1845, Franklin's ships became icebound off King William Island in what is now Nunavut, where he died in June 1847. The icebound ships were abandoned ten months later and the entire crew died, from causes such as starvation, hypothermia, and scurvy.

HMS <i>Erebus</i> (1826)

HMS Erebus is a Hecla-class bomb vessel constructed by the Royal Navy in Pembroke dockyard, Wales, in 1826. The vessel was the second in the Royal Navy named after Erebus, the dark region of Hades in Greek mythology.

King William Island

King William Island is an island in the Kitikmeot Region of Nunavut, which is part of the Arctic Archipelago. In area it is between 12,516 km2 (4,832 sq mi) and 13,111 km2 (5,062 sq mi) making it the 61st-largest island in the world and Canada's 15th-largest island. Its population, as of the 2016 census, was 1,279, all of whom live in the island's only community, Gjoa Haven.

Gjoa Haven Hamlet in Nunavut, Canada

Gjoa Haven is an Inuit hamlet in Nunavut, above the Arctic Circle, located in the Kitikmeot Region, 1,056 km (656 mi) northeast of Yellowknife, Northwest Territories. It is the only settlement on King William Island.

Francis Crozier

Francis Rawdon Moira Crozier was an Irish officer of the Royal Navy and polar explorer who participated in six expeditions to the Arctic and Antarctic. In May 1845, he was second-in-command to Sir John Franklin and captain of HMS Terror during the Franklin expedition to discover the Northwest Passage, which ended with the loss of all 129 crewmen.

CCGS <i>Sir Wilfrid Laurier</i>

CCGS Sir Wilfrid Laurier is a Martha L. Black-class light icebreaker and major navaids tender of the Canadian Coast Guard. Built in 1986 by Canadian Shipbuilding at Collingwood, Ontario, Canada, she was the last ship constructed there. The ship has been based out of Victoria, British Columbia.

James Clark Ross British explorer and naval officer

Sir James Clark Ross was a British Royal Navy officer and polar explorer known for his explorations of the Arctic, participating in two expeditions led by his uncle Sir John Ross, and four led by Sir William Parry, and, in particular, for his own Antarctic expedition from 1839 to 1843.

<i>The Terror</i> (novel) 2007 novel by Dan Simmons

The Terror is a 2007 novel by American author Dan Simmons. It is a fictionalized account of Captain Sir John Franklin's lost expedition of HMS Erebus and HMS Terror to the Arctic, in 1845–1848, to locate the Northwest Passage. In the novel, while Franklin and his crew are plagued by starvation and illness, and forced to contend with mutiny and cannibalism, they are stalked across the bleak Arctic landscape by a monster.

Franklins lost expedition British expedition of Arctic exploration

Franklin's lost expedition was a British voyage of Arctic exploration led by Captain Sir John Franklin that departed from England in 1845 aboard two ships, HMS Erebus and HMS Terror, and was assigned to traverse the last unnavigated sections of the Northwest Passage in the Canadian Arctic. The expedition met with disaster after both ships and their crews, a total of 129 officers and men, became icebound in Victoria Strait near King William Island, in what is today the Canadian territory of Nunavut. After being icebound for more than a year, Erebus and Terror were abandoned in April 1848, by which point Franklin and nearly two dozen others had died. The survivors, now led by Franklin's deputy Francis Crozier and Erebus' captain James Fitzjames, set out for the Canadian mainland and disappeared.

HMS <i>Investigator</i> (1848)

HMS Investigator was a merchant ship purchased in 1848 to search for Sir John Franklin's ill-fated Northwest Passage expedition. She made two voyages to the Arctic and had to be abandoned in 1853, after becoming trapped in the ice.

McClintock Arctic expedition

The McClintock Arctic expedition of 1857 was a British effort to locate the last remains of Franklin's lost expedition. Led by Francis Leopold McClintock aboard the steam yacht Fox, the expedition spent two years in the region and ultimately returned with the only written message recovered from the doomed expedition. McClintock and crew were awarded the Arctic medal in recognition of their achievements.

OReilly Island

O'Reilly Island is an uninhabited island in Nunavut Territory, Canada. It lies to the south of King William Island and to the west of the Klutschak and Adelaide Peninsulas, in the easternmost part of the Queen Maud Gulf.

Ross expedition

The Ross expedition was a voyage of scientific exploration of the Antarctic in 1839 to 1843, led by James Clark Ross, with two unusually strong warships, HMS Erebus and HMS Terror. It explored what is now called the Ross Sea and discovered the Ross Ice Shelf. On the expedition, Ross discovered the Transantarctic Mountains and the volcanoes Erebus and Terror, named after his ships. The young botanist Joseph Dalton Hooker made his name on the expedition.

The Arctic Research Foundation (ARF) is a Canadian private charitable foundation established in 2011.

Terror Bay

Terror Bay is an Arctic waterway in the Kitikmeot Region, Nunavut, Canada. It is located in the south western side of King William Island. The entrance to the bay is marked by Fitzjames Island on the west and Irving Islands to the east. The Bay opens to Queen Maud Gulf.

Thomas Abernethy (explorer) Scottish seafarer and polar explorer (1803–1860)

Thomas Abernethy was a Scottish seafarer, gunner in the Royal Navy, and polar explorer. Because he was neither an officer nor a gentleman, he was little mentioned in the books written by the leaders of the expeditions he went on, but was praised in what was written. In 1857, he was awarded the Arctic Medal for his service as an able seaman on the 1824–25 voyage of HMS Hecla, the first of his five expeditions for which participants were eligible for the award. He was in parties that, for their time, reached the furthest north, the furthest south (twice), and the nearest to the South Magnetic Pole. In 1831, along with James Clark Ross's team of six, Abernethy was in the first party ever to reach the North Magnetic Pole.

RV <i>David Thompson</i>

RV David Thompson is a Parks Canada mid-shore scientific research and survey vessel, that entered service in 2016. David Thompson has been used to carry out underwater archaeology work with Parks Canada during the survey of HMS Erebus and HMS Terror, the two Franklin Expedition ships lost in Northern Canadian waters. The vessel was formerly a fisheries patrol vessel of the Canadian Coast Guard named CCGS Arrow Post.

The Wrecks of HMS Erebus and HMS Terror National Historic Site is a National Historic Site of Canada near King William Island in Nunavut, Canada. It protects the wrecks of HMS Erebus and HMS Terror, the two ships of the last expedition of Sir John Franklin, lost during their search for the Northwest Passage. The site is jointly managed by Parks Canada and the local Inuit people. Public access to the site is not permitted.

Nattilik Heritage Centre

Nattilik Heritage Centre is a museum in Gjoa Haven, King William Island, Nunavut, Canada. It presents the history and culture of the local Inuit people.

Wilmot and Crampton Bay

Wilmot and Crampton Bay is an Arctic waterway in the Kitikmeot Region, Nunavut, Canada. It is located on the eastern edge of Queen Maud Gulf, running along the western coast of the Adelaide Peninsula, south of King William Island.


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  22. Britain officially gifts two long-lost ships from Franklin expedition to Canada, Inuit
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