Canadian explorers confirm discovery of HMS Terror

The wreck of HMS Terror. Photo: Parks Canada/Twitter
The wreck of HMS Terror. Photo: Parks Canada/Twitter

A team of explorers from a Canadian government agency has confirmed that the recently discovered wreck located in Terror Bay on the south-west side of King William Island, Nunavut is that of HMS Terror―the second ship of the ill-fated 1845 Franklin Expedition to find the Northwest Passage.

Parks Canada’s Underwater Archaeology Team carried out a side-scan sonar survey and three dives on the wreck to confirm that the wreck discovered by the Arctic Research Foundation is HMS Terror.

Parks Canada said the dives took place during difficult weather conditions and through poor visibility. According to the agency, the wreck’s upper deck is heavily covered by silt and marine life.

Despite of the conditions, the divers were still able to observe a number of features that were typical or unique to 19th century British polar exploration ships and the wreck has a number of design specifications that were common to both HMS Erebus and HMS Terror, including three masts, iron bow sheathings and a double-wheeled helm. There are no wrecks other than HMS Erebus with these features in the region.

The archeology team was working from the CCGS Sir Wilfrid Laurier, along with a scientific staff member from environment and climate change Canada’s watershed hydrology and ecology division who provided expertise in operating the echosounder.

The configuration of the bowsprit (the spar extending from the ship’s bow), placement of the ship’s helm, the boarding port and deck scuppers (holes on the side of the ship to allow drainage) all helped the researchers further confirm the discovery.

The government of Canada said it would now discuss the protection of the site with the Government of Nunavut and the Designated Inuit Organizations.