The flagship found in 2016 at the bottom of the sea off King William Island had always been unattainable. Inuit and Parks Canada researchers managed to get into the wreck with a remotely managed vehicle (ROV):
“It’s all intact, perfectly preserved thanks to the water temperature”
In 1845 two ships of Arctic exploration of the British Navy the Erebus flagship and the HMS Terror remained stuck in the ice. Of the English commander Sir John Franklin and Captain Francis Crozier, who left in search of the Northwest Passage with a crew of 129 men including officers, sailors, and civil specialists, nothing more were known. After abandoning the flagships in 1848, they disappeared into nothingness, no survivor was ever found.
Now some Canadian and Inuit researchers have managed to enter the Terror, it’s the first time that happens. The flagship was found in September 2016 at the bottom of the sea off King William Island, had always remained unattainable. As well as the Erebus, found two years earlier, in 2014. The new images could shed light on the mystery of the Arctic expedition considered by the Royal Museums Greenwich, “the worst disaster in the history of British polar exploration”.
Underwater the wreck of HMS Terror is practically intact. According to the research conducted by Parks Canada in collaboration with Inuit researchers, the frozen temperatures of Terror Bay in Nunavut, Canada, and the layer of silt that has formed over the years has preserved maps and tools to preserve its secrets.
Photos and video recordings were collected using a remotely managed vehicle (ROV), in what the agency describes as “one of the largest and most complex underwater archaeological enterprises in Canadian history”. The researchers used the ROV to enter 20 cabins and several compartments on the ship: “This is the first time anyone has managed to break into the Terror,” Parks Canada announced. “The impression we had was to look at a ship recently abandoned by its crew, apparently forgotten by the passage of time,” said ROV pilot Ryan Harris. The team obtained images from over 90 percent of the lower deck, including the cabins.
The secrets are found in the captain’s quarters, the best-preserved part of the lower deck. It has the map cabinets still closed, the tables, a tripod and a couple of thermometers already identified. Behind a door is the sleeping area, the only one left unexplored. The research team believes that the written documents, and the logbooks kept by Franklin for three long years before leaving the ship in search of help, will have been preserved precisely because the water temperature is equal to or below zero degrees Celsius, there is no natural light and sedimentation helps to preserve organic material like paper creating an environment where less oxygen is present.
“I hope the ship’s excellent condition means that soon there will be answers to so many questions about the fate of the Franklin expedition,” said Susan Le Jeune d’Allegeershecque, British High Commissioner in Canada. According to a 2018 agreement, Canada and the Inuit will jointly take possession of the new findings of HMS Terror and HMS Erebus. On the expedition in 2018 a TV series was created, The Terror, commissioned by the AMC network and adapted by David Kajganich on the novel by Dan Simmons, The disappearance of Erebus (2007), in Italy it is available on the Amazon Prime Video, and it is a masterpiece.