What’s believed to be the wreck of HMS Terror, one of Sir John Franklin’s two ships lost in the doomed 1845 Franklin Expedition, has been found in a Nunavut bay.
On Monday morning, British newspaper the Guardian reported that the ship, which was abandoned in sea ice in 1848 during a failed attempt to sail through the Northwest Passage, was found “in pristine condition” in Nunavut’s Terror Bay, north of where the wreck of HMS Erebus — the expedition’s flagship — was found in 2014.
According to the Guardian, the crew of the Arctic Research Foundation’s Martin Bergmann research vessel found the shipwreck, with all three masts standing and almost all hatches closed, on Sept. 3.
CBC News has confirmed that the research team on board the Martin Bergmann believes the found wreckage is HMS Terror. However, official confirmation must come from Parks Canada.
A statement issued Monday afternoon by Parks Canada said the organization “is excited about the reports of the discovery of the wreck of HMS Terror.”
“The discovery of HMS Terror would be important for Canada, reflecting the ongoing and valuable role of Inuit traditional knowledge in the search and making a significant contribution to completing the Franklin story.
“Parks Canada is currently working with our partners to validate the details of the discovery.”
John Geiger, the CEO of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society, congratulated the crew of the Martin Bergmann in a statement Monday afternoon.
“This is tremendously exciting news,” said Geiger. “The nature of the find, as reported, underscores also the vital role of the Inuit then and now in the Franklin saga.
“After the discovery of HMS Erebus two years ago, the Terror remained the largest missing piece of the puzzle. Together, these discoveries have the potential to alter forever our understanding of the Franklin expedition’s disastrous end.”
As the story goes, HMS Terror was trapped in ice somewhere between King William Island and Victoria Island. According to the Guardian, the ship was found 92 kilometres south of there, a discovery that could have implications for historians’ understanding of Franklin’s expedition.
The doomed expedition, abandoned 168 years ago, resulted in the deaths of all 129 men on board the Erebus and the Terror. The ships lay locked in ice and undiscovered until a public-private group of searchers, led by Parks Canada, found the wreck of the Erebus two years ago.
The Guardian reported that the wreck was found after the Martin Bergmann’s crew detoured to Terror Bay after hearing a story from an Inuit crew member, Gjoa Haven’s Sammy Kogvik.
Kogvik told the crew that he noticed a large piece of wood sticking out of Terror Bay’s sea ice while on a fishing trip about six years ago.
Historian Louis Kamookak helped researchers pinpoint the location of the wreck after passing down oral tradition saying that one of the ships was crushed in ice northwest of King William Island, while another — later confirmed to be the Erebus — drifted further south, where it was ultimately found.
“Every time there’s a finding, it’s kind of a sad feeling,” Kamookak said. “I think the mystery’s more fun than the actual knowing.”
One mystery still remains: the location of Franklin’s grave. Kamookak said according to Inuit oral tradition, Franklin was buried in a vault somewhere on the north part of King William Island.