The Terror: Franklin’s Lost Expedition – UNCOVERED

"A fate terrible as the imagination can conceive" On the morning of 19th May 1845, two ships, HMS Erebus and Terror, sailed from Britain on their way to Nunavut in Northern Canada, hoping to discover the final part of the North-West Passage, a possible trade route from Europe to Asia

Unfortunately, the expedition, led by explorer John Franklin, would be remembered as the worst disaster in the history of British polar exploration, losing the entire ship’s crew and leaving people wondering about their fate to this day To someone superstitious, the expedition’s fate might have been sealed from the very beginning Franklin had already made two attempts in 1819 and 1825 that failed miserably Which is why he wasn't the first choice of Second Secretary to the Admiralty John Barrow Actually, Franklin was not even second or third choice but, since all Barrow’s preferred choices declined one after another, he had to settle for Franklin

Not an auspicious start, indeed However, in those days the Erebus and Terror were considered powerful and luxurious ships, with heating systems and a vast supply of preserved food to last twice the time the expedition was expected to Thus it was that in May 1845, Captain Sir John Franklin set sail with 128 crewmen under his command Yet, after the ships were last sighted in Lancaster Sound, in Nunavut, in late July 1845, no one ever saw either of the vessels, nor any of the 129 explorers alive, again Two years passed without any communication from Franklin, at which point the British Admiralty, prompted by the families of the lost men, decided to send the first of a series of rescue expeditions

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com/Uncovered to try it out today And when you upgrade to their premium service, use the code ‘Uncovered’ at the checkout to receive a 10% discount And with that all said and done, let’s get on with the video Between 1847 and 1880, a total of thirty-nine expeditions ventured to the Arctic in the hopes of uncovering the fate of the Franklin expedition The first clues were found in 1850

Traces of Franklin’s first winter camp were found on Beechey Island, including the graves of three explorers – John Torrington, John Hartnell, and William Braine But there were still no clues to the fate of the rest of the crew Then, on his 1854 mission, Dr John Rae learned some Inuit stories about Franklin’s crew According to the Inuit, the whole troop got stuck near the west banks of the Back River In his report to the Secretary of the Admiralty, Rae stated ""I have the honor to mention, for the information of my Lord's Commissioners of the Admiralty, that during my journey over the ice and snow this spring… I learned that a party of ""white men"" had perished from want of food some distance to the westward, and not far beyond a large river containing many falls and rapids

Subsequently, further particulars were received, and a number of articles purchased, which place the fate of a portion, if not of all, of the then survivors of Sir John Franklin's long lost party beyond a doubt – a fate terrible as the imagination can conceive"" When Dr Rae's team found body parts in cooking pots, the only conclusion they could come to was that some members of the crew resorted to cannibalism But the most significant clue emerged in 1859 Captain Francis McClintock found some artefacts and a crucial written record of the expedition at King William Island The paper, also known as the Victory Point Note, is the only known record detailing what happened to Franklin and his crew

The document consists of two handwritten messages One, written in May 1847, confirmed that Franklin was in command of the expedition and that all was well But the second message, added in April 1848, tells that by that time twenty-four people, including Franklin, had died Subsequently, as recorded in the document, “HMShips Terror and Erebus were deserted on the 22nd April [1848] 5 leagues NNW of this having been beset since 12th Sept 1846 The officers and crews consisting of 105 souls… landed here” and departed on foot for the Back River

They probably died due to extreme weather conditions However, we still can’t know for sure what happened to them because, as Claire Warrior, Curator at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, explains, “We don’t have any of the journals or logbooks that would have been written aboard ship [] The Arctic could be a place of freezing fog and heaving seas, and the expedition crews were sometimes at the mercy of the immense pressure of the sea-ice and the unpredictable behaviour of icebergs [] Franklin’s ship was trapped in the ice in a remote and desolate area, which Inuit rarely visited, calling it Tununiq, ‘the back of beyond’

They couldn’t rely on local people for meat, clothing, and oil, as other expeditions had But they had enough supplies for about three years, and British expeditions were experienced at overwintering in the Arctic” So, is there any way we can discover what caused the failure of the Erebus and the Terror? Professor Owen Beattie believes so and, in 1981, began the 1845–48 Franklin Expedition Forensic Anthropology Project to analyze the objects and human remains found on King William Island and Beechey Island, using cutting edge forensic techniques Beattie’s research revealed that the amount of lead in the bones of some of the men was excessively high, which raised the possibility that lead poisoning may have contributed to the expedition’s demise Beattie further supposed that the food on board might have been contaminated by lead solder used to seal the tins in what preserved

But the biggest breakthroughs came in 2014 and 2016 when Parks Canada made two of the most important archaeological finds in recent history They discovered the wrecks of HMS Erebus and Terror In 2017 the Park Canada’s team carried out underwater surveys of the ships They completed their survey of the Erebus, but bad weather conditions hindered their search of the Terror But, finally, in August 2019, archaeologists were able to look into the wreck

Head of operations Ryan Harris piloted a remote camera through an open hatch into the ship, and, to everyone’s surprise, the first images revealed the interior of the wreck is, against all odds, almost entirely intact Harris reported, “We were able to see an incredible array of artefacts Looking in the corridor you see the list of the ship to starboard And then off to the left, you see a succession of doors into various officers’ cabins Every single sliding door agape

[] You see the bed places, you see the shelves, shipboard articles on the shelves, scientific instruments in their cases and many, many drawers [

] Each drawer potentially has materials that could shed light on the fate of the expedition” Even more incredibly, thanks to the cold Arctic waters and a protective layer of sediment that formed around the ship, is very likely that any potential documents concealed in the cabinets will be readable No artefacts from the Terror have been recovered yet

First, the team needs to accurately map the entire site and then analyze hundreds of hours of video to come up with the best strategy for further excavation It’s been 174 years, and we are still unable to fully explain the disappearance of the Franklin expedition Very recent progress by experts means that the ships are no longer lost, but for now, the Terror’s tidy condition only poses another mystery To quote Ryan Harris, “It looks like the ship, in many ways, was fully operational and then suddenly deserted All the cabin doors were opened, almost as if there was a rush to see if anyone was on board as it sank

We don’t know”

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