Remarkable images of ‘lost ship’ revealed

The haunting images of one of the world’s most famous ‘lost ships’ are finally beginning to give up its secrets after 170 years on the seabed.

Experts in Canada have explored most of the wreck of HMS Terror, lost in the Arctic in 1848 as her crew tried to find the Northwest Passage – a route through northern Canada linking the Atlantic and Pacific.

Led by explorer Sir John Franklin, Terror plus HMS Erebus became trapped in pack ice, forcing the crew to abandon them and strike out for safety – but all of the 129 crew perished.

The disappearance of the ships and their men was the start of a 15-year-long search effort which found some relics, human remains and accounts of the partial fate of the expedition.

But the wrecks of Erebus and Terror were only discovered in 2014 and 2016 – the latter was found off King William Island in the suitably-named Terror Bay.

Experts from Parks Canada’s Underwater Archaeology Team spent one week exploring the remains of Franklin’s flagship, sending a robot submarine down seven times into the wreck to map it in 3D and explore cabins and compartments not seen by human eyes in 171 years.

The team obtained clear images of over 90 per cent of the lower deck of the ship – which includes the living quarters of the crew.

In the officers’ cabins, beds and desks are still in place, in addition to shelves with some items on them. Other findings include: shelves with plates and glass bottles in what is believed to have been the pantry and rows of shelves with plates, bowls, and glasses – all intact – forward where ratings would have lived.

Best preserved is the captain’s cabin: his desk, map cabinets, boxes of scientific instruments, tripod and thermometers are all intact. Only the captain’s sleeping quarters remain out of bounds – behind the only closed door on the deck.

The condition in which we found Captain Crozier’s cabin greatly surpasses our expectations.

Marc-André Bernier, manager of underwater archaeology for Parks Canada

“Not only are the furniture and cabinets in place, drawers are closed and many are buried in silt, encapsulating objects and documents in the best possible conditions for their survival. Each drawer and other enclosed space will be a treasure trove of unprecedented information on the fate of the Franklin expedition.” Said Marc-André Bernier.

Ryan Harris, who piloted the remote-controlled submarine through the shipwreck, was stunned by the Marie Celestenature of the vessel.

“The impression we witnessed when exploring the Terror is of a ship only recently deserted by its crew, seemingly forgotten by the passage of time – regardless of the fact that it was approximately 170 years ago that she sank unceremoniously to the bottom of the bay where she now rests,” he said.

The archaeologists believe there’s a good chance of finding documents on board – preserved thanks to the unique environmental conditions.

With a water temperature of 0 Celsius – or lower – no natural light and sediment burying artefacts, Terror has effectively been frozen in time.

The archaeologists will now examine stills and video footage for a better understanding of the ship, her fate and life on board for her ship’s company with a view to bringing many of the sailors and their stories to life.