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HMS Terror - a time capsule full of hidden answers

Although the wreck of the ship HMS Terror was discovered in the far north of Canada in 2016, no serious research was carried out on it until 2019. The exploration of the vessel, which lasted a week, allowed scientists to gather a lot of material which, once examined, began to provide more and more answers.
Published: July 12, 2020 - 09:00
Updated: July 22, 2023 - 20:16
HMS Terror – a time capsule full of hidden answers

Although the wreck of the ship HMS Terror was discovered in the far north of Canada in 2016, no serious research was carried out on it until 2019. The exploration of the vessel, which lasted a week, allowed scientists to gather a lot of material which, once examined, began to provide more and more answers.

HMS Terror, is one of two lost vessels of Sir John Franklin’s legendary 1845 expedition. Both vessels were part of the expedition that was undertaken to cross the last, unpassed part of the Northwest Passage, which was a sea route from Europe to eastern Asia, following the waterways within the Arctic Archipelago.

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HMS Terror – a time capsule full of hidden answers

The crayfish is simply amazing! It looks as if it has been almost untouched since it lay on the sea bed. We were able to explore 20 cabins and compartments, going from room to room. All the doors were open,” said Ryan Harris, lead archaeologist on the project

HMS Terror – a time capsule full of hidden answers A combined team of researchers from government agency Parks Canada and Inuit conducted a series of dives on the wreck, as well as exploring the more inaccessible corners of the ship using drones. This allowed them to venture into various small openings, exploring hatches and crew cabins, as well as the officers’ mess and captain’s cabin.

We were able to explore 20 cabins and compartments, moving from room to room ,” Harris reported on the researchers’ work

What we managed to see and capture on video and photo documentation surprised and delighted everyone. Dinner plates and glasses still stood on the shelves, as if they were waiting to be used again at an upcoming meal. Scientific instruments, research tools and everyday objects are still on the shelves, beds and desks. Everything neatly arranged in the best order.

HMS Terror – a time capsule full of hidden answers Scientists assume that all sorts of logs, charts and perhaps even photographs may still be under the layer of sediment that covers most of the ship’s interior. Thanks to the extremely favourable conditions, it is highly likely that these can still be not only read, but also saved from total destruction.

Layers of sediment, together with cold water and a lack of light, create an almost ideal anaerobic environment. These are ideal conditions for storing fragile organic substances such as textiles or paper. I believe that, for example, rolled or folded maps in the captain’s map cabinet could have survived ,” explained Harris

The only area below deck to which the team had no access was the captain’s sleeping quarters.

Information gleaned during the expedition carried out in 2019 has also established some facts about the sinking of HMS Terror itself.

HMS Terror – a time capsule full of hidden answers Scientists have noticed that the ship’s propeller is still in place. We know that the ship had a mechanism to lift it out of the water so that it would not be damaged by ice in winter. So this fact suggests that the Terror probably sank in the spring or summer. Another clue supporting this hypothesis is the fact that none of the skylights were boarded up, which was a common practice to protect the interior of the vessel from snow.

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About author

Tomasz Andrukajtis
Editor-in-chief of the DIVERS24 portal and magazine. Responsible for obtaining, translating and developing content. He also supervises all publications. Achived his first diving certification – P1 CMAS, in 2000. Has a degree in journalism and social communication. In the diving industry since 2008.
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