HMS Terror in the Arctic
United Kingdom
Ordered30 March 1812
BuilderRobert Davy, Topsham, Devon
Laid downSeptember 1812
Launched29 June 1813
CompletedBy 31 July 1813
FateAbandoned 22 April 1848, King William Island
Wreck discovered 3 September 2016, Terror Bay
General characteristics
Class and typeVesuvius-class bomb vessel
Tons burthen325 (bm)
Length102 ft (31.09 m)
Beam27 ft (8.23 m)
Installed power30 Nominal horsepower[1]
  • 1 × 13 in (330 mm) mortar
  • 1 × 10 in (254 mm) mortar
Official nameWrecks of HMS Erebus and HMS Terror National Historic Site

HMS Terror was a specialised warship and a newly developed bomb vessel constructed for the Royal Navy in 1813. She participated in several battles of the War of 1812, including the Battle of Baltimore with the bombardment of Fort McHenry (as mentioned in The Star-Spangled Banner: “And the Rockets’ red glare, the Bombs bursting in air”). She was converted into a polar exploration ship two decades later, and participated in George Back's Arctic expedition of 1836–1837, the successful Ross expedition to the Antarctic of 1839 to 1843, and Sir John Franklin's ill-fated attempt to force the Northwest Passage in 1845, during which she was lost with all hands along with HMS Erebus.

On 12 September 2016, the Arctic Research Foundation announced that the wreck of Terror had been found in Nunavut's Terror Bay, off the southwest coast of King William Island. The wreck was discovered 92 km (57 mi) south of the location where the ship was reported abandoned, and some 50 km (31 mi) from the wreck of HMS Erebus, discovered in 2014.

Early history and military service

HMS Terror was a Vesuvius-class bomb ship built over two years at the Davy shipyard in Topsham in south Devon, for the Royal Navy. Her deck was 31 m (102 ft) long, and the ship measured 325 tons burthen. The vessel was armed with two heavy mortars and ten cannon, and was launched in June 1813.[2]

Terror saw service in the War of 1812 against the United States,[3] during which the ships of the North America and West Indies Station of the Royal Navy blockaded the Atlantic ports of the United States and launched amphibious raids from its base in Bermuda, leading up to the 1814 Chesapeake campaign, a punitive expedition that included the Raid on Alexandria, the Battle of Bladensburg, and the Burning of Washington. Under the command of John Sheridan, she took part in the bombardment of Stonington, Connecticut, on 9–12 August 1814. She also fought in the Battle of Baltimore in September 1814 and participated in the bombardment of Fort McHenry; the latter attack inspired Francis Scott Key to write the poem that eventually became known as "The Star-Spangled Banner".[3] In January 1815, still under Sheridan's command, Terror was involved in the Battle of Fort Peter and the attack on St. Marys, Georgia.[4]

After the war, Terror was laid up until March 1828, when she was recommissioned for service in the Mediterranean Sea. She was removed from active service when she underwent repairs for damage suffered near Lisbon, Portugal.[5]

Early polar exploration service

In the mid-1830s, Terror was refitted as a polar exploration vessel. Her design as a bomb ship meant she had an unusually strong framework to resist the recoil of her heavy mortars; thus it was presumed she could withstand the pressure of polar sea ice, as well.[2]

Back expedition

A painting by Admiral Sir George Back showing HMS Terror anchored near a cathedral-like iceberg in the waters around Baffin Island

In 1836, command of Terror was given to Captain George Back for an Arctic expedition to Hudson Bay.[2][3] The expedition aimed to enter Repulse Bay, where it would send out landing parties to ascertain whether the Boothia Peninsula was an island or a peninsula. Terror was trapped by ice near Southampton Island, and did not reach Repulse Bay. At one point, the ice forced her 12 m (39 ft) up the face of a cliff.[5] She was trapped in the ice for ten months.[3] In the spring of 1837, an encounter with an iceberg further damaged the ship. She nearly sank on her return journey across the Atlantic,[3] and was in a sinking condition by the time Back sailed her into Lough Swilly, before beaching her at Rathmullan, Co. Donegal, Ireland on 21 September.[5][6][7]

The admiralty dispatched the shipwright, William McPherson Rice, to refloat and repair Terror sufficiently to enable her sail to the naval shipyard at Chatham in Kent, where full repairs were carried out. Correspondence describing the repairs and the crew's sojourn in Rathmullan are held in the Royal Museums Greenwich collection.[8] Back subsequently published a complete account of this voyage right up to the decommissioning of Terror in Chatham.[9]

Ross expedition

"Erebus" and "Terror" in New Zealand on the Ross expedition, August 1841, by John Wilson Carmichael

Main article: Ross expedition

In 1839 Terror was assigned to a voyage to the Antarctic along with Erebus under the overall command of James Clark Ross.[2][3] Francis Crozier was commander of Terror on this expedition, as well as second-in-command to Ross.[2] The expedition spanned three seasons from 1840 to 1843 during which Terror and Erebus made three forays into Antarctic waters, traversing the Ross Sea twice, and sailing through the Weddell Sea southeast of the Falkland Islands. The dormant volcano Mount Terror on Ross Island was named after the ship by the expedition commander.[2][5]

Franklin expedition

Main article: Franklin's lost expedition

Sample of dishware carried by Terror, showing vessel name and the cypher for King George.

Before leaving on the Franklin expedition, both Erebus and Terror underwent heavy modifications for the journey.[3] They were both outfitted with steam engines, consisting of former London and Greenwich Railway steam locomotives. Rated at 25 hp (19 kW), each could propel its ship at 4 knots (7.4 km/h). The pair of ships were among the first Royal Navy ships to have steam-powered engines and screw propellers.[3] Twelve days' supply of coal was carried.[10] Iron plating was added fore and aft on the ships' hulls to make them more resistant to pack ice, and their decks were cross-planked to distribute impact forces.[3] Along with Erebus, Terror was stocked with supplies for their expedition, which included among other items: two tons of tobacco, 8,000 tins of preserves, and 7,560 L (1,660 imp gal; 2,000 US gal) of liquor. Terror's library had 1,200 books, and the ship's berths were heated via ducts that connected them to the stove.[3]

Their voyage to the Arctic was with Sir John Franklin in overall command of the expedition in Erebus, and Terror again under the command of Captain Francis Crozier. The expedition was ordered to gather magnetic data in the Canadian Arctic and complete a crossing of the Northwest Passage, which had already been charted from both the east and west, but never entirely navigated. It was planned to last three years.[3]

The expedition sailed from Greenhithe, Kent, on 19 May 1845, and the ships were last seen entering Baffin Bay in August 1845.[5] The disappearance of the Franklin expedition set off a massive search effort in the Arctic and the broad circumstances of the expedition's fate were revealed during a series of expeditions between 1848 and 1866. Both ships had become icebound and were abandoned by their crews, all of whom died of exposure and starvation while trying to trek overland to Fort Resolution, a Hudson's Bay Company outpost 970 km (600 mi) to the southwest. Subsequent expeditions up until the late 1980s, including autopsies of crew members, revealed that their canned rations may have been tainted by both lead and botulism. Oral reports by local Inuit that some of the crew members resorted to cannibalism are supported by evidence of cut marks and pot polish on the skeletal remains of crew members found on King William Island during the late 20th century.[11][12]

Discovery of the wreckage

HMS Terror was found off the south coast of King William Island, highlighted at centre left.

On 15 August 2008, Parks Canada, an agency of the Government of Canada, announced a CAD$75,000 six-week search, deploying the icebreaker CCGS Sir Wilfrid Laurier with the goal of finding the two ships. The search was also intended to strengthen Canada's claims of sovereignty over large portions of the Arctic.[13] Further attempts to locate the ships were undertaken in 2010, 2011, and 2012,[14] all of which failed to locate the ships' remains.

On 8 September 2014, it was announced that the wreckage of one of Franklin's ships was found on 7 September using a remotely operated underwater vehicle recently acquired by Parks Canada.[15][16] On 1 October 2014, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced that the remains were that of Erebus.[17]

On 12 September 2016, a team from the Arctic Research Foundation announced that a wreck close to Terror's description had been located on the southern coast of King William Island in the middle of Terror Bay (68°54′N 98°56′W / 68.900°N 98.933°W / 68.900; -98.933 (Terror Bay)), at a depth of 69–79 ft (21–24 m).[12][18] The remains of the ships are designated a National Historic Site of Canada with the exact location withheld to preserve the wrecks and prevent looting.[19]

Sammy Kogvik, an Inuit hunter and member of the Canadian Rangers who joined the crew of the Arctic Research Foundation's Martin Bergmann, recalled an incident from seven years earlier in which he encountered what appeared to be a mast jutting from the ice. With this information, the ship's destination was changed from Cambridge Bay to Terror Bay, where researchers located the wreck in just 2.5 hours.[18][20][21] According to Louie Kamookak, a resident of nearby Gjoa Haven and a historian on the Franklin expedition, Parks Canada had ignored the stories of locals that suggested that the wreck of Terror was in her namesake bay, despite many modern stories of sightings by hunters and from airplanes.[20]

The wreck was found in excellent condition, her decks and interior spaces largely intact. A wide exhaust pipe that rose from the outer deck was pivotal in identifying the ship; it was located in the same location where the smokestack from Terror's locomotive engine had been installed. The wreck was nearly 100 km (62 mi) south of where historians thought her final resting place was, calling into question the previously accepted account of the fate of the sailors, that they died while trying to walk out of the Arctic to the nearest Hudson's Bay Company trading post.[12]

The location of the wreckage, and evidence in the wreckage of anchor usage, indicates continued use, raising the possibility that some of the sailors had attempted to re-man the ship and sail her home (or elsewhere),[12] possibly on orders from Crozier.[20]

On 23 October 2017 it was announced by British Defence Minister Sir Michael Fallon that the British government would be giving Terror and Erebus to Canada, retaining only a few relics and any gold, along with the right to repatriate any human remains.[22]

In 2018, Terror and Erebus were gifted to Canada and the Inuit, in care of the Inuit Heritage Trust, by the government of the United Kingdom. This includes all the remaining artifacts.[23][24]

Although the exact location has not been released, Nancy Anilniliak, the Field Unit Superintendent of the Nunavut Field Unit, has restricted access to an approximately 10 by 5 kilometres (6.2 mi × 3.1 mi) rectangular area in Terror Bay. The area runs from Point E (68°54′25.45″N 98°59′42.07″W / 68.9070694°N 98.9950194°W / 68.9070694; -98.9950194 (point E)) to Point F (68°54′25.24″N 98°51′29.08″W / 68.9070111°N 98.8580778°W / 68.9070111; -98.8580778 (point F)) to Point G (68°48′46.23″N 98°51′31.25″W / 68.8128417°N 98.8586806°W / 68.8128417; -98.8586806 (point G)) to Point H (68°48′46.44″N 98°59′42.15″W / 68.8129000°N 98.9950417°W / 68.8129000; -98.9950417 (point H)).[25]

In August 2019, taking advantage of "exceptionally co-operative" weather conditions, Parks Canada conducted 48 dives over the course of seven days to Terror, 3D-mapping the wreck and searching the interior with ROVs. The team was able to map out ninety per cent of Terror's lower deck, but were unable to access Crozier's cabin due to the buildup of sediment. Despite this, Crozier's cabin was considered the best preserved space in the lower deck, and Parks Canada has expressed the hope that written materials may be found there.[26] The planned exploration of the wreck sites in 2020 was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.[27] Parks Canada's Underwater Archaeology Team returned to the wrecks in May 2022, after a two-year postponement caused by the pandemic.[28][29]


In art, entertainment, and media

This section may contain irrelevant references to popular culture. Please remove the content or add citations to reliable and independent sources. (July 2022)

HMS Terror is featured, often alongside HMS Erebus, in fictional works that involve or allude to the Franklin expedition, such as:

In namesakes


See also


  1. ^ Bourne, John (1852). "Appendix, Table I: Dimensions Of Screw Steam Vessels In Her Majesty's Navy". A treatise on the screw propeller: with various suggestions of improvement. London: Longman, Brown, Green, and Longmans. p. i.
  2. ^ a b c d e f "HMS Terror". Parks Canada. 4 August 2015. Retrieved 14 September 2016.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Pope, Alexandra (12 September 2016). "Five interesting facts about the HMS Terror". Canadian Geographic. Retrieved 14 September 2016.
  4. ^ James, William (1835). The Naval History of Great Britain. Vol. 6. London: James Ridgway. p. 235. On the 14th, the combined forces [at Point St Peter], accompanied by the bomb vessels Devastation and Terror..ascended the river to St Marys
  5. ^ a b c d e Paine, Lincoln P. (2000). Ships of Discovery and Exploration. Houghton Mifflin. pp. 139–140. ISBN 0-395-98415-7.
  6. ^ "Shipping Intelligence". Caledonian Mercury. No. 18324. Edinburgh. 28 September 1837.
  7. ^ Stanley (28 September 1837). "Sketched chart of Rathmullan Beach, with the position of HMS TERROR indicated, made by Lieutenant Stanley, 1837. (RCE/2/2)".
  8. ^ Rice, William. "Items relating to the temporary repair of the Arctic discovery vessel HMS TERROR (1813) at Lough Swilly in 1837. (RCE/2/1-2)".
  9. ^ Back, George (1838). Narrative of an expedition in H. M. S. Terror, undertaken with a view to geographical discovery on the Arctic shores, in the years 1836-7. London: John Murray.
  10. ^ Gow, Harry (12 February 2015). "British loco boiler at the bottom of the Arctic Ocean". Heritage Railway (199). Horncastle: Mortons Media Group Ltd: 84. ISSN 1466-3562.
  11. ^ a b Gopnik, Adam (24 September 2014). "Canada Rediscovers the Mythos of the Franklin Expedition". The New Yorker. Retrieved 14 September 2016.
  12. ^ a b c d Watson, Paul (12 September 2016). "Ship found in Arctic 168 years after doomed Northwest Passage attempt". The Guardian. Retrieved 13 September 2016.
  13. ^ Boswell, Randy (30 January 2008). "Parks Canada to lead new search for Franklin ships". Windsor Star. Archived from the original on 24 May 2016. Retrieved 30 August 2013.
  14. ^ "2012 search Expedition for Franklin's ships HMS Erebus and HMS Terror". Office of the Prime Minister (Canada). 23 August 2012. Archived from the original on 5 October 2013.
  15. ^ "Sir John Franklin: Fabled Arctic ship found". BBC News. 9 September 2014.
  16. ^ "Lost Franklin expedition ship found in the Arctic". CBC News. 9 September 2014.
  17. ^ "Franklin expedition ship found in Arctic ID'd as HMS Erebus". CBC News. 1 October 2014.
  18. ^ a b Pringle, Heather (13 September 2016). "Unlikely Tip Leads to Discovery of Historic Shipwreck". National Geographic. Archived from the original on 18 October 2016. Retrieved 14 September 2016.
  19. ^ Erebus and Terror. Canadian Register of Historic Places. Retrieved 29 October 2013. ; "National Historic Sites of Canada System Plan". Parks Canada. 8 May 2009. Archived from the original on 24 September 2005. Retrieved 30 August 2013.; "National Historic Sites of Canada System Plan map". Parks Canada. 15 April 2009. Archived from the original on 29 May 2006. Retrieved 30 August 2013.
  20. ^ a b c Sorensen, Chris (14 September 2016). "HMS Terror: How the final Franklin ship was found". Maclean's. Retrieved 14 September 2016.
  21. ^ Barton, Katherine (15 September 2016). "No camera, no proof: Why Sammy Kogvik didn't tell anyone about HMS Terror find". CBC News. Retrieved 16 September 2016.
  22. ^ Ducharme, Steve (24 October 2017). "HMS Erebus ship's bell recovered from Franklin expedition". Nunatsiaq News.
  23. ^ U.K. gifts two historical Franklin expedition ships worth $430,000 to Canada, Inuit
  24. ^ Britain officially gifts two long-lost ships from Franklin expedition to Canada, Inuit
  25. ^ Restricted area and activities in The Wrecks Of HMS Erebus and HMS Terror National Historic Site Of Canada
  26. ^ Davison, Janet (28 August 2019). "HMS Terror's 'incredible' condition may offer new clues to Franklin Expedition mystery". CBC. Retrieved 11 September 2019.
  27. ^ "COVID-19 pandemic stalls further exploration of Franklin wrecks". CBC. 16 August 2020. Retrieved 20 September 2020.
  28. ^ "Parks Canada returns to the Franklin Expedition sites after a two-year postponement". Government of Canada. 28 April 2022.
  29. ^ "Research Resumes At Franklin Expedition Wreck Sites". National Parks Traveler. 4 May 2022.
  30. ^ "Soundmakers – Terror and Erebus by Henry Kucharzyk". Retrieved 24 January 2018.
  31. ^
  32. ^ Finn, Jessica (1 December 2014). "Building a scale model of HMS Terror". Canadian Geographic.
  33. ^ "HMS TERROR TO CROSS THE ATLANTIC ONCE AGAIN". 13 June 2017. Retrieved 24 January 2018.
  34. ^ Historical model of HMS Erebus (c.1839)
  35. ^ "Death in the Ice" exhibit
  36. ^ "EREBUS AND TERROR TOGETHER AGAIN". 8 August 2017. Retrieved 24 January 2018.
  37. ^ @HMSTerror_model
  38. ^ Terror & Erebus
  39. ^ Cecilia Livingston
  40. ^ 'The Guardian" review [1]
  41. ^ Erebus and Terror Gulf
  42. ^ "Erebus and Terror Gulf". Geographic Names Information System. United States Geological Survey, United States Department of the Interior. Retrieved 2 March 2012.
  43. ^ Natural Resources Canada. "Terror Bay". Geographic Names Board of Canada.
  • Beardsly, Martyn: Deadly Winter: The Life of Sir John Franklin. ISBN 1-55750-179-3.
  • Beattie, Owen: Frozen in Time: The Fate of the Franklin Expedition. ISBN 1-55365-060-3.
  • Berton, Pierre: The Arctic Grail. ISBN 0-670-82491-7.
  • Cookman, Scott: Ice Blink: The Tragic Fate of Sir John Franklin's Lost Polar Expedition. ISBN 0-471-37790-2.
  • James, William (1827). The Naval History of Great Britain, Volume 6, 1811 – 1827. Conway Maritime Press. ISBN 0-85177-910-7.
  • McGregor, Elizabeth: The Ice Child.
  • Ronchetti L, Clement D, William-Hawkes E:HMS Terror: a Topsham Ship - Published by Topsham Museum Society [ISBN unspecified].
  • Simmons, Dan: The Terror (Fictionalized account of the Franklin expedition). ISBN 0-593-05762-7 (UK H/C).
  • Smith, Michael: Captain Francis Crozier: The Last Man Standing?. ISBN 1-905172-09-5.