TORONTO — The second of two British explorer ships that vanished in the arctic nearly 170 years ago during a storied expedition to find the fabled Northwest Passage has been found.
The Arctic Research Foundation said Monday that the HMS Terror has been located by a research ship. Last seen in the 1840s while under the command of Sir John Franklin, HMS Erebus and HMS Terror have long been among the most sought-after prizes in marine archaeology and the subject of songs, poems and novels. The wreck of the Erebus was found in 2014.
"Terror was found on Sept 3. It is a perfect time capsule," said Adrian Schimnowski, the expedition leader of the research ship that located the HMS Terror.
The Terror was discovered in 26 yards of water in Terror Bay, a small indentation on the coast of King William Island west of the community of Gjoa Haven. It was located right where an Inuit hunter said it would be. Canadian Rear Adm. John Newton said the two Franklin ships were found about 31 miles apart from each other.
Franklin and 128 handpicked officers and men had set out in 1845 to find the Northwest Passage, the long-sought shortcut to Asia that supposedly ran from the Atlantic to the Pacific by way of the harsh, ice-choked arctic. All 129 men died.
Schimnowski said the mystery might have remained if not for a late-night conversation on one of the search vessels between himself and Sammy Kogvik, an Inuk and Canadian ranger from Gjoa Haven. The two were on the bridge of the Martin Bergmann, a research vessel, and Kogvik was telling Schimnowski about the history of the shorelines they were sailing past. He started talking about something he had seen seven years ago while snowmobiling across the ice of Terror Bay.
Kogvik recalled how he had looked behind him to check on his hunting partner when he spotted a large pole sticking up out of the ice. The two Inuit stopped and took pictures of what looked like a ship's mast.
But when Kogvik got home, he found he had dropped his camera and lost the shots. "He kept the story secret because he didn't want people not to believe him," Schimnowski said.