Parks Canada Media Statement – Validation of discovery of HMS Terror
Parks Canada’s Underwater Archaeology Team is proud to confirm that the wreck located in Terror Bay on the south-west side of King William Island, Nunavut is that of HMS Terror―the second ship of the ill-fated 1845 Franklin Expedition to find the Northwest Passage.
Since 2008, Parks Canada has developed a multi-faceted partnership that includes northern communities, the Kitikmeot Inuit Association, the Government of Nunavut, the Canadian Coast Guard, the Royal Canadian Navy, the Canadian Hydrographic Service, Environment Canada and Climate Change, and many other government, private and non-profit partners, including the Arctic Research Foundation. This partnership was also at the heart of the discovery of HMS Erebus in 2014 approximately 100 km south of Terror Bay.
Parks Canada’s Underwater Archaeology Team wishes to recognize the essential role of Inuit knowledge, specifically members of the community of Gjoa Haven, in the discoveries of both HMS Erebus and HMS Terror.
On September 18, 2016, the Underwater Archaeology Team confirmed that the wreck discovered by the Arctic Research Foundation is HMS Terror. The archaeological validation was based on a side-scan sonar survey and three dives on the wreck. A multi-beam echosounder was used to complete an additional survey of the wreck site. The Underwater Archaeology Team was working from the CCGS Sir Wilfrid Laurier, along with a scientific staff member from Environment and Climate Change Canada’s Watershed Hydrology and Ecology Division who provided expertise in operating the echosounder.
The dives took place during difficult weather conditions and through poor visibility. The wreck’s upper deck is heavily covered by silt and marine life. Nevertheless, the divers were able to observe a number of features that were typical or unique to 19th century British polar exploration ships and the wreck has a number of design specifications that were common to both HMS Erebus and HMS Terror, including three masts, iron bow sheathings and a double-wheeled helm. There are no wrecks other than HMS Erebus with these features in the region.
Comparing this solid archaeological data to an extensive research archive that includes ship plans of HMS Erebus and HMS Terror, Parks Canada’s Underwater Archaeology Team was able to confirm that the wreck is HMS Terror. The scans showed the well preserved wreck has and features matching the historic records for HMS Terror, including: the configuration of the bowsprit (the spar extending from the ship’s bow); placement of the ship’s helm; the boarding port; and deck scuppers (holes on the side of the ship to allow drainage) which differ from HMS Erebus.
As a next step, the Government of Canada will discuss the protection of the site with the Government of Nunavut and the Designated Inuit Organizations.
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