Marine archaeologists explore the HMS Terror on the seafloor of the Arctic Ocean.
To get a look inside the ship, divers deployed a remotely operated vehicle, or ROV. (Parks Canada, Underwater Archaeology Team)
By Megan Gannon smithsonian.com
Below deck, glass bottles sit upright in storage rooms, and stacks of intact ceramic plates are neatly arranged on shelves. Rusted firearms hang on the walls. Wash basins and chamber pots remain undisturbed in officers’ rooms.
The captain’s desk, with its drawers tightly shut, collects layers of fine marine silt.These eerie scenes came into view for the first time as underwater archaeologists finally got an extensive look inside the HMS Terror, one of two ships that disappeared in northern Canada during the doomed Franklin expedition of the 1840s.
“We see just a dizzying array of artifacts,” Ryan Harris, the lead archaeologist on the project with Parks Canada, said during a press conference.
“The ship stands to tell us a great deal … about the specific circumstances of these men as they were confronted by their own mortality.
”The fate of the Franklin expedition remains an enduring mystery almost 175 years later.
Arctic explorer and British naval captain Sir John Franklin and about 130 crew members embarked on an official mission to chart the last stretch of the Northwest Passage across the Arctic.
They left aboard two ships, Erebus and Terror, from the U.K. in May 1845 and vanished in the Canadian Arctic.
“In a way, Franklin was the Amelia Earhart of his time,” says James Delgado, a maritime archaeologist, senior vice president of SEARCH and author of the book Across the Top of the World: The Quest for the Northwest Passage.
“They were the best trained, best equipped, and had all the modern conveniences only to then go silent and to have the story slowly trickle out in a heartbreaking way.”