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168 years after sinking in the Arctic, the HMS Terror has been discovered

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The expedition was looking for the Northern Passage

SourceNational Archives of Canada / C-029929

In 1845, Sir John Franklin set off with two ships on an expedition to try and discover the Northern Passage — only to vanish. Now, 168 years after it disappeared, the ship HMS Terror has been discovered, according to The Guardian. (The other, the HMS Erebus, was found in 2014.)

Franklin’s expedition sailed North to chart the last unknown regions of the Arctic’s Northern Passage — a sea route that would connect the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans and help British traders save time by not sailing around Africa or South America. For a long time, historians thought that Franklin’s ships became trapped in ice in September 1846 and that its crew attempted to make their way back to civilization on foot.

In 2014, the HMS Erebus was discovered in Wilmot and Crampton Bay, off the coast of Nunavut. And earlier this month, researchers from the Arctic Research Foundation discovered the second ship, the HMS Terror, in King William Island’s Terror Bay. The two wrecks were found nearly 60 miles from where historians assumed the ships had been trapped in ice and then sunk.

Arctic Research Foundation

The HMS Terror was found in 24 meters of water with "three masts broken but still standing, almost all hatches closed and everything stowed," according to The Guardian. The ship’s glass panes in the cabin are still intact.

The discovery of the ship in its present location and condition changes some of the narrative of the expedition’s disappearance. Jim Balsillie, who helped establish the Arctic Research Foundation, told The Guardian, "It’s almost certain that HMS Terror was operationally closed down by the remaining crew who then re-boarded HMS Erebus and sailed south where they met their ultimate tragic fate."