Monday, 26 September 2016

Finding of HMS Terror confirmed

(Deutsche Version unten/German version below)

Today Parks Canada confirmed that the ship found by the crew of the Martin Bergmann of the Arctic Research Foundation on September 3rd after receiving the critcal tip by the Inuit crew member Sammy Kogvik is indeed Francis Crozier's last command, HMS Terror. Because of the remoteness of the area the possibilities for another ship having sunk there were already small but it is still a relief to be 100 % sure now. 

Unfortunately this year's diving season is already over and the small fleet belonging to Parks Canada and the Arctic Research Foundation already on the way back out of Queen Maud Gulf. We now have one year to re-evaluate the evidence the dwindling number of survivors left on King William Island and its vicinity and ponder the possibility that both ships or only one or none were sailed or drifted into the position in which they then were found. Right now there is just not enough evidence to tell and so many questions that need answering. Were the anchors deployed? Were the screw propellers in place or stowed away? Were the ships deserted a second time with all hatches closed or were men still living in them when they sank? All these questions will hopefully be answered in the coming years after carefully examining the wrecks by Parks Canada.

There is also the exciting possibility that against all odds records will be found on one or both of the ships, log books, personal journals and letters that were written in the long months of winter in the hope to send them off in Russia after completing the Northwest Passage. It is also possible that somehow the first photographies (daguerreotypes) of an Arctic Expedition will be found, or drawings by the many talented artists that were on board of both ships.  

To put into context to the location of the ships now and where they were abandoned, I made a copy of the map that is in McClintock's 1859 issue of the "Voyage of the Fox" and desecrated it by marking the areas where the two ships were found. Of course McClintocks map does not show all relics of the Franklin Expedition that were found, but to me the relative absence of traces from HMS Erebus is obvious. So was she never been manned and drifted where she was found, although this is considered relatively unlikely because of the many islands she must have drifted past on her way? Did all surviving members of the Franklin Expedition decided to go back and re-man only Terror because she was by then the ship of the commanding officer or because too few men were left to manage both ships or because Erebus was too badly damaged?

These ships are the guardians of so many secrets and  treasures, it is probably fitting that after so much time they do not give them up all at once. 

Gestern wurde von Parks Canada bestätigt, dass es sich bei dem Wrack, das am 03. September 2016 von der Arctic Research Foundation gefunden wurde, um die HMS Terror handelt, Francis Croziers letztes Kommando. Vorausgegangen war der Tipp eines Inuit namens Sammy Kogvik, der zur Crew der "Martin Bergmann" gehört. Da die Fundstelle an der Südwestküste von King William Island so abgelegen liegt, war die Wahrscheinlichkeit eines weiteren Wracks sehr gering, aber jetzt ist es 100 % sicher.      

Leider ist das Zeitfenster für Tauchgänge in der Arktis bereits wieder vorbei und die kleine Flotte der Suchpartner Parks Canada und Arctic Research Foundation hat den Queen Maud Golf bereits verlassen. Daher haben wir jetzt wieder ein Jahr Zeit, die  Hinterlassenschaften der Franklin Expedition auf King William Island neu zu bewerten und mit den Gedanken zu spielen ob beide Schiffe, eines oder keines in ihre jeweilige Fundposition gesegelt wurden, unter Dampf gefahren oder mit dem Packeis getrieben sind. Zurzeit gibt es leider nicht genug Hinweise um das zu ergründen und auch zu viele Fragen, die noch beantwortet werden müssen. Waren die Anker gesetzt? Waren die Propeller in Position oder verstaut? Wurden die Schiffe mit geschlossenen Luken erneut verlassen oder lebten einige der Männer immer noch dort als sie sanken? All diese Fragen und noch mehr werden in den kommenden Jahren hoffentlich beantwortet werden, nachdem Parks Canada die Wracks gründlich und vorsichtig untersucht hat.

Entgegen aller Erwartungen ist da auch die Hoffnung, dass Aufzeichnungen auf einem oder beiden Wracks gefunden werden. Logbücher, persönliche Tagebücher oder Briefe, die in den langen Wintermonaten geschrieben wurden in der Hoffnung, sie aufzugeben, nachdem die Nordwestpassage bewältigt war. Vielleicht haben ja sogar die ersten Fotografien (Daguerreotypien) einer Arktis Expedition überlebt, oder Zeichnungen von den vielen künstlerisch begabten Crewmitgliedern.

Um ins Verhältnis zu setzen, wo die Schiffe das erste Mal verlassen und dann gefunden worden sind, habe ich eine Kopie der Karte in McClintocks "Reise der Fox" gemacht und dadurch entweiht, dass ich die jetzige Position der Erebus und Terror eingezeichnet habe. Natürlich zeigt McClintocks Karte nicht alle Fundstücke, die die Franklin Expedition zurückgelassen hat, aber die relative Abwesenheit von Spuren der HMS Erebus ist auffällig. Also ist sie vielleicht nicht noch einmal bemannt worden und in ihre Position gedriftet? Haben die restlichen Überlebenden also nur noch die Terror benutzt weil sie nach dem Tod Franklins das Schiff des kommandierenden Offiziers (Crozier) war, oder weil einfach nicht genug Männer übrig waren um beide Schiffe zu segeln, oder weil Erebus einfach zu beschädigt war?

So viele Fragen und jedes Jahr nur ca. vier Wochen, um sie zu beantworten. Diese Schiffe sind die Bewahrer so vieler Geheimnisse und Schätze, es ist ja vielleicht sogar passend, dass sie diese erst nach und nach freigeben.

Wednesday, 14 September 2016


The finding of HMS Terror in Terror Bay of all places rocked the world of Franklinites all over the planet on September 12.  She was not only found (Parks Canada has yet to confirm it) but appears to be in perfect conditions. Even most windows of her stern cabin are still intact. After Erebus was found in 2014, we all thought that she was the ship that Inuit eye witnesses said survived relatively unharmed. Although her stern cabin is severely damaged, she sits upright on the sea bed and is a wonderful sight to behold. 
The images and testimony of Terror by the Arctic Research Foundation suggest an even better degree of preservation. Apparently her masts are still there, her bowsprit is whole and the ship itself does seem entirely undamaged. See a report and video here
Parks Canada as the responsible agency of the search still has to confirm the find, but it seems to be only a matter of time. Now everyone interested in the Franklin expedition, experts and hobby historians alike, await the secrets this ship will disclose to the world after such a long time. Will she yield the so longed for journals and log books? Will she contain private letters and daguerreotypes? Or the remains of the men who went down with her, if any? We are looking ahead to an exciting time!

I had pondered to start this blog for quite some time now. I have long been interested in exploration history and have read a lot of books on that topic. HMS Beagle and her Captain Robert FitzRoy have fascinated me since I was 16. So I had read my share of books on Franklin, the first that really hit me being Owen Beattie and John Geiger's Frozen in Time. Nobody who ever read that book will forget the hauntingly beautiful photos of John Torrington, John Hartnell and William Braine. 

The next big milestone was the discovery of HMS Erebus. When I found nobody in my circle of friends to share my joy with, I joined a Facebook group named "Remembering the Franklin Expedition". Among its members are some of the world's most renowned experts in the field, a lot of highly knowledgeable amateur polar historians, artists, writers and just interested people. Because of this group, the discussions we had and the information that is shared on a daily basis, my interest in the expedition grew and I started to get out my old books and buy new ones. 

Right from the start Francis Crozier caught my attention and I started to look for books about him (there aren't many, perhaps the finding of Terror will change that now). After a while I noticed that one quotes of a letter written by him was saying exactly the opposite from the same quote in another book. So one of them had to be wrong. That is when I (without an academic background and being a German) started to canvas archives first in England and then worldwide for letters by Francis Crozier. I have spent the last almost two years with transcribing a lot of them (I'm pretty slow but diligent ;-) and hope in time some of them will find their way into this blog together with photos, images and articles that shed a light on this extraordinary officer and his times. Through his letters I have been acquainted to a warm-hearted, pious, remarkable and very likable person. 

With this blog I invite you to follow me on a journey of exploration. I hope we will go into the ice and see the barren lands, but the main goal will be to find out more about Francis Crozier and his place in science and naval history.