The Collections

Franklin's ships 'Erebus' and 'Terror'

Created: 19.09.14

Franklin’s ships were both Hecla-class bomb vessels. HMS Terror was launched at Topsham in 1812 and the slightly smaller HMS Erebus at Pembroke in 1826. In 1836-1837 Captain George Back took Terror to the Arctic to attempt to find a sea route from Hudson's Bay to the Polar Sea. The ship was stranded for 118 days on an ice floe, drifted 200 miles and sustained heavy damage. On return from the 1837 voyage, Terror was beached for repairs in Ireland. In 1839 Terror was sent out with the Erebus to the Antarctic under the command of Captain James Clark Ross, returning in 1843. Sir John Franklin was selected commander of an expedition to discover the North-West Passage - a sea route across the top of the American continent, from the Atlantic to the Pacific. The expedition set out in the Erebus and Terror in May 1845. The voyage was expected to be completed in two years. When nothing was heard from them after three years, a series of searching expeditions was sent out to the Arctic. Jane Franklin, the expedition commander’s wife, refused to let the Admiralty give up the search for the expedition and sent out expeditions of her own. John Rae, the Hudson’s Bay Company explorer, met Inuit on the northern coast of Canada in 1854 who had personal possessions of members of the Franklin expedition, including this badge which undoubtedly belonged to Franklin himself. They also told Rae that the starving expedition members resorted to cannibalism. Lady Franklin sent out a final private expedition in the Fox, commanded by Leopold McClintock, in an attempt to solve the mystery of the fate of her husband’s expedition. McClintock succeeded, bringing back records and relics in 1859.


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