Mysterious Inuit tale leads researchers to the 168-year-old wreck of the HMS Terror

The remains of the HMS Terror were recovered, mostly intact.
(Image credit: iStock)

In 1848, the ill-fated and ominously-named HMS Terror was lost along with the HMS Erebus in the worst polar disaster to ever hit the British Royal Navy: all 129 men in Sir John Franklin's Northwest Passage expedition were killed. For 11 years after the doomed trip, search parties continued to look for the Franklin expedition to no avail; the Inuit people now say bad spirits wander the island near where the ship went under.

But at long last, the arctic strait has given up its secrets, The Guardian reports. The HMS Terror has been discovered practically perfectly intact near King William Island, although it was found much farther south than it was thought to have been abandoned. "This discovery changes history," Canadian philanthropist and Arctic Research Founder Jim Balsillie told The Guardian. "Given the location of the find [in Terror Bay] and the state of the wreck, 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."

The Terror almost wasn't discovered. An Inuk crewman on the team's research ship, Sammy Kogvik, 49, was talking with the Arctic Research Foundation's operations director, Adrian Schimnowski, when he recalled a hunting trip in Terror Bay, where he posed for a picture with a large piece of wood sticking out of the sea ice, which resembled a mast. When Kogvik got home and discovered his camera gone, he decided not to speak of the experience, believing the missing camera was an omen of the bad spirits that wander the island.

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But by following Kogvik's tip, the researchers focused on the north end of Victoria Strait, eventually making their fateful discovery.

"This vessel looks like it was buttoned down tight for winter and it sank," said Schimnowski. "Everything was shut. Even the windows are still intact. If you could lift this boat out of the water, and pump the water out, it would probably float." Read more about the strange and incredible discovery of the HMS Terror at The Guardian.

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