Watch Groundbreaking Underwater Footage of the Franklin Expedition’s HMS Terror Shipwreck

Parks Canada, YouTube
Parks Canada, YouTube

In 1845, Sir John Franklin set sail from England with two ships, more than 100 crew members, and three years’ worth of provisions, hoping to locate the northwest passage in the Canadian Arctic. Instead, the ships and everyone on them disappeared—seemingly without a trace.

It took more than 10 years and many rescue expeditions for British officials to piece together what had happened: After the sea froze around the ships and Captain Franklin died suddenly in June 1847, the expedition members decided that their best chance of survival was to trek hundreds of miles across the frozen ground in search of civilization. As far as we know, none of them survived.

The fate of the ships themselves, the HMS Terror and HMS Erebus, remained a mystery for the next century and a half. Finally, in 2014, Inuit and Parks Canada archaeologists found the sunken HMS Erebus in Victoria Strait, and in 2016 an Inuit hunter helped lead searchers to the HMS Terror in Terror Bay off King William Island.

This week, the Canadian government released remarkable underwater video footage of the HMS Terror’s interior, which until now hadn’t been seen by anyone other than the original crew since Queen Victoria was on the throne. Parks Canada, in partnership with the Inuit, obtained the footage as part of what the press release calls “one of the largest, most complex underwater archaeological undertakings in Canadian history.”

They explored more than 90 percent of the ship’s lower deck, including the crew’s living quarters and the captain’s cabin (the captain of the Terror was Franklin's second-in-command, Francis R.M. Crozier). In the video, you can see beds, desks, and shelves stocked with plates, bowls, and glasses. It might seem like water would do some serious damage to the ship and everything in it, but the opposite is actually true in this case—cold temperatures help keep the wreckage in good condition, and the sediment that coats the artifacts creates an environment with less oxygen, which can even preserve organic artifacts like paper.

And Parks Canada does believe there’s a strong possibility of discovering written documents amid the wreckage. Large amounts of sediment seeped through windows near the captain’s cabin, making it the best-preserved area of the lower deck. Thermometers and a tripod were already discovered, but map cabinet drawers and boxes are still unopened, and researchers have yet to enter the captain’s sleeping quarters at all.

Finding any written documents on the ship could dramatically increase our understanding of what happened to the Franklin expedition. So far, only two notes on the same piece of paper have been discovered: One from May 1847 that mentioned all was well, and another from the following spring briefly detailing that Franklin had died and the ships had been deserted. Because of the lack of any logs or journals from the expedition, our knowledge of what happened on the ships is still patchy at best, and we have almost no information on the mental state of the crew members—or an answer to the question of what ultimately drove them to abandon the ships when they should have had plenty of food and supplies in stock.

While you wait for Parks Canada to unlock the mysteries in the captain’s quarters, you can read more about the Franklin Expedition here.

Swedish Divers Just Discovered Two Shipwrecks That Might Be Related to the Famous Vasa Warship

The Vasa shipwreck displayed in Sweden's Vasa Museum.
The Vasa shipwreck displayed in Sweden's Vasa Museum.
Christian Lundh, Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0

In 1625, King Gustavus II Adolphus of Sweden commissioned shipbuilders to create the most beautiful, lethal flagship that ever existed, as a symbol of Sweden’s naval strength. Three years later, crowds gathered to watch the Vasa, named after Sweden’s royal house, set sail for the first time. But less than a mile into its maiden voyage, the poorly and hastily constructed warship sunk to the bottom of the Baltic Sea, where it remained until 1961 when it was salvaged and later transported to the Vasa Museum.

Now, the Guardian reports Swedish maritime archaeologists from Vrak—Museum of Wrecks have located two shipwrecks in the Swedish archipelago outside of Vaxholm that could be linked to the Vasa. This is because the shipwright responsible for the Vasa built three other ships, the Äpplet, the Kronan, and the Scepter (though, unlike their ill-fated sibling, they actually made it into battle).

“It was like swimming around the Vasa ship,” maritime archaeologist Jim Hansson said in a museum press release. They believe the first wreck they discovered may be the Äpplet, and the second wreck could be either the Kronan or the Scepter.

“We think that some of them were sunk in the area,” Patrik Hoglund, another Vrak archaeologist, told the Guardian. But these ships didn’t capsize because of shoddy engineering or even an enemy attack. Instead, experts believe the Swedish navy intentionally sunk them after they were decommissioned, so their wrecks would function as surprise spike strips to damage approaching enemy ships.

The divers brought back wood samples from the wrecks to send to a laboratory for testing. Once they know when and where the timber came from, they can cross-reference the data with Swedish archives to find out if it matches information from the Vasa.

Even if the warships do turn out to be the Vasa’s long-lost siblings, it’s unlikely that they’ll be salvaged and displayed alongside it, since the Baltic Sea’s brackish waters actually preserve them much better than a museum could.

Sweden isn’t the only nation that boasts a beautiful shipwreck or two—here are 10 other shipwrecks around the world that you can visit.

[h/t The Guardian]

How the T. Rex at the American Museum of Natural History Became an Icon

J.M. Luijt, Wikimedia Commons //  CC BY-SA 2.5 nl
J.M. Luijt, Wikimedia Commons //  CC BY-SA 2.5 nl

When asked to think of a Tyrannosaurus rex, you may picture the dinosaur from the original King Kong (1933), the famous vintage illustration by Charles Knight, or perhaps the sinister fossil gracing the poster for Jurassic Park (1993). Each of these pop culture depictions of T. Rex was inspired by a single specimen: A skeleton on display at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City dubbed AMNH 5027.

In the video below, the AMNH explains how their fossil became the most iconic T. Rex—and therefore the most iconic dinosaur—in history. From 1915 to about 1940, it was the only the mounted T. Rex skeleton on display to the public. That means that most movies created in the early 20th century featuring a T. Rex—including The Ghost of Slumber Mountain (1918), King Kong, and Fantasia (1940)—were either directly or indirectly inspired by the museum's specimen. AMNH 5027 was incorrectly displayed standing upright with its tail on the ground for decades, which is why so many early depictions of the dinosaur in pop culture show it with the same posture.

The fossil's influence on the world isn't limited to early 20th century cinema. When brainstorming ideas for Jurassic Park's book cover, designer Chip Kidd went to the American Museum of Natural History for inspiration. He used AMNH 5027 as the model for one of the most iconic book jackets ever made. The design was repurposed in the posters for Jurassic Park the movie, and the rex's silhouette has since appeared on countless toys, T-shirts, and other merchandise.

The image has become synonymous with the species, but there's one small detail that's unique to AMNH 5027. The dinosaur in the Jurassic Park artwork has a small bump on the inside of its skull. This bump formed when a bone in the original specimen got pushed out of place during fossilization, and today it's a distinct feature that makes its profile instantly recognizable.

To learn more about the huge impact AMNH 5027 has had in the last century or so of its 65 million years on Earth, check out the video below.

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