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Look inside the shipwreck of the HMS Terror

First Look Inside the Wreck of the HMS Terror

See inside the HMS Terror for the first time since it vanished with the Franklin Expedition over 170 years ago.

Aside from a few bodies found mummified in the Canadian permafrost and tales told by Inuit tribes of madness and cannibalism, nothing was ever found of the Franklin Expedition after it vanished in 1846. Over 30 expeditions failed to find any trace of the two ships and most of the 129 men that set out from England in 1845 to find a passage through the Arctic that connected the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific.

That is, until extensive surveys based on Inuit oral history lead searchers to the wreck of the HMS Erebus in 2014. Just two years the second ship, the HMS Terror, was discovered. Both ships were discovered in shallow water near King William Island, where two members of the crew had been found long dead in a lifeboat in 1859.

Mummified body from the Franklin Expedition
A member of the Franklin Expedition found buried on Beechey Island in 1984, mummified in the permafrost

Now, for the first time, we can get a glimpse inside the ship thanks to the Parks Canada researchers who have been studying the remarkably preserved wrecks.

The Erebus has had a few more years to be studied, and some artifacts have been brought up, but until this year weather conditions made it difficult to examine the Terror.

Thanks to calm seas, the underwater archaeology team was able to guide a small ROV into the ship and capture some amazing video of the interior.

“Overturned armchairs, thermometers on the wall, stacked plates, chamberpots, washbasins — often in their correct position,” team member Ryan Harris said. “We were able to see an incredible array of artifacts.”

Recommended Reading
Frozen in Time book about the Franklin Expedition
Buy now on Amazon

The camera was piloted through an open hatch into the ship.

“You have the lights of the ROV penetrating the darkness,” Harris said. “Looking forward in the corridor, you see the list of the ship to starboard.

“And then off to the left, you see a succession of doors into various officers’ cabins. Every single sliding door agape. Just imagine piloting the vehicle into one cabin after the next and see the private quarters of each officer. You see the bed places, you see the shelves, shipboard articles on the shelves, scientific instruments in their cases and many, many drawers.”

Harris said it feels like violating the privacy of the crew that once occupied those spaces. “It’s exhilarating, but it’s quite a solemn space.”

Inside the HMS Terror shipwreck
Inside the wreck of the HMS Terror

The only door found closed in the ship was the one leading to cabin of captain Francis Crozier.

That cabin is likely to be filled with journals and maps preserved and still legible that could help answer many questions about the doomed expedition.

“It looks like the ship, in many ways, was fully operational and then suddenly deserted,” Harris said. “All the cabin doors were opened, almost as if there was a rush to see if anyone was on board as it sank. We don’t know.”

Read more right here.

Sin Ship: The Story of the SS Monte Carlo Shipwreck on Coronado Beach

The SS Monte Carlo was the flagship of the mob’s gambling fleet, where a host of illegal pleasures could be found floating just outside the law.
Monte Carlo shipwreck
Shipwreck of the SS Monte Carlo on Coronado Beach

Beneath the sands of San Diego’s Coronado Beach lies the concrete and iron remains of a 300-foot ship called the SS Monte Carlo. Built in 1921, the oil tanker found a new life in the 1930s as “the world’s greatest pleasure ship,” the largest of several notorious mob-owned “sin ships” anchored in international waters three miles off the coast of California. There, wealthy patrons, including some of Hollywood’s glamorous elite such as Clark Gable and Mae West, could indulge in liquor, gambling and prostitution outside the jurisdiction of Prohibition-era US laws.

On New Year’s Day in 1937, a violent storm wrenched the Monte Carlo from her moorings and set the ship adrift. Eventually the iniquitous floating den ran aground on the Coronado shore, where the activities for which it was known were illegal. Not surprisingly, no one stepped up to claim ownership.

Authorities soon confiscated the slot machines and other gambling paraphernalia from the wreck. Scavengers ran off with whatever was left, and then the Monte Carlo was left to ruin, swallowed by the sand and surf, eventually forgotten.

Wreckage of the SS Monte Carlo

$100,000 in Gold and Silver Coins

In the days after the Monte Carlo grounded, crowds gathered on the beach to get a look at the monstrous stranded ship. A man named Bud Bernhard, a teenager at the time, was offered $20 by a small group of men to survey the damage on board. These men, he later learned, were the owners.

Bernhard swam out to the wreck, climbed up the anchor chain, and explored the devastated interior. He found a hoard of gold and silver coins inside, but reported to the men that everything was destroyed. Over the next several weeks, he returned many times to fill his pockets with silver dollars.

In later years, Bernhard said he was convinced there was $100,000 in gold and silver coins still remaining in the buried hulk.

Weird Book Club
For more on the gambling ships of Southern California, check out Noir Afloat by Ernest Marquez. There is an entire chapter devoted to the SS Monte Carlo.

These days, the Monte Carlo can sometimes be seen underwater at low tide. On rare occasions, El Nino storms will wash away the sand and expose the ship, as seen in the drone footage below from earlier this year.

Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald

Edmund Fitzgerald: The Shipwreck that Never Gave Up Its Dead

It has been 40 years since the freighter Edmund Fitzgerald sank under mysterious conditions into the depths of Lake Superior. The remains of the crew have never been recovered.

40 years ago today, in her 17th year and 40th voyage, the ore freighter SS Edmund Fitzgerald sank in Lake Superior, taking with her all 29 members of the crew. Once the longest freighter on the Great Lakes at 729 feet, the ship was torn in half during a storm on November 10, 1975 and plunged into the black depths before the crew could escape or send out a distress signal.

What sank the Fitzgerald? One of the prevailing theories is that it was hit by a series of three consecutive rogue waves, a phenomenon called “three sisters,” which was reported by another nearby ship.

It sank 17 miles from Whitefish Point on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, an area that has claimed at least 240 ships.

The wreck was discovered using a side scan sonar and other equipment four days later at a depth of 530 feet. The remains of the crew were never recovered.

Launch of the Edmund Fitzgerald
More than 15,000 people attended the June 7, 1958 christening and launch of the Fitzgerald. The sight of the massive ship crashing into the water was so harrowing that one man died of a heart attack on the spot.

Lake Superior Never Gives Up Her Dead

Legend says that Lake Superior seldom gives up her dead. The average temperature of the lake is about 36 °F, cold enough to inhibit bacterial growth. Usually, bacteria will feed on a decaying body underwater and create gas, which causes the body to float back to the surface. In Lake Superior’s frigid temperatures, however, bodies tend to sink and never resurface.

One of the men was found for the first time in a landmark 1994 expedition. The remains were discovered outside the wreck, near the bow, “fully clothed, wearing an orange life jacket, and lying face down in the sediment.”

A number of memorials are held annually on November 10 to commemorate the lives lost on the Fitzgerald and the Great Lakes. Artifacts from the ship can be seen on display the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum in Whitefish Point near Paradise, Michigan, as well as the Dossin Great Lakes Museum in Detroit, and the Steamship Valley Camp museum in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan.

Edmund Fitzgerald shipwreck

Artifact from 1884 British Naval Cannibalism Case For Sale

An artifact from the 1884 Mignonette shipwreck, the last case of cannibalism in British naval history, is up for auction.
Captain Dudley's sextant from the Mignonette shipwreck

The yacht Mignonette was en route to Australia from Southampton when it was shipwrecked in a storm on July 5, 1884. The crew were left stranded in a 13-foot lifeboat in the middle of the south Atlantic with a few tins of turnips and some navigational instruments.

The sextant, now up for auction, bears a pencil inscription inside the lid that details their plight:

We Thomas Dudley, Edwin Stevens, Edmund Brookes & Richard Parker, the crew of the yacht Mignonette which foundered on Saturday the 5th of July, have been in our little dinghy 15 days.

We have neither food or water and are greatly reduced. We suppose our latitude to be 25º south our longitude 28ºW.

May the Lord have mercy upon us, please forward this to Southampton

Custom of the Sea

In order to avoid seawater, the men began drinking their own urine. The turnips and a captured sea turtle managed to feed them for ten or twelve days, but soon after that they began discussing the possibility of cannibalism.

When 17-year-old cabin boy Richard Parker, who had been drinking the salty water, lost consciousness, Dudley and Stephens figured he was probably dying. They decided they should kill him rather than let him die naturally so that his blood would be better preserved for drinking.

Dudley said a prayer, and then pushed his penknife into Parker’s jugular.

Of the grisly scene that followed, Dudley later said:

“I can assure you I shall never forget the sight of my two unfortunate companions over that ghastly meal we all was like mad wolfs who should get the most and for men fathers of children to commit such a deed we could not have our right reason.”

They were rescued four days later on July 29.

The men readily described their desperate act of survival, believing they were protected by an ancient custom of the sea. It was a common practice for shipwrecked survivors to draw lots to determine who would be eaten. Rather than go home to see their families, the sailors were detained and charged with murder.

Brooks was acquitted, but Dudley and Stephens were convicted and sentenced to death. Due to public outcry, however, their sentences were commuted to six months imprisonment.

The sextant up for auction in November at the London-based Charles Miller Ltd. is said to be the only remaining artifact from the event. When Dudley was released, he took it with him when he moved to Australia. There it remained until it was bought from an antique shop in 1973.

Captain Dudley's sextant from the Mignonette shipwreck

Inscription inside the sextant from the Mignonette sextant

Lake Michigan Shipwrecks Visible from the Air

The waters of Lake Michigan are so clear right now that many of its historic sunken ships are currently visible from the air.
Lake Michigan shipwrecks visible from the air
Remains of the 133-foot wooden steamer Rising Sun visible from the air in Lake Michigan. It became stranded off Pyramid Point on October 29, 1917.

During a routine patrol, the US Coast Guard Air Station in Traverse City recently discovered that the waters of Lake Michigan are so clear right now, many of its historic shipwrecks are visible from the air.

Related: What is a giant crucifix doing at the bottom of Lake Michigan?

Last week they shared some amazing photos of these wrecks lying on the bottom of the lake. While not much is known about some of them, the Coast Guard has added some information on the wrecks that was provided by viewers.

Shipwreck of the James McBride in Lake Michigan
The James McBride ran aground near Sleeping Bear Dune and was abandoned on October 19, 1857.

Unidentified shipwreck in Lake Michigan
Unidentified shipwreck in Lake Michigan

Unknown Lake Michigan shipwreck
Unknown shipwreck visible in Lake Michigan below the cliff

Two unknown shipwrecks visible in Lake Michigan
Two sunken ships in shallow water

via Smithsonian