Franklin’s Shipwrecks

In 1845 Sir John Franklin set out with the ships HMS Erebus and HMS Terror on a mission to chart and navigate a section of the Northwest Passage in the Canadian Arctic. It was hoped that this might provide a shortcut for trade ships between the Pacific and the Atlantic. He was never to return.

In 2007, Merlindown discovered HMS Erebus and HMS Terror (these discoveries are awaiting confirmation by a visit to the actual sites) and other vessels sent out to rescue them, one of which was HMS Investigator which sank in Mercy Bay, Nova Scotia, Canada.

The Canadian Parks Service was first notified of our findings in 2011 along with coordinates showing the locations of the vessels. But for whatever reason only HMS Investigator was visited and they subsequently claimed that wreck as being their discovery. As a result of this, we have now decided to post the location images of what we believe are HMS Erebus and HMS Terror onto the Merlindown website to eliminate any future confusion as to who actually discovered the two ships. These images will be added to this posting in due course.

HMS-Erebus-planBoth HMS Erebus and HMS Terror are very distinctive. Erebus, being a former mortar bomb vessel, has cutaway bulwarks, as shown on the accompanying plan. The wreck Merlindown has located at the sea bottom in the Larsen Ice Field is the same shape and cut. HMS Terror was the bigger ship and she had her back broken in the ice and now lies in two sections closer in to shore.

We believe that the vessel recently discovered is that of HMS Assistance which became stranded and then abandoned in the Arctic sea ice on 25th August 1854. Our main belief that this vessel is not one of the Franklin ships is because of the presence of the two onboard guns.  Neither HMS Erebus nor HMS Terror were carrying guns, although the British naval warship HMS Assistance did.  Images will be posted here in due course to illustrate this.

The underwater video footage relating to the recent discovery clearly shows a barque which has two deck guns and this, in conjunction with her dimensions, strongly suggests to us that this is in fact HMS Assistance.

HMS Assistance Cannon Over View HMS Assistance - Cannon Close up
These Canada Parks Service images show the deck section of HMS Assistance containing the two cannons.

HMS Assistance in IceImage showing HMS Assistance laying on her starboard side being crushed by the ice. The other vessel in the picture eventually took all the survivors back home to England.