Dr. Sam Willis delves into the origins of HMS Terror, which was inspired by the BBC series ‘The Terror,’ a chilling tale based on one of polar exploration’s deepest mysteries. The TV show was based on the Terror’s final and tragic voyage, when the ship sailed into the ice off the west coast of Greenland in 1845, under the command of Sir John Franklin and alongside another ship, HMS Erebus, in search of the Northwest Passage.
In this Mariners Mirror episode, Sam Willis talks with Ed Williams-Hawkes, a powerboat specialist, historian, and resident of Topsham, Devon, where the Terror was designed, about the fascinating history of the HMS Terror, which had a long and remarkable career.
Both ships were beset by ice, but the crews remained with the ships until April 1848, when they abandoned them. At that time, Franklin and over 24 sailors had perished. The survivors tried to walk to the Canadian mainland but disappeared and were never seen again.
The TV show is a fictional and fantastical account of what could have happened to the men; the fact is that we know very little about their fate, and it remains one of the greatest maritime mysteries of all time.
The Society for Nautical Research’s journal is The Mariner’s Mirror. The Society was founded in 1910 to promote research into seafaring and shipbuilding in all ages and across all nations, as well as the language and customs of the sea and other nautical subjects. Mariner’s Mirror is recognized as the international journal of record for maritime and naval history. It is ranked by the European Reference Index for the Humanities (ERIH) as an INT1 journal (the highest classification), which has internationally recognized scholarly significance with high visibility and influence among researchers in the various research domains in different countries and is regularly cited all over the world.
“The Terror” originally was broadcast on AMC in 2018/2019.