HMS Terror found by Canadian Ranger (but not reported for a bit)

A watercolour of the HMS Terror exploring the Canadian Arctic (Canadian Museum of Civilization)

A watercolour of the HMS Terror exploring the Canadian Arctic, which she would never leave (Canadian Museum of Civilization)

Canada’s plucky Ranger force, a group of some 5,000 part time soldiers organized in patrols in 200 far north communities in the nation’s huge arctic expanse are sparsely equipped. Armed with WWII-era Longbranch No.4 Enfield .303 rifles to ward off polar bears and issued a pair of camo pants and an orange pullover and ballcap, they are Canada’s search and rescue and sovereignty in the arctic.

And sometimes they stumble upon some neat stuff in their travels. Six years ago Inuit Ranger Sammy Kogvik came across a ship’s mast sticking out of the ice in isolated Terror Bay in winter, named after Sir John Franklin’s ill-fated ship HMS Terror.

Terror was one of two Royal Navy ships that set out in 1845 on the Franklin to find the Northwest Passage to Asia. The ships became trapped in thick Arctic ice and all 129 crew members died. The other ship — HMS Erebus — was located in September 2014 in the Queen Maud Gulf, along the central Arctic coastline– with the help of Inuit oral history.


“When I was getting off the snowmobile I looked to my left and saw something sticking out of the ice,” he said.

The men decided to check it out.

“I told [Uncle James] it’s one of those … might be one of those old ships that they’ve been looking for.”

Kogvik says he pulled out his camera and had his friend take a photo of him and the mast.

“I gave it a bear hug, and both my legs around that mast.”

But after Kogvik lost his camera, the men kept quiet about their find.

“I told Uncle James, don’t tell anybody, because we don’t have any proof … we didn’t want to keep secret, but it might seem like lies to people, because we don’t have any proof.”

Well, fast forward a few years and the Ranger found himself on an expedition to find HMS Terror, and, with the Arctic Research Foundation team looking in the wrong area, he gave expedition leader Adrian Schimnowski a tip.

Schimnowski says it took just 2½ hours to locate the ship in the bay.

“My boss said, ‘Sam, we found the ship!'” Kogvik recalled. “Everybody was yelling, too — happy.”

Almost all of the hatches on HMS Terror were closed and all three masts were standing.

“It just followed Sammy’s story,” Schimnowski said.


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