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.

Civil War Cannonballs Found on South Carolina Beach in Aftermath of Hurricane Dorian

ABDESIGN/iStock via Getty Images
ABDESIGN/iStock via Getty Images

Hurricane Dorian skimmed the United States' East Coast last week, creating a trail of damage residents are still dealing with. But it wasn't just trash and debris the storm surges left behind: As WCSC reports, two cannonballs dating back to the Civil War were discovered on Folly Beach in South Carolina in the aftermath of the storm.

Aaron Lattin and his girlfriend Alba were walking on the beach on September 6 when they saw what looked like rocks nestled in the sand. As they examined them more closely, they realized they had found something much more special. The weathered objects were actually cannonballs that have likely been buried in the area for more than 150 years.

Incredibly, this isn't the first time Civil War cannonballs have been discovered on Folly Beach following a hurricane: In 2016, Hurricane Matthew unearthed 16 of them. Folly Island was used as a Union base a century and a half ago, and items leftover from the artillery battery built there are still scattered around the shoreline. The couple behind this latest discovery believes there are more waiting to be found.

Old cannonballs may look like cool artifacts to treasure hunters, but they should still be treated with caution. Police and bombs disposal technicians were called to the scene at Folly Beach to confirm the cannonballs were no longer functional.

[h/t WCSC]

A Lost Japanese Village Has Been Uncovered in the British Columbia Wilderness

Ferenc Cegledi/iStock via Getty Images
Ferenc Cegledi/iStock via Getty Images

In 2004, a retired forester reached out to Capilano University archaeology professor Bob Muckle about investigating what looked like the remnants of an old logging camp in the forests of British Columbia, Canada. North Shore News reports that each spring for the next 14 years, Muckle took his students there to help him excavate what he now believes was a sort-of-secret Japanese settlement.

The site is located on the Lower Seymour Conservation Reserve, about 12 miles northeast of Vancouver. It’s approximately the size of a football field and contains the remains of more than a dozen cabins, a bathhouse, a road made of cedar planks, and a cedar platform that may have been a shrine. Muckle and his students have also unearthed more than 1000 items, including sake and beer bottles from Japan, teapots, game pieces, medicine bottles, clocks, pocket watches, clothing buttons, coins, and hoards of ceramics.

Japanese businessman Eikichi Kagetsu secured logging rights to the area near the camp around 1918, so it’s likely that the settlers were originally loggers and their families. Though the trees were cleared out by 1924 and Kagetsu continued his business ventures on Vancouver Island, there's evidence to suggest that some members of the logging community didn't leave right away.

Muckle believes that at least some of the 40 to 50 camp inhabitants chose to remain there, protected from rising racism in Canadian society, until 1942, when the Canadian government started moving Japanese immigrants to internment camps in the wake of the outbreak of World War II.

Muckle thinks the residents must have evacuated in a hurry since they left so many precious and personal items behind. “When people leave, usually they take all the good stuff with them,” he told North Shore News. His team even uncovered parts of an Eastman Kodak Bulls-Eye camera, a house key, and an expensive cook stove that someone had hidden behind a stump on the edge of the village. “They were probably smart enough to realize people might loot the site,” he added.

According to Smithsonian.com, Japanese immigrants had been victims of racism and discrimination in Canada since the first wave of immigration from Japan in 1877. They were generally met with hostility across the country, and kept from voting, entering the civil service, and working in law and other professions. Anti-Japan sentiment dramatically worsened after the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941, and The Canadian Encyclopedia estimates that more than 90 percent of Japanese Canadians—many of them citizens by birth—were displaced during the war.

To Muckle, this all contributes to the likelihood that villagers would have chosen to stay insulated by the forest for as long as they could. “The impression that I get, generally speaking, is it would have been a nice life for these people,” he said. It wouldn't be the first time a remote, wild area served as a refuge for a persecuted community—farther south and east, escaped enslaved people settled in the swamplands bordering North Carolina and Virginia for the century leading up to the Civil War.

While Muckle believes people stayed in the Canadian camp until the 1940s, it's hard to prove—there are no records for the inhabitants of the camp or where they might have gone. If there’s evidence in the village that can prove residents did stay until the 1940s, it will soon fall to other curious archaeologists to find it: Muckle thinks this will be his last season at the site.

Or, maybe the smoking gun will be discovered by someone who isn’t an archaeologist at all. Here are 10 times ordinary people (and one badger) unearthed amazing archaeological finds.

[h/t Smithsonian.com]

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER