All Well Sign

This is, perhaps, the most haunting tale surrounding the lost expedition: this message was in a letter left in 1847 on King William Island, and its contents hinted nothing, of course, of what was to come for the unfortunate crew.

If, last year, you watched the first season of AMC’s The Terror, then you have an idea of what this post is about: an exhibit about the mysterious fate of 1845’s vanished Franklin Expedition, the most infamous of Britain’s attempts to find the Northwest Passage.

For those of you who don’t know, the NP was a fabled shortcut from Europe to Asia—something, if found, that would’ve saved time and money, as the current trade routes took months (and, initially, in the fifteenth century, the over-land routes were controlled by the Ottoman Empire).

There were several attempts to find the NP, and ultimately, it wasn’t navigated until 1906. While the passage had been found, the fact that the Franklin Expedition—which consisted of 129 men on The Terror and The Erebus—haunted generations of researchers and explorers.

In 2014 and 2016, Parks Canada discovered The Erebus and The Terror, respectively—and it was the body of Inuit traditional knowledge, which had been passed down for decades, that defined the search area and eventually resulted in success.

Franklin Expedition at Mystic 17

I read this and all I could think of was ‘WTF—didn’t these guys read ‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner’?

Although researchers have a much better picture of how the tragedy unfolded, the solving of the mystery—of what actually happened during those frightening and arduous three years—is still underway. Now that the wrecks have been found, there is even more evidence to be studied (prior to this groundbreaking discovery, there had been some artifacts and three graves discovered on Beechey Island).

In the meantime, however, some of the artifacts have been curated and can be seen in various museums and collections. Recently, the Mystic Seaport in Connecticut hosted DEATH IN THE ICE: THE MYSTERY OF THE FRANKLIN EXPEDITION.

I was fortunate enough to visit (since scary sea mysteries have long been a part of my childhood thanks to my dad, this was a MUST SEE no matter what I had to do to get there). The exhibit was open this past winter.

Description of the HMS Terror in Connecticut

It turns out that the TERROR bombed Stonington, Connecticut, during the War of 1812.

I’ve included some resources for further reading on the Franklin Expedition. If you are a big reader, there are many well-written books on the subject. I’ve listed one here I read that I liked, but don’t be shy about searching through the list of titles online for more.


Parks Canada: The Franklin Expedition https://www.pc.gc.ca/en/culture/franklin

National Geographic: “How the Discovery of Two Lost Ships Solved an Arctic Mystery,” by Simon Worrall, April 16, 2017


Horror Fuel: “All That’s Left: The Only Remains of the Franklin’s Lost Expedition,” by Daniel S. Liuzzi, January 21, 2018 http://horrorfuel.com/2018/01/21/thats-left-remains-franklins-lost-expedition/

Amusing Planet: “Beechey Island and Franklin’s Lost Expedition,” by Kaushik https://www.amusingplanet.com/2018/04/beechey-island-and-franklins-lost.html


Ice Ghosts: The Epic Hunt for the Lost Franklin Expedition, by Paul Watson https://www.amazon.com/dp/0393249387/ref=cm_sw_em_r_mt_dp_U_Hq4cDbEPYKTB4

Death in the Ice: The Mystery of the Franklin Expedition (Souvenir Catalogue series), by Karen Ryan

This is a catalogue of the artifacts in the Death in the Ice exhibit, which was at the Anchorage museum before arriving at Mystic. https://www.amazon.com/dp/0660078813/ref=cm_sw_em_r_mt_dp_U_da5cDbB8GYF8T


Buried in Ice: The Franklin Expedition (1988) https://youtu.be/41ajloClO7U

Timeline: The Search for the Northwest Passage https://youtu.be/M1I79u5Y9n4

Revealed: Franklin’s Lost Expedition (2005) https://youtu.be/Wg9Z3EyJ5DU

 Secret History: The Hunt for the Arctic Ghost Ship (2015) https://youtu.be/CAQusg8U4EQ

I’ll answer this question before it’s asked: AMC’s The Terror is based on Dan Simmons’ novel of the same name, which I found disappointing on a number of levels. I recommend spending ten hours on the series instead.

AMC’s The Terror

On Demand on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/gp/video/detail/B07BDQK1VV/ref=cm_sw_em_r_pv_wb_9oh0UgMilOViM

Blu-Ray/DVD: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07DKSPGP4/ref=cm_sw_em_r_mt_dp_U_.x7cDb3FF8JM5

About kristipetersenschoonover

A ghost story writer who still sleeps with the lights on, Kristi Petersen Schoonover’s fiction has appeared in many magazines and anthologies; her traditionally published books include a short story collection, THE SHADOWS BEHIND. She was the recipient of three Norman Mailer Writers Colony Residencies and holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Goddard College. She serves as co-host of the DARK DISCUSSIONS podcast, as founding editor of the dark literary journal 34 ORCHARD, and is a member of both the New England Horror Writers and the Horror Writers Association. Follow her adventures at kristipetersenschoonover.com.

Posted on July 7, 2019, in Deep Thoughts & Fun Stuff and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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