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Erebus | ehr·​eh·​bus

Deep darkness or shadow. In Greek mythology Erebus was born of Chaos.

"HMS Erebus in the Ice"

Francois Etienne Musin

Originally a Naval bomb ship, the HMS Erebus was built in 1826 and went on few missions before peace arrived. When it did, Erebus was refitted for exploratory service in the Antarctic. With orders of another attempt to find the elusive Northwest Passage, Erebus and her sister ship HMS Terror set sail. Sir John Franklin oversaw the voyage as captain of Erebus. The men over wintered at Beechey Island, where three men perished, before finally reaching the maze of islands - then uncharted - above Canada.

They never came home. Dozens of rescue parties, some ordered by Sir John's wife Lady Jane herself, were sent out, but it was decades before any true answers turned up - and even now many parts of the Franklin Expedition remain a mystery.

In September of 1846, HMS Erebus became trapped in the ice somewhere in the Canadian Arctic while under Sir John Franklin's third and final Arctic voyage. It was provisioned for three years, up to five if rations were strictly monitored. Harry Goodsir wrote in a letter to his uncle while stopped in Greenland: "we have got 10,000 cases of preserved ready cooked meats on board the Erebus alone so you see there is no chance of starving."

 

However, during two years of being ice locked, the men quickly realized a third year might mean loss of life. 

Half of their food tins turned up rotted, and hunting parties rarely if ever returned with fresh game. 

Scurvy slowly began to consume the men, as the lemon juice brought lost its anti-scurvy properties by then and was no longer helping. Other diseases and hypothermia also weakened body and mind, and the men began to lose hope.

With the understanding that no rescue was coming, that no one knew where they were, the remaining men abandoned the ships and began an 800 mile trek on foot along the shore of King William Island. They dragged boats stocked with supplies, weapons, water, medicines, and what little provisions they had left. Should they find open water along the coast, they would get in the boats and sail to civilization.

Something killed them all before they made it to safety. Studies of what remains that have been found show extreme suffering. Disease, starvation, and, near the end, cannibalism wiped out all 129 men of the Franklin Expedition by late 1848.

Sir John Frankin died 11 June 1847 as noted in one of the only documents recovered from the Franklin Expedition. His remains along with many others have never been found.

In Eternity weaves a tale that partially takes place in late 1848, following the only remaining medical professional at the time, Harry Goodsir, shortly before his death.

Sources

Beattie, O., Geiger, J., Atwood, M., & Davis, W. Frozen in Time.

More Details

Jennifer Reinfried & the Franklin Expedition

Erebus

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