Terror | ter·​ror

A feeling or sense of extreme and uncontrollable fear. Represented by Deimos (terror and dread) in Greek mythology, brother to Phobos (panic and fleeing).

hms terror painting

"HMS Terror"

William Smyth

Originally built to be a Naval war ship, the HMS Terror was built in 1813 and fought in a few battles of the War of 1812. Twenty years later, Terror was refitted for exploratory polar service. Aside from the Franklin Expedition, HMS Terror's other well-known voyage was the Ross Expedition, led by James Clark Ross and commanded by Francis Crozier, who would later captain the ship to the Arctic and vanish entirely. With orders of another attempt to find the elusive Northwest Passage, Terror and her sister ship HMS Erebus set sail in 1845. They 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, one including James Clark Ross, Crozier's friend after their previous voyage, 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 Terror became trapped in the ice somewhere in the Canadian Arctic during the fateful Arctic voyage. It was provisioned for three years, up to five if rations were strictly monitored. 


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.

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.


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

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