HMS Erebus

Since today in class we discussed the discovery of the HMS Erebus finally after over 150 years, I thought it would be interesting to do a search to learn a little more about the ship itself. What I found was pretty interesting.

First off, the Franklin expedition was nowhere near the HMS Erebus’s first voyage. The Erebus was constructed in the Pembroke dockyard in Wales in 1826 by the Royal Navy. It was armed with ten guns and several mortars. They named it the Erebus after the dark area in Hades from Greek Mythology. For the first two years of its life, it sailed around the Mediterranean Sea until it was retired and fitted to become an Arctic vessel. However, the Franklin expedition was not the ship’s first Arctic voyage. In 1840, James Clark Ross took off from Tasmania in the direction of Antarctica, strangely enough also in the company of the HMS Terror. The ships landed on Victoria Island in 1841 and subsequently named many parts of the landscape after themselves (like Mount Erebus and Mount Terror, as well as several others). After this, they discovered what is called the Ross Ice Shelf, which is an area of impenetrable ice, and returned back from whence they came. They returned in the following year and did many more explorations. The crew conducted studies of botanical and faunal organisms (especially birds) and even studies using magnetism. Most of these studies were conducted in the Falkland Islands. Their studies and works were even published in The Zoology of the Voyage of HMS Erebus & HMS Terror. Birds of New Zealand in 1875.

It was not until their return that the ship was repurposed for Franklin and his expedition. Once Ross returned with the ships, they were revamped to better fit the advancing technology but also the aspects needed to better survive in the Arctic. Each ship was outfitted with steam engines, complete with a large supply of coal. They also had iron plating added to the sides to better fend off and break apart the ice they would encounter. The expedition itself was ordered to not only find, navigate, and chart the Northwest Passage, but also to do their own studies (specifically magnetic studies) on the Canadian Arctic.

As we know, the location of the HMS Erebus has been discovered, along with the recovery of its bell (definitively identifying the wreckage). What I thought was exciting however, is that there is a new expedition being sent to explore the wreckage this April. Soon, we may have even more information about the Erebus.