This article is sourced from the archives of the Inishowen Maritime Museum, Greencastle, Co. Donegal

HMS “Terror” was a specialised warship developed as a bomb vessel for the Royal Navy in 1813. She had an unusually strong framework to resist the recoil of her heavy mortars so it was assumed that she could withstand the pressure of polar sea ice, as well.

She was refitted as a polar exploration vessel in the mid-1830’s.

Her first polar expedition was to find a passage from Hudson’s Bay into the Polar Sea by finding out if the Boothia Peninsula was an island or a peninsula. She set off, in 1836, under the command of Captain George Back.

She became trapped in ice from August, 1836,  until the following July. She was “nipped” by the ice several times and, when she was freed, in July 1837, she was severely damaged and leaking badly.

Captain Back decided to head back to Stromness, Orkney Islands, but the leaks became so bad that they had to head to the nearest harbour, Lough Swilly. They arrived off Lough Swilly, at 1400 on 03 September, but could not attract a pilot so they sailed her on into the Lough and anchored around midnight.

On the next day they received help from Royal Navy personnel ashore and from the crew of the Revenue Cutter, HMS “Wickham”. 7 of the crew were landed to be treated by Doctor Evans, in Buncrana. A ship was sent to bring them to Devonport when they were sufficiently recovered.

 In spite of all their efforts the ship was sinking by the head, so it was decided to beach her on a small, sandy beach nearby. She was beached at Rathmullan on 21 September.

At low water it was discovered that 20 feet of the keel and 10 feet of the sternpost had been driven more than 3 feet off centre, leaving a gash to allow the sea to run into the ship. The forefoot had also been sheared off and many bolts had been pulled or broken. The whole ship’s frame had been twisted and distorted. That she had survived was a testament to her original construction.

The Admiralty was advised, and the steamer “Columbia” was sent from Devonport with a team of shipwrights and repair materials. Temporary repairs were completed by 18 October and “Terror” was escorted by “Columbia” back to Devonport. She was finally drydocked in Chatham.

Correspondence describing the repairs and the crew’s sojourn in Rathmullan are held in the Royal Museum, Greenwich, collection.

In 1839 “Terror” was sent South, with her sister ship, HMS “Erebus” on the Ross expedition which spent 3 years surveying the seas around Antarctica. “Terror” was under the command of Captain Francis Crozier, from Banbridge, County Down.

On return from the Ross expedition, “Terror” and “Erebus” underwent a refit in preparation for taking part in the Franklin Expedition to find the Nort West Passage, from the Atlantic to the Pacific.

They were fitted with screw propellors and steam engines from railway locomotives and became the Royal Navy’s first steamships.

The Franklin Expedition sailed from Greenhithe, Kent, on 19 May 1845. “Terror” and “Erebus” were still under the command of Captain Crozier.

The ships were last seen entering Baffin Bay in August 1845. They were never seen again, until a Parks Canada research team found the wreck of “Erebus” on 7 September 2014.

On 12 September 2016, a team from the Arctic Research Foundation discovered the wreck of HMS “Terror” on the Southern coast of King William Island, in the middle of Terror Bay, a long way from Rathmullan strand