Friday 12 September 2014

Windlass and Cathead

The thrilling news of the discovery of the remains of one of Franklin's ships has left everyone wanting to know the answer to one question: is it Sir John Franklin's HMS Erebus or Francis Crozier's HMS Terror?

Windlass and cathead of HMS Terror (top) and HMS Erebus (bottom),
From Chris Ware's "The Bomb Vessel: Shore Bombardment Ships of the Age of Sail".

As I mentioned in an earlier post, Erebus (launched 1826) had been built with many more iron components than had been used for Terror's construction a decade earlier. This difference is noticable in the case of the knees (shaded blue) which reinforce the windlass and cathead (shaded red).

Terror surely gained a good deal of  additional iron reinforcement during her various refits but it seems reasonable that if a wooden component was still doing its job then it wouldn't have been replaced without good reason. For very sound reasons Parry had ruled that Arctic ships should be identically equipped but I think it would be stretching that doctrine too far to extend it to structural components such as these.

Just possibly these small details may play a role in restoring a name to this currently anonymous victim of the Franklin tragedy.


  1. Peter, great post as always. It does seem, from the images they've shared so far, more likely to by HMS Terror but hopefully in the dives yesterday and today they've managed to identify some of these tell-tale components!

  2. Wonderful post Peter, with excellent graphics. You know my thoughts on this, but hopefully the archaeology will answer the question: Did the 1839 plans show the precise fittings for both the Erebus and Terror or only the major upgrades? Perhaps the complete refit of the Investigator to the 1839 standards of iron reinforcement provides a partial answer. Very excited to see what Parks comes up with!

  3. When are we going to find out? I want to know!! Also I read they're thinking about not even raising the ship. They might just let it rest down there forever. That seems so horrible. why bother finding it if you're not going to raise the ship!?

  4. I'm playing the ships carpenter on HMS Erebus John Weekes in the new AMC series 'The Terror' and I love all of the info you have shared! It really helps when trying to build a character :)


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