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HMS Terror by E&T - Scale 1:48, POB, as fitted for polar service in 1845 - Finished

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On this day, two hundred years ago, HMS Terror was launched in Topsham, Devon. The Terror was originally built as a bomb vessel and saw noteworthy action during the War of 1812. However, her destiny lay in exploring the ice pack at both ends of the earth, and she was arguably the most successful polar vessel ever constructed by the Royal Navy.


HMS Terror during her passage home, 1837 © National Maritime Museum Collections


With their exceptionally strong frames, bluff bows, shallow draft, and spacious holds, bomb ships were ideal vessels for conversion to polar exploration. Nearly wrecked several times, the diminutive, but sturdy, Terror withstood more punishment from the natural environment than any Navy vessel of the era. When she was finally abandoned in 1848, after three years locked in grinding pack ice (during some of the worst Arctic winters on record), evidence suggests she was still afloat. Her wreck, and that of her sister ship, HMS Erebus, has never been found. The story surrounding their abandonment remains one of the world’s great historical mysteries.


This log will document my project to scratch build an accurate 1:48th scale plank on bulkhead model of HMS Terror, as fitted for her final 1845 voyage. To my knowledge, no complete models, or plans, exist of the Terror as fitted in 1845; this log will document the process of creating both accurate plans and an accurate scale model. As you will see, both require detailed historical research.


Below are some images of a (rather crude) paper and card mock-up of the bulkhead arrangement I’ve created as a proof for an early draft of my plans. I expect it will take at least two years to build the model – maybe more.







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Many thanks for the kind words of encouragement. I often wonder what I should post in these logs - that is, what would be of interest to other modelers? Instead of worrying about it, I've decided to post what interests me, and hopefully my enthusiasm will carry everyone through the boring bits!

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(Part 1: 1813-1837)



Launched in 1813, HMS Terror was designed by Sir Henry Peake, one of the Royal Navy’s foremost shipwrights and designer of HMS Erebus (1826), with whom the Terror would be forever linked. HMS Terror was one of three Vesuvius Class bomb ships built in 1813 to the same specifications; her sister ships were HMS Vesuvius and HMS Beelzebub (sometimes spelled Belzebub). The Vesuvius Class bomb vessels mimicked the lines and storage capacity of merchant ships, permitting extended cruises without need of tenders to carry extra ordinance. The first plans for the Terror were shared between her and the Beelzebub, but were identical to those used for the Vesuvius.


J1426 - Lines and profile plan of 'Belzebub' (1813)




Under command of Captain John Sheridan, HMS Terror took part in the Battle of Baltimore, where she bombed Fort McHenry over the 13th and 14th of September, 1814. Her actions are immortalized in “The Star-Spangled Banner”; the “bombs bursting in air” actually came from the Terror and other British bomb vessels. 




An unexploded mortar bomb from Fort McHenry. This may have been one of the bombs lobbed by HMS Terror. Photo by Cowtools (Flickr creative commons)



Like all bomb vessels, the Terror spent long periods in “ordinary”, or storage. She was decommissioned from 1815 to 1828 and again from 1828 to 1836.  



After an extended period in ordinary, the Terror was recommissioned for service in the Mediterranean. Near Lisbon, Portugal, she was trapped on a lee shore in a violent hurricane and nearly wrecked. The damage she took would have broken up a less sturdy vessel, as a contemporary account indicates (Anonymous 1835:233):


“…the carpenter having made a careful examination of the hull,

reported that it was bilged upon both sides; that the fore foot,

keel, and stern post were knocked away, bulwarks leveled, and that

her back was completely broken; but still he thought it was possible

to patch up the damages if once she could be got afloat; and that,

moreover, from the extraordinary strength of the frame, he did not

despair of her standing another bumping…”


A testament to her sturdy construction, she survived and was refloated, repaired, and placed in ordinary upon her return to England. James Fitzjames, who perished with Franklin and the Terror many years later, participated in her salvage.



In 1835, the Terror and Erebus were quickly outfitted to resupply eleven whaling ships trapped in ice near Davis Strait, but the whalers escaped before the Terror and Erebus set to sea. In 1836 the Terror was further refitted for extended polar exploration and, under the command of George Back, spent the winter of 1836-1837 in severe ice conditions off Southampton Island. The ship was under such tremendous pressure from the ice that resin (“turpentine”) was squeezed from her timbers and her bolts “wept” (Back 1838:262). She was repeatedly thrown on her beam ends and eventually her sternpost was shattered - damage that would have been fatal in a less sturdy vessel. As Back (1837b:59) described in a letter to the Royal Geographic Society, the ship suffered greatly: 


“Feb. 18.-Early in the morning-thermometer at 33° below zero-a

disruption of the ice took place, and waves of ice thirty feet high were

rolled towards the ship, which complained much - the decks were

separated - the beams raised off the shelf-pieces - lashings and shores

used for supporters gave way - iron bolts partially drawn - and the whole

frame of the ship trembled so violently as to throw some of the men down.”


In a remarkable display of skill and nerve, Back sailed the Terror across the Atlantic, with as much as five feet of water pouring into her hold every hour. Her crew utterly exhausted from working the pumps, the Terror was beached in Lough Swilly, on the Irish coast. Conveniently, beaching the vessel allowed for full inspection of the damage, as Back described in his book on the voyage (1838:442):


“It was found at low water that upwards of twenty feet of the keel,

together with ten feet of the stern-post, were driven over more than three

feet and a half on one side, leaving a frightful opening astern for the free

ingress of water. The forefoot too was entirely gone, besides numerous

bolts either loosened or broken…”





HMS Terror's damaged stern, drawn by Lieutenant Smyth in Lough Swilly, August 1837.







1835       Narrative of the Wreck of H.M.S. Terror. United Service Journal and Naval and Military Magazine 1:229-236.


Back, George R.

1837       Letter to the Secretary of the Royal Geographical Society. The Metropolitan Magazine 20: 58-60.



Narrative of An Expedition in H.M.S. Terror, Undertaken with a View to Geographical Discovery on the Arctic Shores in the Year 1836-7. John Murray, London


For better images, please see my blog: http://buildingterror.blogspot.ca/

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(Part 2: 1839-1848)



Learning critical lessons from the Terror’s first voyage north, the admiralty extensively refitted both her and HMS Erebus for an ambitious four-year expedition to explore the Antarctic. Under the leadership of James Clark Ross, the Erebus was assigned as the command vessel, likely due to her slightly larger size. The well-experienced Francis Rawdon Moira Crozier, who had served under William Parry in three arctic expeditions, was assigned as captain of the Terror.



HMS Erebus and Terror under sail with Mount Erebus in the background (Ross 1847a).


The expedition was one of the last great voyages of exploration to be undertaken by sail, and was one of the Royal Navy’s greatest achievements in scientific and geographical discovery. The party collected vast data on biology, magnetism, and geology and discovered the Ross Sea, the Victoria Barrier (later renamed the Ross Ice Shelf), and Victoria Land. An active shield volcano on Ross Island was named after HMS Terror, along with a cove on Lord Auckland’s Island and a reef (on which she grounded) near the Kerguelen Islands.


Like her mission to the Arctic, the Terror sustained extensive damage during the voyage.  She twice rammed an ice floe in heavy weather and had the shackle of her bobstay sheared off, requiring dangerous repairs. In January 1842, the Erebus and Terror were unexpectedly trapped in ice and the Terror’s rudder was destroyed; Crozier was forced to utilize a spare rudder which was stored amidships. On March 13th the two ships collided in a severe gale; the Terror knocked off the Erebus’s bowsprit and became entangled in her masts and rigging (Ross 1847b:218). The ships repeatedly smashed against each and threatened to capsize until they were finally disentangled, but by this time both ships had lost many spars and the Erebus’ foretop mast had been carried away.



HMS Terror and Erebus collide in a gale, March 13th, 1842.


Compared to the Erebus, the Terror appears to have been a rather slow sailor, and Ross (1847a; 1847b) consistently described the need to reduce sail and wait for the Terror to catch up. Like the merchant ships they emulated, the Vesuvius class bomb vessels had difficulty carrying sail, probably due to an inability to stow adequate ballast (Ware 1994:67). In contrast, Hecla class bomb ships, like HMS Erebus, were based on a slightly improved design which appears to have (at least marginally) alleviated this problem (Ware 1994:67). Furthermore, the Terror was smaller than the Erebus by almost 50 tons (325 tons for Terror versus 372 for Erebus) but carried the same crew compliment (64) and provisions/stores (Ross 1847a:xix), and therefore may have been comparatively encumbered.



Eager to duplicate the success of the Antarctic voyage, the Terror and Erebus were assigned to Sir John Franklin on an expedition to navigate the Northwest Passage. The Erebus was again selected as the flag ship, with James Fitzjames as her captain, while Crozier was second in command of the expedition and captain of the Terror. Outfitting of the vessels began on February 8th, 1845 in Woolwich and after extensive modification and provisioning, the expedition left Greenhithe on May 19th of the same year.


The expedition required such a massive quantity of provisions (meant to last three years) that it was unsafe for the vessels to cross the Atlantic fully loaded. Instead, each carried two years provisions while a navy steam tender, the Barretto Junior, was used to ferry the remaining equipment across the ocean. The steam tugs HMS Rattler and HMS Blazer also accompanied the ships to Greenland, alternately towing the Barretto Junior, the Erebus, and the Terror (Cyriax 1997:57).



Owen Stanley, 1845, "Parting Company with the North Pole Squadron", National Library of Australia.



Owen Stanely, 1845, "Signal to Terror, opportunity for sending letters to England, 4 June 1845", National Library of Australia.


The “North Pole Squadron” encountered violent weather on the crossing, though the Terror and Erebus reportedly handled well and sustained no damage. The squadron arrived at a staging harbour at Whalefish Islands in Disco Bay, Greenland, on July 4th. Over the next week, stores and equipment were carefully transferred from the Barretto Junior to each vessel. In a melancholy letter to his best friend, James Clark Ross, Crozier described how overburdened the Terror was and his steps to lessen the load (Ross 1994:284):


“We got here on the morning of the fourth and have been busily employed ever since clearing and stowing away from transport. ‘Tis very tedious work from the small space we have to stow things. We have now a mean draft of 16 feet and all our provisions not yet on board. I sent home our largest cutter (and fill launch with patent fuel), 2 anchors and cables, iron waist davits and various things of weight as I think it better to have the provisions, come what may afterwards. “


Holds and decks crammed with stores, the Erebus and Terror set out from Greenland on July 12. The ships were last spotted moored to an iceberg at the edge of an ice barrier near Lancaster Sound by the British whaler Enterprise.  By the time they were abandoned on April 22nd, 1848, the Erebus and Terror had spent three years in the arctic, 588 days (19 months) of which of which saw the ships entirely beset in multiyear pack ice off the northern coast of King William Island.



The "Victory Point Record" tells of the abandonment of the ships (Wikimedia Commons).


The story of their abandonment, and the terrible tragedy which followed, remains one of the most compelling, but often inscrutable, historical mysteries of human exploration. I will not recount the final years of the vessels and the fate of their crews - it has been the subject of so much printed literature and digital speculation that my own account would be both insufficient and redundant. My interest with this log is of course with HMS Terror itself, which was the most advanced exploration vessel of her time.


Many have suggested the ships were the 19th Century equivalent of space shuttles; however, if one seeks to draw parallels, it is probably more useful to consider instead the entirety of the Royal Navy’s polar exploration program, whose technological advances, scientific achievements, and nationalist underpinnings were analogous to the NASA program of 1960’s and 1970's.



Cyriax, Richard, J.

 1997   Sir John Franklin's Last Arctic Expedition: The Franklin Expedition, A Chapter in the History of the Royal Navy. The Arctic Press, West Sussex.


Ross, Sir James Clark

1847a  A Voyage of Discovery and Research in the Southern and Antarctic Regions, During the Years 1839-1843: Volume I. John Murray, London.


1847b  A Voyage of Discovery and Research in the Southern and Antarctic Regions, During the Years 1839-1843: Volume II. John Murray, London.


Ross,  Maurice James

1994    Polar Pioneers: A Biography of John and James Clark Ross. McGill-Queen’s University Press, Montreal.


Ware, Chris.

1991    The Bomb Vessel: Shore Bombardment Ships of the Age of Sail. Naval Institute Press, Annapolis


Also on my blog! Please see: http://buildingterror.blogspot.ca/

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The plans I have created for HMS Terror incorporate data from all of the existing historic plans of HMS Terror (see my blog for details). Creating new plans started by tracing the 1812 profile and lines, which included details on keel, keelson, stem and stern architecture, as well as the half breadth, body plan, and sheer plans. However, the most critical data on the ship’s architecture were derived from the 1836 Terror plans, against which the half body and sheer plans had to be compared and modified. The 1845 annotations (in green ink) on the 1836 plans were also incorporated into my plans of the Terror.


As described above, the 1839 plans, despite their labels, depict HMS Erebus. However, the deck furniture, fittings, planking arrangement, and other details are critical because Sir Edward Parry’s system of identically outfitting fleets (see previous post) meant that the furniture and fittings depicted on Erebus were also used on the Terror. In my plans of the Terror the fittings and furniture are as depicted in the 1839 plans, but their relative position is based on the 1836 plans.


In my next post, when I reveal the inboard profile and deck plan, I will outline my rationale for the precise locations and configurations for most aspects of the ship’s architecture and fittings (including the locomotive engine).  


Here are my plans for the lines and outboard profile. These were created in Adobe Illustrator on and off over the past year, with the original plans scanned, layered over each other, traced by hand, and then modified and augmented based on historical research.



Please note: This plan has been updated - please consult my later posts.



Please check out my blog for a detailed description of the modifications to the Terror - with loads of images!


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As outlined in a previous post, HMS Terror, originally designed as a bomb ship, was extensively modified three times for separate polar expeditions. Like all bomb vessels, she was already  highly specialized, with an exceptionally strong frame built to withstand the punishing recoil of her two massive mortars, and a spacious hold for storing munitions (for an excellent discussion of the Terror’s original configuration, please consult Ware [1991]). To build an accurate model of the Terror as fitted for the 1845 expedition requires concatenating design information from all of the plans as well as data from other historical sources. The plans discussed here are preserved at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, and copies are available for purchase from their online image library. Detailed images of the plans are also presented in Ware (1991).
1812 Sheets
A full set of plans “as designed” and dated March 30th, 1812, exist for HMS Terror; these are shared with her identical sister ship HMS Beelzebub. It is important to note that HMS Vesuvius plans are virtually indistinguishable and the two sets only differ in minor details (for example the scarph joints on the keel are not depicted in the Vesuvius plans). HMS Terror was so extensively modified that its final 1845 form bore little outward resemblance to her original design. The 1812 plans are critical, however, as they are the only drawings that depict her sheer, half breadth, and body plans, lines, framing configuration, keel and keelson construction, and stem and stern architecture.
1836 Sheets

HMS Terror’s first extensive modification began in 1835 and is outlined in a series of plans dated March 1836 (and later December 1837) which depict the inboard profile and all decks. The plans are extremely important because they illustrate the fundamental refit of the Terror - and thus represent her final overall size and shape of as she appeared in 1845. The plans also document some important innovations for polar exploration that would be adopted by all subsequent polar expeditions (for an excellent overview see Battersby and Carney 2011).

Perhaps the most extensive modification depicted in these documents was the creation a flush deck with two layers of thee inch planking to increase strength. Though not depicted on the plans, contemporary images by Owen Stanley reveal that the copper sheathing on the Terror’s hull below the waterline was removed as protection from shipworm was not needed in the freezing waters of the Arctic. In its place, a cross-shaped series of thick copper reinforcement plates were riveted to the bow to protect against ice damage.

The ship’s profile was modified significantly as well. The stern galleries were removed (to eliminate any projection that would catch the ice), and the stern, at the position of the upper and lower decks, was both lengthened and widened, presumably to provide more space on these decks. The bow was altered as well, with the keel simplified and the ship lengthened overall. It is uncertain if the cant frames were altered or if the bow was simply bolstered behind the new copper reinforcing plates (a strong likelihood), but the plans clearly depict a forward change in the overall frame position.

On the interior, the Terror’s bow was reinforced with solid oak chocks bolted to the stemson, forming a solid mass of wood ranging between 4 and 8 feet thick from the wale down to the keelson. In an effort to strengthen and streamline her contours against the grasping ice, each of her chock channels were individually filled in and planked over.  Thick iron plates were added to their upper surface, and the chains were replaced with solid iron plates bolted to the planked chocks. A spare rudder was suspended in a special well just behind the mainmast which penetrated from the upper deck down to the hold.

According to the inboard profile, the Terror’s mast positions were moved forward slightly and the rake of her masts, particularly the mizzenmast, appear to have been altered. It is uncertain when these modifications occurred, but they were probably done to improve the sailing qualities of the vessel (see previous post). In fact, they might have been undertaken during extensive repairs after the Terror was nearly wrecked in Portugal in 1828.

A cistern for melting ice was added to the ship’s stove, and 47 large iron storage tanks were added to the hold for water and other provisions. A novel addition was a hot water heating system fueled by a massive furnace in the orlop deck. The system functioned by pumping warm water through a complex series of pipes into the crew’s quarters on the lower deck. The furnace was an abject failure; it never worked as designed and George Back (1838) reported that it constantly had to be dismantled and repaired:



Perhaps the most overlooked innovation instituted during the 1835 refit was a system of watertight bulkheads designed to make the ship unsinkable. The concept of airtight chambers appears to have been the invention of Sir Robert Seppings and was first implemented by Sir Edward Belcher on HMS Aetna (Belcher 1870: 156).  As Belcher described, “the Terror was the model ship” for an entirely new coal-based bulkhead system and it was to be used by him in the abortive rescue of the stranded whalers in 1835 (see previous post). He describes the system thusly (Belcher 1870:156):




Though Back (1838) gave them no credit, the bulkheads undoubtedly helped keep the Terror afloat during her harrowing return journey across the Atlantic. As Belcher (1870:156) described:
The Naval authority must have agreed with Belcher, as the 1839 midships section and hold plan (see below) display that the bulkhead system was incorporated into the Erebus with little apparent modification. The 1839 midships section shows that the bulkheads were constructed contiguous with the frames in the hold and orlop decks and were lined with “two thickness of 1 ½ inch African [board] wrought diagonally across each other”. 


Back, George R.
1838    Narrative of an Expedition in H.M.S. Terror, Undertaken with a View to Geographical Discovery on the Arctic Shores in the Year 1836-7. John Murray, London. 

Battersby, William, and Carney, Peter
2011    Equipping HM Ships Erebus and Terror, 1845. International Journal for the History of Engineering & Technology 81(2):192-211.

Belcher, Sir Edward
1870     Admiral Belcher’s Remarks on Bulkheads. Transactions of the Institution of Naval Architects 11:155-156.

Ware, Chris.
1991     The Bomb Vessel: Shore Bombardment Ships of the Age of Sail. Naval Institute Press, Annapolis.
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1839 Sheets
The Terror was again extensively refitted for the 1839-1843 Ross Expedition. Some of these modifications, such as the change to a forced air heating system and the extension of a ring of solid chock channels around the entire ship, were obviously a direct result of lessons learned from the 1836/37 Back Expedition. However, many of the 1839 modifications resulted from a process of standardization with her sister hip, HMS Erebus. This was based on Sir Edward Parry’s longstanding policy of outfitting exploration fleets with identical equipment, the rationale being that one vessel’s fittings could be used to repair another in the case of catastrophe (Battersby and Carney 2011:203).  Rice, the shipwright in charge of the 1839 refit, provides an excellent description of the modifications done to the ships at this time, and it is worth noting here in its entirety (Ross 1847).






The 1839 plans illustrate the inboard profile and all decks, although the Terror’s modified lines are not represented. All sheets are labeled “Terror and Erebus”, reflecting both the similar design of the ships and the identical manner in which they were outfitted. Uniquely, the 1839 plans provide a midships cross section which depicts the planking configuration, the dimensions (thickens and widths) of the planks, and the position and construction of the watertight bulkheads, as well as other inboard details.

Comparing these plans to the Terror’s 1813 and 1836 configuration clearly indicates that the 1839 sheets depict the Erebus. By this time the ships were almost identical in length and had very similar lines, but the draught and breadth of the Erebus were still greater than the Terror and this is reflected in the inboard profile, midships section, and lower deck plans. Furthermore, the upper deck plans included dashed red lines depicting alternate positions of ship’s boats, labeled “Terror”, implying that the plans depict the Erebus. A noteworthy exception to this exists with the midships section; while the frames drawn match the contours and dimensions of the Erebus in breadth, the height/draught of the decks and bulwarks appear to be based on HMS Terror’s dimensions. It seems likely that this was an error on the part of the draughtsperson, who must have been working from multiple reference sheets depicting multiple vessels.

The 1839 modifications included a series of diagonal iron riders bolted to the frames in the midsection, with iron crutches and sleepers at the bow and stern to increase strength. Fewer, but larger, iron storage tanks were placed in the hold (reduced from 47 to 22), though the available historical record is mute on the rationale for this change. The unreliable hot water heating system was replaced with a much larger and more reliable “Sylverster’s Patent” hot air heating system, which would remain onboard for the subsequent 1845 voyage (Battersby and Carney 2011:200). Finally, the copper bow sheeting was also extended along the side of the ship below the solid chock channels.

It is important to reiterate that the 1839 plans introduce a critical fact; despite proportional differences in size, the ships were fitted-out in an identical fashion. Indeed, contemporary accounts outline the similarity of vessels (Anonymous 1839:405).





Besides the unseen internal framing and architecture, the only significant difference between the Terror and Erebus was one of proportion; reflected in the alternate positions of fittings and furniture, such as hatchways, masts, capstans pumps, etc. to account for the difference in size of the vessels. This has obvious implications for model building, as it implies that the 1839 plans, though based on the flagship Erebus, are likely to be largely applicable to the Terror. 



1839   The Antarctic Expedition. Gentleman’s Magazine 12:405-407.

Battersby, William, and Carney, Peter
2011    Equipping HM Ships Erebus and Terror, 1845. International Journal for the History of Engineering & Technology 81(2):192-211.

Ross, Sir James Clark
1847    A Voyage of Discovery and Research in the Southern and Antarctic Regions, During the Years 1839-1843: Volume I. John Murray, London.
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1845 Sheets

The ships were again extensively refitted in 1845 to convert them to auxiliary steam propulsion, a modification deemed necessary to save precious time during the ice-free season “providing the wind should prove contrary or a dead calm”.  An excellent plan of the stern modifications exists (from which the preceding quote was drawn), which displays the complete redesign of the Terror’s stern. These exact plans are reproduced in green ink on the 1836 plans of HMS Terror, indicating that the ship was shortened at the position of the lower and upper decks, but the sternpost was moved aft to provide room from the new screw propeller. Above the screw propeller a massive well was constructed through which it could be easily shipped and unshipped. When the screw was not in use, the well was filled with a series of solid wood and metal chocks to add strength to the vessel’s stern.


The 1836 inboard profile of the Terror depicts that partitions on the orlop deck and in the hold were modified to accommodate the new propulsion system, which was an unmodified steam locomotive engine, anchored just aft of the mainmast. Much speculation has occurred about the type of engines utilized, but recent research by Peter Carney (see Battersby and Carney 2011:203) argues that the locomotive was the Croydon/Archimedes type, for which partial plans exist (Brees 1840). If these were the engines installed in the Terror and Erebus, they were an excellent choice, as they were known to be exceptionally reliable (Brees 1859:90):




Green-ink modifications to the 1836 inboard profile also display that the extensive copper plating was removed in favor of thicker iron plating which covered the entire bow and extended ca.  15 feet aft. The plans also indicate that the Terror’s bowsprit was raised by approximately 4.5 feet; the reason for this is unclear, but the Terror had a much shallower draught than the Erebus and given her sailing qualities, this modification was likely necessary. Further alternations to the partitions of the decks are depicted (in green ink) in both the 1836 and 1839 plans, the most significant of which appears to be the extension of the watertight bulkhead system forward, which must have resulted in a significant reduction in hold capacity.




OwenStanley, 1845, " Departure of H.M.S. Erebus and Terror for the North Pole,1845", courtesy National Library of Australia.





Battersby, William, and Carney, Peter

2011    Equipping HM Ships Erebus and Terror, 1845. International Journal for the History of Engineering & Technology 81(2):192-211.


Brees, S.C.

1840    Second Series of Railway Practice: A Collection of Working Plans and Practical Details of Construction in the Public Works of the Most Celebrated Engineers. John Williams, London. 


1859     Railway Practice: A Collection of Working Plans and Practical Details of Construction in the Public Works of the Most Celebrated Engineers. R. Griffin and Co., London.



As always, for better images please see my blog!

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A significant quantity of historic source material, including original Royal Navy plans, exploration accounts, news reports, and personal letters, sketches, and drawings exist which document the final 1845 configuration of HMS Terror. Creating an accurate plan for the ship requires carefully parsing these data and drawing inferences about the ship’s probable appearance. Below, I outline the rationale behind my reconstruction of major aspects of the Terror’s final 1845 design, as fitted. This is not an exhaustive account, and specific topics such as the locomotive engines, funnel and chimney sizes and positions, propellers, cipher and name, and paint scheme will be discussed in later posts.

Bow/Stern Shape:
As described previously, the 1839 plans depict HMS Erebus, and therefore the 1836 profile must provide the basis for the bow design of the Terror, which is substantially different from the 1813 profile. It is uncertain if the 1836 refit resulted in modification of the cant frames, but Rice (Ross 1847a) appears to indicate that bolsters were added to the exterior of the frames to change the line of the bow.


In my plans, the stern configuration and framing is exactly as depicted in the 1845 annotations (in green ink) of the 1836 profile, which were made to accommodate the auxiliary screw propeller.

Keel, False Keel, and Stem:
The position and configuration of the keel is based on the 1813 inboard profile. The stempost configuration is based in the 1836 inboard profile, but lengthened slightly to accommodate the new position of the bowsprit as shown in the 1845 alterations (in green ink). I should note that a faint pencil modification in the 1813 inboard profile of  HMS Vesuvius also appears to depict the outline of the stempost as drawn in the 1836 Terror profile. The scarph joints on the stempost are based on the 1813 profile, or based on standard designs for the era (e.g. Goodwin 1987:29).

Keelson and Stemson:
The keelson and stemson designs are based on the 1813 profile, but with alterations at the stern to be consistent with the 1845 annotation (in green ink) of the 1836 inboard profile. The bolstering and riders added above the stemson are based on the 1836 inboard profile plans.

Deadwood, Rising Wood, and Knee:
The bow and stern deadwood configurations are not documented in any of the Admiralty plans. Interestingly, the 1813 plans indicate that HMS Terror utilized an older stemson design than the era in which it was built; therefore, the in my plans the deadwood configuration is based on a style in use ca. 1800 (Goodwin 1987:29). The rising wood configuration at the bow is based on the 1813 profile which is partially complete, with information drawn from standard styles utilized in the early 19th century (Goodwin 1987:29).The knee of the Terror was essentially removed (as discussed by Rice [Ross 1847a]), and was replaced with a highly reduced and simplified knee that projected only enough to support the bowsprit. The knee configuration in my plans is based on the 1836 profile, lengthened to support the new position of the bowsprit as depicted in the 1845 annotations on that plan. The joints for the knee (i.e. the configuration of the gripe and bobstay pieces) are based on standard conventions for the period (e.g. Goodwin 1987:37).

Rabbet Line:
Because of the lengthening of the bow and the reduction in the knee, the Terror’s rabbet line must have been highly unusual. The model of HMS Erebus at the National Maritime Museum indicates that the knee (much of which was covered in plating) was essentially flush with the hull planking at the bow. No rabbet is depicted in the 1836 plans of the Terror, so at the bow I based in on the on the thickness of planking as depicted in the 1839 midships section, with the goal of keeping the hull planking below the chock channels (and excluding the wale) flush with the knee. Closer to the keel, the rabbet line recedes until to meets the original rabbet line depicted in the 1813 profile. The rabbet on the keel is based on the line depicted in the 1813 profile. The rabbet at the stern was easily deduced from the 1845 plan of the modified stern, which clearly displays where the hull planking terminates.

Bow Plating:
The position and size of the iron bow plating are based on the 1845 annotation (in green ink) on the 1836 profile. This annotation indicates that iron plating was more extensive than the cross-shaped copper plating used for the 1836 Back Expedition, but did not extend along the waterline like the copper plating utilized for the Antarctic Expedition (depicted in the 1839 profile).

Deck Fittings:
All deck fittings for my plans are based on the 1839 inboard profile of the Terror and Erebus (see a previous post for the discussion of the Royal Navy’s policy of identically outfitting exploration vessels). As discussed previously, the 1839 plans depict the Erebus, so the positioning of the furniture, masts, and other deck fittings are based on the 1836 Terror profile. The position and size of the ship’s boats are based on the 1839 plans (Terror’s boat positions are depicted in red ink), with slight modifications to accommodate the different positions of deck fittings on HMS Terror.

Deck Placement and Wall Partitions:
The 1845 annotations (in green ink) of the 1836 Terror profile appear to contain errors. Specifically, the placement of the decks match the 1845 stern modification plans perfectly, but do not match the position of the decks in the 1836 inboard profile. However, the drawn position of the walls and deck partitions of the 1845 modifications (in green ink) do match the 1836 and 1813 plans precisely, or make logical accommodations for new equipment (e.g. the locomotive). This would suggest that the 1845 annotations based on the stern redesign were simply copied to the plans and not specifically adapted for HMS Terror. Thus, in my plans the position the wall partitions correspond with the 1845 annotations and unmodified 1836 plans, but the position of the decks are depicted as in the 1836 plans. The construction of the upper decks (doubling) corresponds to the 1839 and 1836 inboard profiles.

All the plans are inconsistent regarding the height of the Terror’s bulwarks. As described in a previous post, the 1839 Inboard profile is obviously meant to depict the Erebus (the bulwarks would be over ten feet high if placed in this position on the Terror). The 1845 annotations (in green ink) on the 1836 inboard profile likely reflect the proper position at the stern, but do not extend all the way to the bow and appear to be drawn at an inappropriate angle (possibly because it was directly copied from the 1845 stern modifications). To rectify this issue, I traced the cap rail of the 1836 plans and then raised it into position to match the stern location of the cap rail depicted in the 1845 modifications (in green ink). The bulwark lines were then extended at the bow to intersect this new cap rail position. Interestingly, this new position appears to match a pencil line marked on the plan of HMS Vesuvius. This, combined with the annotations to the stempost, strongly suggests that the pencil lines on HMS Vesuvius plans were meant to depict modifications to HMS Terror. This makes some sense; by 1845 the 1836 Terror profile was so densely annotated that that a new sheet may have been required (HMS Vesuvius was identical to HMS Terror and HMS Beelzebub).

The internal construction of the rudder is based on the 1836 profile, but its size, shape, position, and hardware are based on the 1845 stern plans and the corresponding annotations on the 1836 plans (in green ink).

Solid Chock Channels:
The 1836 plans for HMS Terror show a large gap, roughly amidships, in the solid chock channels, and this is confirmed by contemporary paintings by Owen Stanley. As described by Rice (Ross 1847a), in 1839'continuous solid chock channels were constructed on both Erebus and Terror and are shown in the 1839 profiles and deck plans representing both ships. All contemporary 1845 paintings/drawings of the Terror depict solid chock channels surrounding the ship; therefore, a solid chock channel consistent with the 1839 profile is utilized for my plans.

Mast Positions and Rake:
The mast position and rake are based on the 1836 inboard profile (which, as described previously, differs from the 1813 profile). Configurations of the mast steps and their method of attachment are based on the 1813 plans (mizzenmast) and 1836 plans (foremast and mainmast), but the taper of the masts (not depicted in either the 1813 of 1836 plans) is based on the 1839 plans.

HMS Terror was originally designed with five stern windows, and drawings by Own Stanley made during Back’s 1836 voyage indicate that each had six panes. However, the central window was removed during the 1845 refit to make room for the new propeller well and the new rudder position, a modification corroborated by the drawings of Stanely, Gore, and others.

Owen Stanley 1845 "Parting company with Terror, 4 June 1845", Courtesy National Library of Australia

An engraving of Franklin’s cabin published in 1845 by the Illustrated London News shows that the windows each had four large panes (probably double-paned) with very robust sills and muntins.

As the 1839 midships cross section indicates, the hull planks range in width from 8 inches on most areas of the hull to more than 10 inches (average) at the wales. This is corroborated by the 1845 stern plan which depicts hull planking averaging about 9 inches in width. However, it should be noted that the 1845 stern plan displays that the planks were carefully spiled with no drop planks, so it can be expected that plank widths would vary significantly beyond the average width. In my plans of HMS Terror, all hull planks aim for an average width of ca. 9 inches. The wale planks have a maximum width of ca. 14 inches at the touch, narrowing to ca. 7 inches at the butts. The wale planks are based on the hook and butt design used for bomb vessels as depicted by Goodwin (1989), a planking system which was also commonly used on polar exploration vessels and other sturdy craft (Ware 1991).

Goodwin, Peter
1987 The Construction and Fitting of the Sailing Man of War. Conway Maritime Press, London.

1989 The Bomb Vessel Granado 1742. Naval Institute Press, Annapolis.

Ross, Sir James Clark
1847 A Voyage of Discovery and Research in the Southern and Antarctic Regions, During the Years 1839-1843: Volume I. John Murray, London.

Ware, Chris.
1991 The Bomb Vessel: Shore Bombardment Ships of the Age of Sail. Naval Institute Press, Annapolis.

As always, for better images please see my blog!

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HMS Terror, 1845, Inboard profile (as Fitted)


My plans from the 1845 inboard profile of HMS Terror incorporate all of the information presented in my previous post (as well as information to be presented in subsequent posts). It represents nearly a year of research, and no doubt contains unknown errors. Despite the fact that my model won’t show any detail between decks (I intend to build a plank on bulkhead model), I felt the inboard profile would be incomplete without these details.


Please note: This plan has been updated - please consult my later posts.



As always, for better images please see my blog!

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The last technical plan required for HMS Terror is the upper deck, which I have finally completed.


Please note: This plan has been updated - please consult my later posts.


The original 1836 and 1839 deck plans for HMS Terror show the outlines of the ship with planking installed. Therefore, on my plans, I have included the outline of the frames as well as the planking to better facilitate construction. Like the original plans, the position of the solid chock channels accounts for tumblehome. Because the 1839 plans depict HMS Erebus, my plans are based on the 1836 upper deck plans for HMS Terror, but the deck furniture is the same type and style as depicted on the 1839 sheets (see previous posts for rationale). Similar to the profile plans, the position of the deck furniture is based on the 1836 sheets.


The most substantial modifications to the plans are at the stern - to accommodate the new position of the rudder and the well for the screw propeller. As a result, the central structure on the stern containing the cistern, color boxes, and water closet was removed from these plans (presumably these were moved to the position of one of the chicken coops). These modifications are also depicted in a contemporary image of the Erebus drawn by Owen Stanley, which shows two large structures on either side of the vessel at the stern.


The deck planking on the vessels was unusual and was not depicted in any contemporary plans. Rice (Ross 1847), the shipwright responsible for the refitting, described them in detail:




A contemporary model of HMS Erebus displays that the upper layer of deck planking angled outwards and forwards from the central planks towards the bulwarks. This style was also used for the upper deck of HMS Investigator, which searched for the Franklin vessels on two voyages between 1848-1853. Investigator’s upper deck plan shows that the planking was placed on an angle about 45 degrees from the centerline. On my plans, the width of the central planks is based on the 1839 midships cross section, but the width of outer planks is not described in any contemporary sources and required more research. Fortunately, an archaeologist at the Canadian Museum of Civilization, has recently identified a piece of 3 inch thick “fir” deck planking that she demonstrates is very likely to be from one of the vessels (if so it is the only piece of the ships known to currently exist). The plank is exactly 7 inches wide; therefore this is the dimension I use on my plans. 



Ross, Sir James Clark

1847    A Voyage of Discovery and Research in the Southern and Antarctic Regions, During the Years 1839-1843: Volume I. John Murray, London.


As always, please see my blog for better images.

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Thanks for the interesting comment, Druxey - I'm really interested in this topic. 


As you say, there are a number of plans with diagonal planking at the NMM, such as the Agincourt (1817)Britannia (1820), Hamadryad (1823), Cambridge (1815), and Unicorn (1824). These all seem to show planking that cants in towards the centerline when moving forward, not out from the centerline when moving forward. The only vessels I have seen with planking canting outwards are polar exploration vessels (e.g. Erebus, Terror, and Investigator). I know diagonal planking was meant to increase strength (so Seppings' involvement is a very intriguing proposition), and I'm wondering if the difference in cant is significant (i.e. did it provide even more strength than the reverse)?


Are you aware of any other vessels with planking that cants outwards from the centerline towards the bulwarks when moving forward?


Thanks again for the interesting comment!

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Dear E&T,


The draughts you mention are exactly the ones I was thinking of. Unfortunately, I know no more than you on that subject. Perhaps another reader might be knowledgeable about the point you raise.


Your research and drafting is very impressive. Looking forward to further installments!

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I have Chris Wares book on Bomb Vessels and have started re-reading it. Interesting thought on using these vessels for other types of programs ie: exploration as part of the construction and planing even before the builds


keep up the good work on the Terror. I will watch your build liog as you progress

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  • 3 weeks later...

Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been designing construction plans for my model (I hope to begin cutting wood next week). As I worked on individual stern components, I began to notice possible errors in my plans. Specifically, the original 1845 stern sheet (and the annotations on the 1836 sheet), on which my plans are based, only exist in profile and therefore don’t depicted all the necessary cross-sectional modifications to the stern that were required. The problem lies exclusively in the well that was constructed to ship and unship the auxiliary screw propeller. If the rudder post (also known as the “false sternpost” or “after sternpost”) was the same width as the sternpost depicted in Terror’s original 1813 plans, there simply would not be enough space for the propeller well positioned directly in front of it. I strongly suspected that the rudder post was thicker than I originally depicted in the body plan (and thicker than the keel), but there were no historical plans that confirmed this. Fortunately, an engineering model of the modified stern was produced for the Erebus and Terror ca. 1845.


As can be seen on the model, the upper part of the rudder post was indeed widened, apparently by adding two large bolsters on either side; it then tapered abruptly at the opening for the propeller (likely to prevent drag). The added width on the upper part of the rudder post provided the necessary space for the propeller well and I’ve now changed my body plan to reflect this. However, in scrutinizing the stern plans and annotations to solve the width problem, I also noticed some faint modifications that I missed in my initial tracing of the plans.


First, the opening for the propeller well apparently included two separate iron fittings which were bolted to the rudder post and the sternpost, respectively. Each fitting appears to have had a groove which accepted a smaller rectangular metal frame which held the propeller (e.g. Battersby and Carney 2011: 204; 208). Guided by the metal grooves, the propeller frame could be raised or lowered into position using standard ship’s tackle. A contemporary example of exactly this sort of removable propeller system is preserved in a model at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich (see here and here for similar designs).



My reconstruction of the propeller frame and chock system (profile and cross section).

The series of chocks were used to strengthen and protect the stern when the propeller was unshipped




The propeller frame as it would have been installed


Second, it appears that a unique u-shaped iron fitting, the same length as the propeller well, was used to secure the sternpost, keel, and rudder post to each other. Two or three large bolts secured a separate timber to each of the three faces of the fitting, effectively creating one solid structure. I suspect that this was a midline fitting which was protected and covered by a large fitted wooden chock, which itself was bolted to the surrounding wood, probably with as many as four bolts. Why this unique fitting was necessary has not been described in the historic literature, but is seems certain it was used to increase the strength of the sternpost near the keel (recall that Back’s voyage proved how vulnerable an unmodified stern could be to pack ice). How the ship’s stern timbers were attached to this structure is also not described, but it seems logical that the rudder post and sternpost would have been bolted to the two central stern timbers, with which the widened sternpost would have been contiguous. Contemporary models show that a sturdy rectangular frame enclosed similar contemporary propeller wells, and the sternpost and rudder post were also bolted to this frame.



The "U" shaped bracket and series of bolts used to attach the rudder post and sternpost to each other and the keel.




Battersby, William, and Carney, Peter

2011 Equipping HM Ships Erebus and Terror, 1845. International Journal for the History of Engineering & Technology 81(2):192-211.


As always, please see my blog for better images.

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As discussed in the previous post, here are the updated (hopefully complete?) plans for HMS Terror. Note that the Upper Deck Plan has been modified to include the accurate width of the propeller well, based on information gleaned from the engineer’s model. Also, I noticed that the model showed a narrow lip surrounding three sides of the well for the scuttle to rest on, so that has been included in the plans as well.




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