Saturday, 21 April 2018


Those of you who follow me on social media may have noticed some cryptic Tweets and Instagram posts hinting that I would announce something "exciting" very soon. It is my great pleasure to reveal that OcCre, makers of fine ship model kits, has created the world’s first HMS Terror model kit, and it is based on my research, plans, and designs. 

OcCre's HMS Terror model is fully rigged and can be painted to match
Terror's original colour scheme

It is a beautiful fully-rigged model, and includes all the fittings and features that made Terror the world’s greatest polar exploration vessel.  You will find Captain Phillip’s Patent Capstan, her unique companionways, Masseys patent pumps, the retractable propellerher special stern lights, and her sturdy ship’s wheel. Included are three ship's boats,  the various flues for her locomotive engine, furnace, and stove, her iron bow plating, and all the rigging necessary to show her under a glorious full press of sail. The kit even includes the compass table where Crozier commanded the vessel!

Details of the model's quarterdeck/stern. Skylights, companionways, the wheel,
and even the compass table are all accurately represented. 

The unique diagonal planking characteristic of Terror's upper deck, and the
 Preston patent illuminators are all represented in fine detail. 

Some small alternations were made by OcCre to increase the ease of building the model, but, at 1:65 scale, it’s a remarkably detailed model, and highly accurate to her 1845 configuration. Full colour instructions will take the model builder through the process step-by-step; hobbyists of all skill levels will have no problem building this kit.

I have always hoped that I would one day assist a ship model company in making an accurate model of HMS Terror. That a company like OcCre has created such a model from my designs is a dream come true. Terror has long deserved the honour of having a fine model kit in her name; it’s a very elite club, especially for a Royal Navy exploration vessel.

You can build the kit using a natural wood finish,
which closely mimics qualities of my 1:48 scale model.

My 1:48 scale model for comparison. Photo Credit: Stephen Darby. 

OcCre's model uses high-quality woods which mimic the wood choices made for my scratch-built model. 

To celebrate this milestone in Terror’s career, I am giving away one of OcCre’s Terror kits. The contest is simple. Find my Twitter or Instagram accounts and 1) Like, and, 2) Comment on the post about this kit. It’s as simple as that. I will choose a winner randomly on April 27th, and will announce it on my social media accounts (i.e. you’ll have to follow me to know if you won).  If you don’t contact me within 24 hours after I announce a winner, a new winner will be announced.


If you just can’t wait to build your very own model of HMS Terror, please visit OcCre’s website, where you can order it for only € 99.95. For such a detailed and accurate kit, which involved so much historical research, it’s a sincere bargain. Also, check out OcCre's Facebook page to see more about the development of the kit. 

UPDATE!: The model is now available for sale in North America from Ages of Sail!

UPDATE 2! The model is now available directly from the UK, from Always Hobbies and it's even a little cheaper!

Wednesday, 3 January 2018


HMS Terror makes you work for the time you spend with her. Part 1 of this post detailed how the planking of my model became a race against the opening date of the Death in the Ice Exhibition, where it has been on display for the past six months. “Below decks,” in my small basement workshop, where I spent night after night fretting about the future of my little model, I admit to acquiring a dim simpatico with the men who lived and worked on HMS Terror. As I have described previously, the distinct and intricate nature of Terror’s hull planking was something I had intended to replicate from the very beginning of my build. However, duplicating its complexities to scale, which required a fully doubled-hull, with the second layer composed of unusually thick planks, and on an extreme deadline, was folly that ultimately led to an eight-month modeling marathon.

In Part 1, I described how I replicated Terror’s double-planked hull, where the vast majority of my effort was expended. In this post, I will outline the planking of her upper deck, the transom, and the ice channel that surrounded the ship.

The contract for Terror’s sister ship, Beelzebub, (1) describes that her original upper deck (1813) was clad with fore-aft laid planks three inches thick, while two and one-half inch planks covered  her quarterdeck and forecastle.  In 1836, Terror’s forecastle and quarterdeck were unified to create a new weather deck (upper deck), which was re-clad in new planks and then doubled to increase strength. Rice, the Master Shipwright who was so often associated with polar conversions of the era, described the unique qualities of this new deck (2).  

“The central planks of the weather deck are six inches thick, laid fore and aft; the remainder of the deck is wrought double; the lower planks, three inches thick, are laid fore and aft; the upper planks, three inches thick, diagonally, having fearnaught dipped in hot tallow laid between the two surfaces”

The first step in planking the upper deck involved adding the waterway, a plank which acted as a transition
plank between the horizontal deck planking and vertical bulwark planking. Luckily, on Erebus and Terror
this was simply a beveled affair. Note the interior view of the stern lights. You can see here how
I sanded the interior surface of the panes to simulate frost (and hide the interior). 

Clamping the waterway at the bow - I always over clamp and over glue. Note the bow filling blocks.

As described by Rice, and as shown in the midship cross section plan (3), the upper deck of HMS Terror was very unusual. Eleven massive central strakes were laid fore and aft, providing significant rigidity. The central seven strakes were made from “fir”, likely Canadian pine, and were six inches thick and nine inches wide. These central stakes were flanked on each side by two strakes of six-inch oak, each ten inches wide. Contiguous with the central strakes were two layers of three-inch fir which covered the remaining deck area. As described by Rice, above, the lowermost layer was laid fore and aft, like traditional deck planking, but the uppermost layer was laid diagonally to increase strength. The width of these planks is not shown in any of the contemporary plans. Scribing marks on the 1839 HMS Erebus model indicate a width between ca. six and eight inches. Recently a pine plank fragment was discovered at the Canadian Museum of History which may be a deck plank; this measured three inches by seven inches.  As a result, I have chosen seven-inch planks to represent the upper layer of deck planking.

Upper deck planking began by laying the "king plank", or the midline strake. Note here that the upper deck wasn't
double-planked. I had always intended to single-plank the upper deck, as holly is a quite expensive raw material.
Here, the central strakes are just three scale inches thick, instead of six. 
After the careful spiling and slow progress on the hull, I looked forward to Terror’s upper deck, which was covered exclusively in straight, flat strakes. The central strakes, laid fore and aft, were a pleasure to complete. I expected the diagonal planking to proceed similarly, but soon realized that cutting the precise angles and lengths for each plank was not only meticulous, but extremely time consuming. Each plank had to be cut to a precise length, with angled butts that required very careful measurement.

The completed central planking. The odd and unsightly shift of butts is explained below. 
As I was laying out my planking plan, and comparing it to the contemporary sources, I gained some insight that could only be obtained through building a model. I had often puzzled why only a few butts (plank ends) are inscribed on the central strakes of the 1839 builder’s model of Erebus. This struck me as odd, because the model was carefully inscribed to show the details of the upper deck planking, and the butt ends of the central strakes were crucial to a strong design. I originally believed it must have been an oversight by the model maker, but in planking my model I came to understand that the 1839 model is very accurate. To put it simply, there were so many fittings on the upper deck of Terror and Erebus that the center-most strakes are constantly interrupted. Consequently, butts could fall naturally on hatches and companions, with no plank being greater than ca. 20 feet in length. Adding a shift pattern would have been unnecessary, and in fact would have weakened the vessels. 

The diagonal planking began at the bow. Each plank had to be carefully measured and cut to fit precisely. I wasn't always
as successful as I would have liked. To simulate caulking, each plank edge was rubbed with a standard pencil. Sanding
removed the glue and pencil marks, leaving a crisp edge. 

A closeup of the bow planking prior to sanding. 

The completed upper deck planking with various cutouts underway. Some sanding is still required.

My next task was to plank the continuous ice-channel, or “ice bumper,” perhaps the most identifiable feature on HMS Erebus and Terror. Since the time of Parry, polar discovery ships had chocked in and planked over their channels. The solid channels were necessary to prevent the chain plates, which anchored the mast shrouds, from being caught and destroyed on icebergs or by other ice conditions.  
In 1835, Terror’s ice channels were simply six large, unglamorous protuberances at the position of the chains. In 1839, Rice filled in the spaces between the individual ice channels to form a sort of smooth tapering bumper that surrounded the weather deck of the ship. As Rice described (Ross 1847:328):

“…The ship is fortified externally by solid chock channels, the spaces between the channels being similarly fitted, tapering at the extremities, so as to form an easy curvature in a fore and aft direction…”

Planking the ice channels began at the bow, which required soaking, heat bending, and crimping to create the proper shape.
After the first plank, I realized that sanding the upper strake down to the height of the chocks was easier, hence the
wider strake behind the first.  

Terror and Erebus had a white stripe painted along their ice channels. Here, I've simulated that colour shift with holly.
Holly provides a beautiful contrast to the Swiss pear of the hull. Note that the second planking below the wales
hasn't been installed in this photo. 

Planking continues. The arrows remind me which end is up while I'm installing the planks. The upper surface of the
planks often had to be beveled to provide a close fit. 
The completed ice channel at the bow. This image shows just how much the channel overhung the hull in this position.
Erebus and Terror had a third layer of planking at the bow which filled in this gap. The iron plating was attached to
the third layer of planking. 
The planking over the chocks was massive; six inch planks covered both the upper surface and sides, creating a “bumper” that extended approximately two feet from the side of the ship. The bolts which held the chain plates in place penetrated through the planking, chocks, and frames and were anchored on the interior of the vessel. This created an unbelievably strong arrangement, making the chain plates, and thus the shrouds they anchored, very unlikely to be damaged.  

Adding the upper horizontal plank on the ice channel required careful measurement of the curves. Here I used a contour
duplication gauge to transfer the curve to card stock.

Checking the accuracy of the measurement. 
Clamping the horizontal strakes in place. The midships section plan (3) shows that these were made from one extra
wide plank. More sanding is required here on the vertical surface to get the bow curvature just right.  
Macro photo of the transition from the ice channel to the hull planking.

The completed ice channel. Note the "bumpy" lower edge hasn't been sanded yet, and will ultimately be hidden
by the bow plating. 

Compared to the stern, planking the chock channels was a pleasure. The only tricky operation was the upper horizontal strake, which required special measurement to cut to the proper shape. Similarly, the large fashion piece, so prominent on Stanley’s contemporary images of Terror, was also challenging to implement as it had to be steamed and bent to accommodate the gentle curve from Terror’s topside planking to her wales.

The fashion piece was a large vertical plank that protected the butts of the transom. It
was a particular feature of Erebus and Terror, visible on many of Owen Stanley's
period sketches and paintings. On Erebus and Terror it was painted white, so I 
used holly to replicate it. This shot was taken prior to final sanding and finish. 

Terror's simplified transom. Without access to precise data on its arrangement, I kept it very simple. This picture was taken
before the double hull planking was completed. Note the doubled windows, which were characteristic of Polar discovery
ships since the time of Parry. 

Terror's final planking configuration. Mini-Crozier for scale. 
With the fashion piece installed, I completed the great planking of 2017. How the master shipwrights sheathed HMS Terror's complex curves with oak planks eight inches thick is remarkable to me. Believing that I could replicate their skill, even at 1/48th the size, was simply an absurd folly on my part. To meet the deadline of the exhibition, it was necessary that I work every spare moment I possessed for nearly eight months. An added injury was the necessity to cut corners on the lower layer of planking that has left me somewhat dissatisfied with my model. While I believe the result is very acceptable, the trial is something I’ve yet to recover from (and in fact is one of the reasons my blog has been so quiet over the last few months). 

While my endurance was tested, the ”great planking” imparted an appreciation for the complexities of Terror’s extreme construction, as well as for the skill of the master shipwrights and carpenters who designed and built her. Like all wooden sailing vessels, much of Terror’s strength came from her planking. That she survives intact today, after being subjected to perhaps the worst ice conditions ever suffered by a wooden sailing vessel, is a testament to the shipwright’s art.

My model will be part of the Death in the Ice exhibition until 2019. The exhibition's last day at the National Maritime Museum is January 7th, after which it moves to the Canadian Museum of History  and then Mystic Seaport: The Museum of America and the Sea.

1)     National Maritime Museum, ADT0010
2)     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. 
3)     National Maritime Museum, ZAZ5678

Sunday, 19 November 2017


Much of a wooden ship’s strength comes from its planking, which provides longitudinal stiffness while unifying the frame both outboard and inboard. It is no surprise, then, that special attention was paid to HMS Terror’s planking; originally, to protect her from the recoil of her massive mortars within, and later to protect her from the immense force of polar ice without. These combined pressures resulted in the construction of perhaps the toughest wooden sailing vessel the world has ever seen. She was, in her way, the pinnacle of the wooden shipwright’s art - embodied in a squat, slab-sided bomb, with the lines and dull sailing qualities of a merchantman. How can you not love HMS Terror?

My reconstruction of Terror's 1845 planking plan. 

As a bomb vessel which needed to endure the punishing impact of her mortars, a concern for increased strength was apparent in Terror’s original planking plan. The dockyard contract for her sister ship, HMS Beelzebub (1), reveals that she was originally clad in four-inch thick oak planks, exceptional for a ship of her tonnage. English oak was used for planking her weatherworks (above the waterline) while English or Dantzic (Polish) oak was used below the waterline. Terror’s original wales were five and one-half inches thick, wrought “hook and butt” fashion, which is an interlocking design common only on warships (and bombs in particular) which greatly increased the strength of her hull. I initially believed that the second layer of planking would be wrought hook and butt fashion as well, but pictures released by Parks Canada of Erebus, and detailed images of Terror painted by Owen Stanley in 1836-1837, show that top and butt planking was employed on the second layer. How many strakes were wrought in this fashion hasn’t been reported by the archaeologists, but the very detailed paintings of Terror by Owen Stanley show two normal thick strakes below the chocks and the strakes below that wrought top and butt. This is the configuration I opted to replicate on my model.

The refit of HMS Terror for polar duty in 1835 followed a reinforcement plan that had been well-established from the time of William Edward Parry. Like HMS Fury and Hecla, Terror’s forecastle and quarter deck were joined to form a continuous upper deck, thereby greatly increasing the enclosed space below. Some minor improvements to this planking system (described in Part 2) were applied to Terror (and then Erebus) for James Clark Ross’ Antarctic expedition in 1839. These modifications were carefully described by Rice, the master shipwright who outfitted both ships for the Antarctic (2):

” the side is doubled with six-inch oak plank under the channel, increasing to eight-inch at the wale, which is three feet broad; from thence, through a space of five feet, the doubling diminishes to three inches in thickness, of English elm, and the remainder of the bottom to the keel is doubled with three-inch Canada elm….”

Midship Section Plan for Erebus and Terror. 
National Maritime Museum, ZAZ5678
Copyright: CC BY-NC-SA

Beelzebub’s contract (1) indicates that Terror was planked with a three-plank shift (meaning that on each frame, three planks occurred between each plank butt, or plank end), which appears to have also been used on the subsequent second layer of planking (at least on Erebus). We don’t know how many strakes were used on Terror’s hull, but the 1839 Erebus cross section plan (3) indicates that 34 strakes (plus the garboard strake) were used on both the outer and inner layers below the chock channels.

Lang’s 1845 stern modification plan (4) provides crucial details on the planking configuration used for the modified stern. In addition to the general planking run, it reveals that the hull planks averaged between 9.5 and 10 inches in width, and that the garboard strake was unusually broad, about twice the width of the bottom planks. Because of the extra-wide garboard strake, and the smaller overall dimensions of Terror, I estimated that Terror was planked with 30 strakes plus the wide garboard (assuming each strake was 9.5 to 10 inches in width).

1845 Stern Profile form Erebus and Terror. Note the planking detail.
National Maritime Museum, ZAZ5683 
Copyright: CC BY-NC-SA

I made two fundamental mistakes when planning to plank Terror’s hull in 2013. The first of these was deciding to double-plank her hull, just like the real ship. I began planking my model in the fall of 2016. In a previous blog post, I showed how I planked Terror’s topside weatherworks above the chocks. I followed a similar methodology for the hull, but rather than edge-bending planks, I had to carefully spile them (a technique used by actual shipwrights to calculate, then cut, the precise curve and run of a plank), as this was necessary to plank the bluffer parts of Terror’s bow.

The first strake added to the hull. For fellow ship modelers: the white line was my first inadequate
 attempt to line off the bottom of the wales. I fixed the run shortly after this picture was taken. 

The first strake at the bow. This image reveals how bluff Terror was just above the waterline.
Again, this was taken before I adjusted the reference line on the hull. 

Spiling greatly slowed my progress, and I was only able to complete one or two strakes in an evening. With 120 strakes necessary for both layers of hull planking, not including the ice chocks, stern, and upper deck, I rapidly realized that I was facing a crisis. The deadline to deliver my model for the Death in the Ice exhibition was in June of 2017, and it quickly became apparent that I would not make that deadline if I did not increase my output. Thus, I began the great planking of 2017.

It began with a compromise. To speed up the first layer of planking, I decided to double the width of each of the lower hull strakes and to not follow the stated plank shift pattern (which requires more cutting). While this layer will never be visible, I regret not having completed it to scale; in addition, not having a photograph of Terror’s original planking configuration remains a sincere source of dissatisfaction for me.  

My second mistake was to plank the second layer of my model using accurate scale plank thicknesses. Some of the planks on Terror’s wales are 8 inches thick, representing a daunting task at 1:48th scale. While the three and four-inch scale planks could easily be bent with a crimping tool and some heat from a blow dryer, this technique simply would not work on planks thicker than five scale inches. Every thick plank had to be soaked in near-boiling water for 20 minutes, carefully crimped with a plank bender, and then pressed into shape using a bending iron and a curved jig. On top of that, each plank had to be carefully spiled before bending, and the distortion caused by swelling wood and heat treatment caused no end of difficulty. An added complication was that the thickest strakes, at the wales, had to be laid top and butt fashion, which further complicated the spiling process.

The second layer of planking in progress. You can see here where I made the decision to
widen each strake on the first layer (about January 2017).

Detail showing the transition to 8" strakes at wales. The upper two 8" stakes were sanded 
to provide a smooth run to the 6" planks above them.    

The third strake of  8" top and butt planking at the bow.Notice the
 drop strake below it in the first layer of planking. 

Top and butt planking in progress. The tape protects
the wood at the stern and bow during planking.

Detail of the completed top and butt planking. 

Adding the absurdly wide garboard strake on the second layer. 

Close up of the garboard strake at midships. According to contemporary plans,
the garboard strake of the second layer was not rabbeted into the keel.
Interestingly, it was on later polar vessels, like HMS Investigator. 

The final garboard planks at the stern, after bending them into shape. 

Bottom planking in progress. This photo shows how I lined off the second layer of planking. 

The most difficult part of the hull planking occurred with the stern. The first layer of planking was relatively simple as it abutted the rabbet on the original stern post (hence this layer was planked like every other ship). However, Lang’s conversion of Erebus and Terror to steam locomotion required that the second layer of planking form the walls of the propeller well (4). This meant that the second layer extended over the original stern post and propeller well and was rabbeted into the new rudder post. I’ve known for some time what shape this configuration would take, but implementing it required a lot of trial and error, despite Lang’s detailed plans and a block model (5) for guidance. The most difficult chore was bending and spilling the planks into the proper shape, especially the strake forming the lower margin of the well. It also required the use of two “stealers” to accommodate the increased area of the stern. However, once installed, I’m convinced the model respects Lang’s design, the 1845 block model, and the practical reality faced by the shipwrights who had to plank this unusual ship.

I use masking tape to make spiling templates. This shows the extreme shape of the
first stern plank above the propeller opening at the stern. Lang didn't make the
shipwright's task easy!

The resulting pearwood plank. 

To achieve the complex bend in the plank, I soaked it in hot
water, then clamped it in place until it dried.

One of the stealer planks in the stern, after it had been bent to shape. 

Terror's unusual stern, prior to sanding and finish. Oliver Lang designed only one stealer
in this area , but I found it impossible to plank without a second.  I'll discuss the
planking of the transom and chock channel in Part 2.

The completed second layer at the bow. Note the drop planks below the wales.
On the finished model this is completely covered by a third layer of wood
and "iron" plating. I didn't need to spend such care at the bow, but a
modeler can only accept so much compromise. I'll discuss the
planking of the chock channel "ice bumper" in Part 2.

The completed planking prior to sanding, bow plating, and finish. I'll discuss the
planking of the chock channel "ice bumper" in Part 2

Part 2 of my post details the planking of Terror’s chock channels (or “ice bumper”), her transom, and her upper deck. Stay tuned!


(1) National Maritime Museum, ADT0010
(2)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. 
(3)National Maritime Museum, ZAZ5678
(4)National Maritime Museum, ZAZ5683
(5)National Maritime Museum, SLR2253

Tuesday, 8 August 2017


In my last post, I revealed that my Terror model would be displayed in the “Death in the Ice”
exhibition, now showing at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich. On July 13th, I was fortunate to see the exhibition at a private event for experts, dignitaries, and those who had contributed knowledge or items to the exhibition. I was very impressed by the show, which provides a detailed review of the history of the expedition and tracks the fascinating trail of clues recovered by myriad Franklin searchers, culminating in the identification of HMS Erebus and Terror by Parks Canada. 

Accompanying the exhibition is a beautiful display of 129 flags, one for each crew member of the Franklin Expedition.
The flags for Franklin and Crozier can be seen in the front row.

My model is placed relatively early in the show, in a section detailing the construction and outfitting of the expedition’s ships. Remarkably, it is surrounded by some of the greatest art and technical plans associated with Erebus and Terror.  

The case containing my model. On the left is the original 1839 Admiralty builder's
model of HMS Erebus; my Terror is on the right.  A large scale reproduction of the
1839 cross section plan for Terror and Erebus is placed at the back of the case. 

In my previous post, I outlined that my model is not yet complete because I intentionally paused construction for the show. Currently, my Terror is a slightly more detailed version of a “builder’s model,” and is missing many fittings. The reason for this can now be revealed; my Terror is displayed in the same case as the original 1839 Admiralty builder’s model of Erebus. The exhibition team wished to show the differences in size between the two ships and, in particular, the new fittings installed for the 1845 polar expedition when compared to the 1839 configuration. For this reason, they requested that Terror approach the same level of detail as the 1839 builder’s model.

A view from their bows . 

I admit a degree of anxiety came with this great opportunity. My version of Terror is modeled at the standard 1:48 Admiralty scale, the same as the builder’s model of Erebus. However, my plans are custom hybrids created by concatenating details from multiple plans spanning a 33-year period, with additional alterations based on contemporary historical sources. I had measured, scaled, remeasured, and measured again to ensure the scale and dimensions were correct, but I still worried that something was amiss.  I had nightmares that museum staff would open the packing crate only to find that my Terror was larger than Erebus, or had the wrong bow shape, or some other fatal flaw.

I’m happy to say that my Terror appears to have just the right proportions, with all the necessary similarities and differences to Erebus. It is slightly smaller than Erebus in length, height, and breadth, but with nearly identical curves and lines, and with the characteristic difference in bow shape. In short, all appears as it should be.

A view from the stern. 

It is sincerely humbling to have my Terror displayed next to the 178-year-old model of Erebus. The list of famous Royal Navy explorers and shipwrights who studied and touched this object is astonishing; a very truncated list includes Sir James Clark Ross, Francis Crozier, Sir John Franklin, Sir John Ross, Sir Edward Belcher, Sir William Parry, Oliver Lang, John Rice, and Sir John Barrow. Sir Ernest Shackleton and Robert Falcon Scott are also thought to have consulted the plans and models of Erebus and Terror before outfitting their ships for the Antarctic. I’m frankly overwhelmed that my model is now breathing the same air as this incredible object of history.