Tuesday 1 October 2013


Over the past several months I’ve received some great feedback on my research into HMS Terror from the model shipwrights on Model Ship World. However, before finalizing the construction sheets, I felt that that it was important to ask the opinion of some Franklin expedition historians.

A few weeks ago, I took the opportunity to contact two of the most knowledgeable experts on HMS Erebus and Terror, William Battersby and Peter Carney. Both maintain their own blogs and have published on the ships in peer-reviewed journals (Battersby and Carney 2011). Moreover, both are true gentlemen; they kindly took the time to read through my blog and offered some very useful advice on my plans.

Mr. Battersby suggested that I look again at a drawing from the Illustrated London News (ILN) which depicts Franklin’s cabin on HMS Erebus. He pointed out that there appears to be a cabin stove with a straight chimney on the extreme left of the image, which I did not include in my plans. The image seems reasonably accurate; the number and position of the windows and the shape and size of the stern lockers and superstructure matches the 1839 plans perfectly. As a result, I’ve modified my plans to include this stove; I based its dimensions and shape on what can be deduced from the image. The chimney for the stove is based on an 1839 image of a cabin stove available from the National Maritime Museum archive, and the height of the chimney is based on tables from Lavery (1987:291). Incidentally, the height of the chimneys for the ship’s stove and furnace are based on information in Lavery’s book as well.

Cabin stove and chimney detail.

Mr. Battersby also reminded me that a (very early) 1845 daguerreotype image of one Franklin’s officers, Lt. Henry le Vesconte, was taken on the deck of HMS Erebus. I’ve scrutinized it many times before and it’s a remarkable image which should be included in any blog about the ships. Le Vesconte is sitting on the starboard side of the Erebus (note the image is often shown backwards) next to the compass table in front of the mizzen mast. The photo confirms that the position and design of the skylight, mast, and wheel remain unchanged from the 1839 plans, and may also show part of a small deck house further aft on the starboard side (it appears to have a black door).

Mr. Carney also provided some extremely helpful insights. He pointed out that another image from the ILN shows two white deckhouses at the stern of both ships (note they also have black doors, just as in the Le Vesconte image). These were most likely water closets and signal lockers, and in my original plans I kept these quite low (almost the height of the bulwarks), based on an 1845 image of Erebus drawn by Owen Stanley. However the perspective used in his sketch probably foreshortens the height of the deckhouse and is not a reliable guide. 

Following the ILN image, I modified the deckhouses to be the same height and size as the single deck house shown in the 1839 plans. It is unknown if both were water closets or if one was a locker of some sort, so, in keeping with the original 1836 and 1839 plans, I am assuming that only one water closet was built for this voyage (only one water closet was used on Terror’s first two voyages, and the Terror had roughly the same crew compliment on all three polar voyages). I placed the water closet on the starboard side, following the suggestion of Battersby and Carney (2011:204) and based its design on the 1839 plans. I turned the other deckhouse into a locker for signal flags and other equipment and I admit its interior design is entirely speculative. Regardless, the model will have single black doors facing forward as is displayed on the ILN image (and which appears to be shown in the Le Vesconte daguerreotype). I should also note that both HMS Investigator and HMS Enterprise (1848 Franklin search vessels) shared many design similarities with the Franklin ships and both had twin deckhouses roughly the same size and shape as I have shown on my plans. In fact, both of their deck plans show the water closet on the starboard side of the vessel.

The new deckhouse profile, based on the 1839 plans.

Detail of stern water closet and signal lockers.

I should note that Peter Carney has also produced an excellent 3D model of James Fitzjames’ cabin, based on another contemporary image from the ILN. I did not include this structure in my plans as it was never depicted in any of the profile sheets (it is shown on the deck plans).  

Finally, I must point out that the daguerreotype discussed above isn’t the only one that might show part of the ships. William Battersby has provided some interesting analyses of reflections in James Fitzjames' cap, which reveals some interesting details of one of the ships. Russell Potter, another Franklin blogger, has also written some very interesting posts about the reflections in the highly polished caps of the Royal Navy officers, which show the rigging and perhaps the ship’s boats (compare the reflection in the cap to the position of the ship's elevated and upturned boats near the mizzen in my profile plans). 

*  Note: Rather than post yet another set of updated plans, I’ve simply updated the plans on a previous blog post. The images have begun to be indexed on search engines and I don’t want to create confusion!


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.

Lavery, Brian
1987    The Arming and Fitting of English Ships of War, 1600-1815. Conway Maritime Press, London.

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