Monday, 1 September 2014

A VIEW FROM HMS TERROR’S LOWER DECK

Starboard cabin arrangement HMS Terror, 1845
(Note: cabin of Thomas Johnson open for debate).

In late May I began a new sub-project of my build - creating an accurate plan of HMS Terror’s lower deck. I thought the project would take a few weeks at most, but creating this plan turned out to be a three month ordeal requiring minute scrutiny of multiple plans and significant research on mid-19th century deck furniture and fittings. The task was made easier by Peter Carney and William Battersby who kindly assisted me with translating some annotations on the plans.  

The difficulty in this project stems from the multiple versions of plans for HMS Terror, some of which are heavily annotated. There are three versions of just the Terror’s lower deck plans, including: 1) the initial 1813 lower deck plan (ZAZ5616), 2)  the 1839 plan which shows both HMS Terror and Erebus, and 3) the 1836 plan, which was modified extensively in 1845 (ZAZ5676). In addition, critical information was gleaned from the 1839 midships section plan (ZAZ5678).

I began by tracing the 1836 plan, and spent nearly a month interpreting the faint 1845 annotations which outline changes to the position of the cabins and a system of hatches and scuttles to accommodate the new engine room in the hold. I then carefully added information on deck furniture from the 1839  plan, and structural details from the 1813 plans. Finally, I compared the new plans to the inboard profile plans I previously created to ensure the accuracy of both (this indicated that some changes were needed on the inboard profile plans). 

I also created a series of detailed elevation plans for the crew accommodations and various fittings, some of which I will post over the coming weeks. HMS Investigator plans were very useful in this regard, as they provide important details that are not shown on the Erebus and Terror plans.  Additionally, I found critical information on the appearance and construction of deck furniture from researching photos from HMS Unicorn, HMS Trincomalee, and HMS Warrior. 

Following research outlined in previous blog posts, I assume that most of HMS Terror’s 1845 fittings conformed to specifications outlined on the 1839 Terror and Erebus plans. Parry’s rationale for identically outfitting polar expeditions notwithstanding, I believe the Admiralty learned important lessons from the near- disastrous 1836 Back expedition (see a description of the damage to the ship here), and decided that critical structural improvements were necessary for all arctic bomb-discovery vessels. Thus, the 1839 plans are titled “Terror and Erebus as Fitted” because both ships were meant to be outfitted to precisely the same standards. These new systems proved themselves in the highly successful antarctic expedition, and by the time they sailed north in 1845, further improvements meant that both ships represented the state of the art in nautical science. 

While the project took far longer than anticipated, I greatly enjoyed producing these plans, as they provide insights into what the long winters in the ice were like for Crozier and his crew, nearly 170 years ago.  Indeed, the ability to put a name to a specific cabin was a moving revelation; for example, Lieutenant Irving's description  of the “dreadful puffings and screamings” of the locomotive engine (Bell 1881: 117) takes on new meaning when one realizes his cabin was almost directly above it! 

References:

Bell, Benjamin
1881 Lieut. John Irving, R.N. of H.M.S. "Terror" in Sir John Franklin's Last Expedition to the Arctic Regions: A Memorial Sketch With Letters. D. Douglas, Edinburgh.




Lower Deck, HMS Terror, 1845
(note the presence of the large central sail bin on Terror, needed to accommodate the
creation of the engine room in the orlop deck and hold).

Port cabin arrangement, HMS Terror, 1845
(Note: cabin of John Lane open for debate).


Captain's cabin, HMS Terror, 1845, facing aft
(note the panels covering the central propeller well and the central drawers below).


Lieutenant John Irving's cabin, facing port
(note the iron knee, bookshelves, and folding table).


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