Tuesday, 8 August 2017

EREBUS AND TERROR TOGETHER AGAIN

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.  


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  2. Ship modeler, humbling as you say, but utterly fantastic for us here at home to see your model so prominently displayed ! I am so happy for you that you get recognition in a public venue for your very fine work. Like I said, I can't wait until you finish .

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  4. Sylvia McClintock Wright20 August 2017 at 09:53

    Ship Modeller, CONGRATULATIONS!! You deserve every iota of praise that we can throw at you. I will keep a special eye out for your wondrous model when I revisit later on this year.

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