Sir John Franklin’s ill-fated 19th century mission to discover the Northwest Passage across the North American continent has become a legend

The Spilsby-born explorer died in the Arctic with his 130 crew, and the wrecks of his two ships Erebus and Terror were only discovered in 2014 and 2016

The disastrous adventure, which at the time was as daring as space travel to Mars would be today, is shrouded in mystery

Various theories on how men perished include starvation, exposure and lead poisoning from canned foods

And there have been allegations that the crew members became so desperate that they resorted to cannibalism in the frozen nature of Canada

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Their story inspired Dan Simmons’ 2007 bestselling novel The Terror, which was turned into a 10-episode televised horror drama by AMC, which will air on BBC2 and iPlayer starting Wednesday, March 3.

Ridley Scott’s fictional drama inspired by real events is described as “a chilling story based on one of polar exploration’s deepest mysteries, with a crew stalked by a deadly presence”

Sue Deeks, BBC Program Acquisitions Manager, said: “The Terror is an atmospheric, character-driven drama, full of threats and forebodings, which will thrill and chill BBC viewers until to its icy ending”

The book and series take their name from HMS Terror, the ship commanded by Franklin’s deputy Francis Crozier while Franklin himself was aboard HMS Erebus

Franklin was born April 16, 1786 He was the half-cousin of Matthew Flinders, of Donington, Lincolnshire, the first to tour the Australian coast and give it his name

Franklin had joined the Royal Navy at just 14 years old and his exploits also included service in the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805 – a great victory over the French Navy

He made his first trip to the Arctic in 1818, and returned from 1819 to 1822 and again in 1825 to 1826 and was governor of what became Tasmania, Australia, from 1836 to 1843

His final mission was to find the Northwest Passage, a nautical shortcut across the North American continent, to stimulate British trade

Terror and Erebus were last seen by Europeans aboard two whalers in Lancaster Sound, West Greenland, July 26, 1845

They are believed to have toured Cornwallis Island that summer and wintered on Beechey Island, where three crew members died

After two years without a word on the mission, Franklin’s wife, Lady Jane Franklin, and others called on the Admiralty to send research expeditions

In 1853 John Rae, a surveyor with the Hudson’s Bay Company, heard Inuit testimony about the plight of men and possible cannibalism and he also purchased silverware from the expedition, including a plate with the inscription “Sir John Franklin, KCH”

Bodies of crew members were found on King William Island and modern era studies of cut marks on bones supported Rae’s cannibalism claims that shocked Victorian society

William Hobson, a lieutenant in the McClintock Arctic Expedition of 1859, found a note on the Admiralty paper dated May 1847 that said “All Well” and that three men were dead

A second note from April 1848 confirmed that Franklin died at the age of 61 on June 11, 1847, a total of 24 people had died, both ships were “abandoned” and there were 105 survivors

Erebus Captain James Fitzjames and Crozier took command of the expedition and the men headed for mainland Canada, but disappeared

According to Inuit testimony, HMS Terror flipped over onto its side by ice during the winter of 1846/7, and the men spent the winter aboard HMS Erebus

Inuit said men lived inside Erebus in the spring of 1849, who joined them in hunting caribou and seals between 1849 and 1850

They also reported seeing 40 men on King William Island pulling a boat on a sled, and the Erebus, finally free from the ice, sailing south with a handful of men on board

In addition, the Inuit, a very small group of European men hunted seals in 1851 or 1852 – who would have been the last survivors

The first person to navigate the Northwest Passage by boat was Norwegian explorer Roald Admundsen on a voyage that lasted from 1903 to 1906

He would also beat British explorer Robert Falcon Scott at the 34-day South Pole, arriving on December 14, 1911

The Terror

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