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Haunting, suspenseful and based on true events, The Terror is the story of a perilous Arctic voyage. The Terror utilizes the failed expedition of Sir John Franklin to tell a terrifying story of survival. Not all of it is historically accurate though. Given that little is known about what actually happened with the expedition, the show obviously took many liberties with the events. However, it is also clear that a good deal of research went into telling the true aspects of the story as well. Here are some of the aspects of The Terror that are true and some that are made up.
Two ships, brave captains and their crews, royal marines, all battle the elements and unknown adventure while remembering home and mission beginnings.
After a long winter trapped in the ice, scouting parties are sent out in search of open water. One of the teams makes a frightening discovery.
With something stalking the ships, the expedition’s commanders debate their dwindling options.
A series of cunning attacks on the ships proves to the men they are not battling an ordinary bear.
A strange illness begins to show itself while another more familiar one jeopardizes the expedition’s most valuable resource – its captain’s judgment.
With the end of their provisions in sight, officers contemplate a tough, risky strategy while struggling to raise the men’s worsening spirits.
As the men make new attempts to find rescue, a series of shocking events underscores how vulnerable and exposed their situation has become.
Deaths under mysterious circumstances create paranoia among the men, and some of the crew may be considering mutiny.
Hope comes in strange forms, and the question of what the men are willing to do to survive begins to be settled in both noble and horrifying ways.
The expedition’s epic journey reaches its climax as men find themselves in a final confrontation with the Inuit mythology they’ve trespassed into.
5 Things That Are Historically Accurate
& 5 Things That Are Completely Fabricated
The show has a very large cast making up the crew of the two ships, the HMS Erebus and HMS Terror. The story largely focuses on the high-ranking members of the ship’s crew, many of which are in fact real-life characters.
There is, of course, Sir John Franklin, the captain of the expedition. As is shown in the series, he was not the first choice for the command. The main character of the show, Captain Francis Cozier, is also a real person and the man that took over command. Other real-life crew members include Commander James Fitzjames and Dr. Harry Goodsir.
While there are a lot of things that threaten the crew of the expedition, their main enemy is a polar bear-like monster called a tuunbaq who stalks the crew. The monster is unnaturally large, has a distinct and terrifying face and seems to have a vendetta against these men.
The monster is responsible for slaughtering many of the men in gruesome fashion. However, in recovered journals on the expedition, there is no mention of any deaths from bear attacks. There is also no evidence from the recovered bodies that suggest such an attack.
The polar bear may have been an imagined threat for the show, but the potentially more devastating killer proved to be true. The show depicts the expedition’s food storages have been severely compromised and the non-perishable items in cans were not properly sealed.
Sadly, this avoidable dilemma was something the real-life crew had to deal with. This was the best-provisioned expedition in history to that point, with enough food to last five years or more. But the rushed nature of the expedition led to improperly prepared can which in turn led to spoiled food and lead poisoning which killed many of the crew.
One of the most shocking moments in the show was in an early episode when the expedition’s captain, Sir John Franklin is suddenly and brutally killed. As he hunts the monster with some of his men, the beast surprises them and slaughters them all. Franklin has his legs torn off before being thrown down a hole in the ice.
It is true that Franklin did die earlier on in the expedition and that Cozier did take over command as seen in the show. But again, a bear attack was not the cause of his death. It is more likely that Franklin tied from lead poisoning or another illness.
What caused the expedition to suffer such a devastating end was the frozen water they encountered. Hoping to find a passage through the Northern waters, the two ships were stuck when the waters froze solid and they became stuck. Just as seen in the show, this led to the crew making a drastic and desperate choice.
It is theorized that the crew decided to abandon their ships sometime after the death of Franklin. As seen in the show, they attempted to make the long trek to an outpost for the Hudson Bay Company.
Once the ships are left behind, there is a distinct shift in how the men of the expedition behave. Led by the villainous Mister Hickey, several of the men stage a mutiny and murder fellow crew members in hopes of ensuring their own survival.
Hickey is a fictional character invented by the show, and by all accounts, his mutiny is fictional as well. While there was no doubt some unrest and tension among the men, there is no proof that they turned on each other.
We have seen in many shows and movies the lengths people will go to stay alive in unforgiving environments. This theme is shown again in a familiar was in The Terror as some of the men resort to eating the dead when food sources grow scarce.
When examining the discovered remains of some of the crew, evidence was found that such extreme measures were taken by the men. Cuts on the bones indicate that some of the dead bodies were carved up in a manner that suggests they were used as food by the desperate men.
From the very beginning of the expedition, there is a vague sense that something supernatural is at work and that this land does not want these invaders here. As the crew continues to show no respect for the new land they have arrived in, they seem to be targeted by supernatural forces, including the monstrous tuunbaq.
Not surprisingly, the supernatural elements of the show are all fictional. There was never any indication in the expedition’s records that the crew believed there was something more sinister at work in their doomed journey.
The show does a wonderful job showing the humanity and kindness of the native people of these Northern lands. The Inuit natives are shown helping, feeding and accepting the outsiders. The British men, on the other hand, see them as distrustful. Hickey tries to capitalize on this racist fear by attempting to blame the Inuit for one of his own murders.
There were similar racist theories being thrown around back in England. When stories of cannibalism came back, the Victorian society was appalled. Many, including Charles Dickens, who is seen in the show, blamed the natives for these atrocities, despite all evidence proving that claim false.
Cozier is seen to be one of the more sympathetic characters when it comes to the Inuit people. He has learned their language, sympathizes with their struggles and knows them to be kind and honorable people. In the end, Cozier is shown to be the only survivor and elects to stay with the Inuit people.
While the remains of Cozier were never recovered, there is nothing to suggest he survived the ordeal. It is a somewhat happy end for at least one of the show’s characters, but the real-life story sadly does not have any real bright moments like that one.