HMS Terror: Divers explore doomed Arctic exploration ship

The world is no stranger to the story of the ghost ship: an eerie figure in the distance sailing without a crew, forever searching for its next victim.

Maritime lore is filled with such tales, almost always tied up in mythology.

There is one story, however, that continues to chill listeners, for the British Octavius ship was a very real vessel with a very real crew.

The Octavius left England for the Orient — India and the east — in 1761, and successfully arrived at its destination the following year.

Due to return, the ship’s captain gambled on a route through the treacherous but at the time little-known Northwest Passage, where it became trapped in sea ice just north of Alaska.

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Fast forward almost 15 years later to October 11, 1775, and a whaler ship called the Herald spotted a mysterious moving outline off the coast of Greenland.

A five-man party got close enough to outline and realised it was a shop — the Octavius.

Boarding the vessel, the men encountered a ship stuck in a time warp, empty of any crew, or so they thought.

Descending below the deck, they found the entire crew of 28 dead, completely frozen and almost perfectly preserved.

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In the captain’s cabin, they found the captain sitting at his desk, pen in hand, with the ship’s logbook open on the desk in front of him.

From the book, they discovered that the ship’s last recorded position while the crew was still alive was 75°N 160°W, about 250 miles north of Utqiagvik, Alaska.

Eerily, every single item that was used by the crew was found as it had been some 15 years before.

Turning away from the desk, the boarding party saw a woman wrapped in a blanket on the bunk, frozen to death, along with the body of a young boy.

Shaken to their core, the crew fled the Octavius with the few items they had gathered, including the ship’s logbook, in which they were able to identify its route through the Northwest Passage.

As the Octavius was found off the coast of Greenland, it must have broken loose from sea ice at some stage and ended up completing its intended journey through the passage where it eventually met the Herald.

The Herald’s crew was so frightened that the Octavius was cursed that after disembarking they let it adrift, and to this day, the Octavius has never been seen again.

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