Mariner's Library

The Terror

Directed by Ridley Scott – Available on BBC iPlayer

In my book, Amazing Sailing Stories (Published by Wiley Nautical, 2011) ships were found abandoned atop an ice-berg by sailor Robert Simpson. The discovery was made whilst he was on passage from Limerick to Quebec on his brig Renovation in 1852. It is likely he was looking at the ice bound and stranded hulks of the Royal Navy’s Erebus and Terror, the ill-fated ships of Sir John Franklin’s attempt to find the fabled Northwest passage six years before. 

Anthropologists believe Franklin and his 128-strong crew all perished from a combination of scurvy, poisoned food, botulism and starvation. Author, Dan Simmons, whose eponymous book this 10-part chiller thriller is based on, imagines a few more besides.

The sets of the filming are astonishing thanks to Essex-based yachtsman and shipwright, Jim Dines’ authentic rigging, but then he did re-rig the Cutty Sark. 

The continual menacing sense of danger combined with the crumbling mental health of the crew, accompanied by a soundtrack of constantly creaking oak slowly cracking under pack ice requires a stiff upper lip to watch, let alone to experience. 

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