“If you could lift this boat out of the water, and pump the water out, it would probably float.”
HMS Terror
| Credit: DeAgostini/Getty Images

Researchers have discovered the intact wreck of what they believe to be the HMS Terror, a British naval ship abandoned 168 years ago at the top of the Victoria Strait in Canada, the Guardian reported.

Scientists from the Arctic Research Foundation, a charitable organization created by tech tycoon Jim Balsillie, found the Terror almost by accident. The team had been searching for the ship for several years and were returning from a recent expedition when images of the wreck appeared on their sounder as they were heading back.

Using a remotely controlled vehicle, they entered the wreck and explored the mess hall, several cabins, and a storage room where they discovered canned goods and bottles of wine. The ship they found matches plans as well as historical accounts of the HMS Terror.

“This vessel looks like it was buttoned down tight for winter and it sank,” Adrian Schimnowski, the foundation’s operations director, told the Guardian. “Everything was shut. Even the windows are still intact. If you could lift this boat out of the water, and pump the water out, it would probably float.”

British explorer Sir John Franklin captained the HMS Terror, along with the HMS Erebus, in 1848. The doomed captain sought to complete the Northwest Passage, the icy route that connects the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean through the Arctic Sea.

Franklin and his crew of 128 men were forced to abandon their ships because of heavy ice in the Victoria Strait near King William Island in Canada. Taking provisions and lifeboats, the men fled the ship and eventually all perished.

The Royal Navy searched for the vessels for 11 years after the wreck and found no trace of either ship or crew. The mystery of the HMS Terror and the HMS Erebus had remained until two years ago, when researchers found the wreck of the Erebus following a tip from Inuit oral history.

Former Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper had championed his nation’s exploration of the Arctic as a way of asserting Canada’s sovereignty in the region while searching for deep-sea resources, the Associated Press reported.

Jess McHugh is a digital reporter for Travel + Leisure. You can find her on Twitter at @MchughJess.