- Megan Bingham
Captain Sir John Franklin departed England in 1845 with two ships, the HMS Erebus and the HMS Terror. Captain Franklin and his men had only one task, although it was a very important task: to locate the "undiscoverable" Northwest Passage, a brutal oceanic trade route through the Arctic Ocean. Previous attempts to locate the passage had failed. Franklin and his crew would meet a brutal end due to illness and cold . . . and, according to bestselling horror author Dan Simmons, something else. Something supernatural and terrifyingly hungry.
In the winter of 1847, Franklin's ships have been trapped in ice, 28 miles north-northwest of King William Island. The weather has been much colder than usual, and the rations are dwindling. The land around them is bare of any wildlife, which is also rather unusual. It's almost as if something has chased them off. Soon, men are sent out to hunt for open water, but they only find a pair of Inuits living on the open ice. The crew accidentally shoots the man and takes with them the Inuit woman they nickname "Lady Silence" due to her missing tongue leaving her mute. Almost immediately after the Inuit man's death, an angry, unseen creature begins stalking the crew. Although the unknown beast shows signs of higher intelligence, the men assume it's just a very hungry polar bear. As the spring of 1848 approaches, the Erebus is sunk by ice, and Franklin has been killed by the monster. With all hope of outside rescue eliminated, the remaining crew abandons the sinking Terror and sets off across the ice to search for the Canadian mainland. Soon they begin to spiral down a path of paranoia, hypothermia, cannibalism, and mutiny. And that mysterious, man-eating creature hot on their trail? It's still angry and very hungry.
One can't even begin to imagine what the crews experienced, wondering if help would ever come. Many of the men did not die quickly. With combined evidence accumulated over the years, the real Franklin expedition is thought to have died from diseases such as scurvy, pneumonia, tuberculosis, and possible lead poisoning. Bones discovered in graves in the 1980s on Beechy and King William Island do show cut marks—a likely sign of cannibalism. Wreck searches commenced between 1997-2013, but it wasn't until the following year when the Erebus wreck was finally found by the Victoria Strait Expedition." In 2016, the Arctic Research Foundation found the wreck of the Terror. Both ships were in pristine condition for being under the water for over one-hundred and fifty years. The Terror, originally released in 2007 before the ships were discovered, is a compelling read and a sensational nod to the classic horror genre. The length of the novel—784 pages—can be at first rather offputting. But despite its long-windedness, Dan Simmon's fictional account of the missing Arctic expedition is originally horrifying.
Announced earlier last year, the television network station AMC (The Walking Dead) is set to broadcast a series based on the novel on March 26. It will star Jared Harris (The Crown) as Captain Francis Crozier, Tobias Menzies (Game of Thrones) as Captain James Firzjames, and Ciarán Hinds (Justice League) as Captain John Franklin. It is produced by critically acclaimed director Ridley Scott. See the trailer below.