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Lost cannibal sailor expedition ship that set sail from Greenhithe in 1845 found in Canada

By Messenger Reporter

One of two British explorer ships lost after setting sail from Greenhithe more than 160 years ago has been found in Canada.

Sir John Franklin led a crew of 129 men to chart the Northwest Passage in the Canadian Arctic in 1845 on HMS Erebus and HMS Terror.

But they never returned - and sailors reportedly turned to cannibalism to stay alive.

Warning: Some readers might find image below disturbing

The Terror and the Erebus were used for 129 men to chart the Northwest Passage
The Terror and the Erebus were used for 129 men to chart the Northwest Passage

It is believed the ships were lost after they became stuck in ice near King William Island, at which point they were abandoned by their men.

Reports from Inuit tribes in the area claim the sailors turned on each other and turned to cannibalism to stay alive as extreme hunger set in.

Authorities conducted a search for the expedition team for 11 years from 1848 to 1859, but nothing was ever found and it was regarded as one of the biggest mysteries of exploration in the Victorian age.

Among the crew were men from Medway towns. Although most of the men who took part in the original expedition were lost without trace, including Sir John Franklin himself, one of them has been seen again and by a relative.

John Hartnell was one of two brothers from Gillingham on board the Erebus. He died off Beechey Island and was one of three sailors buried there and whose graves, marked by headboards, were later discovered.

Another Medway sailor on board was Francis Pocock from Upnor. His nephews, Frank and Edward Pocock, also from Upnor, were explorers too and died in the trans-Africa expedition led by Stanley.

Thomas Hartnell's body was preserved in recognisable condition by the permafrost in his resting place in the Canadian Arctic
Thomas Hartnell's body was preserved in recognisable condition by the permafrost in his resting place in the Canadian Arctic

John Sullivan, 28, of Manor Court, Gillingham, was captain of the main top on board HMS Erebus. Thomas Tadman’s family kept a hairdressing shop in Middle Street, Old Brompton. William Orren, a sailor from Gillingham, was 36 when he joined the expedition.

Thomas Armitage was gun room steward aboard HMS Terror and Philip Reddington, 31, of Gillingham, was captain of the forecastle on Erebus.

The discovery of the ship is considered quite a coup, with British archaeologist William Battersby suggesting it is the biggest discovery since Egyptian pharaoh Tutankhamun.

The Canadian government made the find and it was announced by Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

It is still unclear which one of the ships was discovered.

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