Who was Captain Francis Crozier? The legendary real-life explorer behind The Terror

Discover the fascinating true story behind Jared Harris' character - an intrepid polar explorer and one of Northern Ireland's greatest sailors - in the chilling drama series coming to BBC Two.

Published: 26 February 2021 - 6.56pm
AMC Jared Harris as Captain Francis Crozier in The Terror

The Terror, coming soon to BBC Two, combines an incredible true story of adventure and tragedy with a supernatural twist.

The chilling 10-part drama tells the tale of the crews of the Royal Navy ships Erebus and Terror as they set off to discover the Northwest Passage, and imagines what might have happened to the 129 sailors after their ships became stuck in the pack ice of the Arctic Ocean.

At the helm of HMS Terror, and second in command of the expedition, is Captain Francis Crozier. Crozier, played by award-winning actor Jared Harris, is an experienced sailor but one whose career has stalled and who faces challenges from the younger men in his command. The expedition – and the hardships it encounters – gives Crozier one last chance to prove his mettle.

Harris’s character is based on a real-life polar explorer of the same name. We find out about the life and times of a remarkable man.

Who is Captain Crozier in The Terror?

Jared Harris as Captain Francis Crozier in The Terror AMC

Captain of the HMS Terror and second-in-command of the expedition, Francis Crozier is a peerless sailor and an Irishman who has reached a glass ceiling in Her Majesty’s Royal Navy. He’s had to accept his second-class status without internalising it, even as he sees his accomplishments again and again go unrecognised and his expert advice remains unheeded. When disaster strikes the expedition and he finally has a chance to prove himself, will he be able to face down his many demons and rise to the challenge of saving his men?

Who was the real Captain Crozier?

Jared Harris as Captain Francis Crozier in The Terror AMC

Captain Francis Crozier was Northern Ireland’s greatest ever polar explorer and a major figure in the three epic quests of 19th century Polar exploration – navigating the North West Passage, reaching the North Pole and mapping Antarctica.

Crozier first went to sea at the age of 13, working his way up the ranks from cabin boy to captain. He first attempted to find the Northwest Passage aged only 22 and in his lifetime, he made six trips to the Arctic and Antarctic.

His voyages paved the way for men like Amundsen, Scott and Shackleton in the early 20th century and he sailed with legendary explorers such as Sir Edward Parry, Sir James Clark Ross and Sir John Franklin.

Historian Michael Smith described Crozier as a “modest, unassuming man who never sought the limelight”.

He was a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society and the Royal Society, the prestigious scientific institution, and one of the leading figures involved in the Royal Navy’s disastrous expedition to the Northwest Passage on the HMS Erebus and HMS Terror, which is the subject of the TV series The Terror.

In 1848, Erebus and Terror were the most advanced vessels on the planet with heating systems, retractable screw propellers and canned food for supplies.

Many historians believe that he should have been in command of the 1845 voyage because of his vast experience and believe it was his background and nationality that meant he was passed over for Sir John Franklin.

There is a monument of Francis Crozier at Avonmore House in Banbridge, County Down, where he was born.

For further reading about the incredible man, we’d suggest Michael Smith’s book, Captain Francis Crozier: Last Man Standing?

Geographical features named after Crozier include Cape Crozier on the eastern side of Ross Island, Antarctica; Cape Crozier on the western flank of King William Island in the Canadian Arctic; Cape Crozier at the western entrance of the Bay of Mercy on Banks Island in the Canadian Arctic; and the Crozier Strait which lies between Cornwallis and Bathurst Islands in the Canadian Arctic.

Who plays Captain Crozier in The Terror?

Jared Harris as Francis Crozier and Tobias Menzies as James Fitzjames in The Terror AMC

Jared Harris is best known for his roles as Lane Pryce in AMC’s award-winning series Mad Men and Valery Legasov in the 2019 mini-series Chernobyl, for which he won a Bafta for Best Actor. He’s also appeared in the sci-fi series Fringe and in Netflix period drama The Crown as George VI.

His film credits include Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and Lincoln.

Harris is the son of Irish acting legend Richard Harris.

New episodes of The Terror will be shown at 9pm on BBC Two every Wednesday from March 3.

All 10 episodes of the The Terror season 1 are available to watch on BBC iPlayer.

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