Chilean corvette Abtao (1866)

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Chilean corvette Abtao - 1865.png
Chilean corvette Abtao
Career (Chile) Chilean Ensign
Name: Abtao
Namesake: Battle of Abtao
Ordered: by the Confederate States Navy
Builder: Dennis Brothers, Scotland
Launched: 29 October 1863
Commissioned: 1 June 1867
Decommissioned: 1922
Renamed: Texas, Cyclone, and Pampero
Honours and
Naval Campaign of the War of the Pacific
General characteristics
Displacement: 1600 t
Length: 211 ft 6 in (64.47 m)
Beam: 12.7 m (42 ft)
Draft: 8 ft (2.4 m)
Installed power: 800 ihp (600 kW)
Speed: 10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph)
Crew: 200
Armament: 1 × 5.8" and 4 × 4.7" guns

The corvette Abtao was a wooden ship built in Scotland during 1864 of 1.600 tons and 800 IHP.[1] She fought in the War of the Pacific and was in service for the Chilean Navy until 1922.

Two hulls in Glasgow[edit]

During the Chincha Islands War, the Chilean Government sent her agent in Belgium Manuel Carvallo to British shipyards in search of unsold warships originally laid down for the Confederate States Navy; He found in Glasgow and Greenock, at the River Clyde the hulls of the 1600 tons commerce-raider Texas (not the ironclad CSS Texas) and the 1200 tons Pampero. In order to conceal the true owner of the ship and to elude the Foreign Enlistment Act, several names were used for the ships.[2] Both ships used the name Pampero but the 1600 tons Texas was also named Cyclone and finally Abtao and the 1200 tons true original Pampero was also named Canton and finally Tornado under Spanish command.

The 1600 tons hull was christened Pampero by a Mrs. Galbraith and launched on October 29, 1863.[2] Through the efforts of the American counsul in Glasgow, Warner Underwood, she was placed under a 24-hour scrutiny by British customs officers and as late as January 1865 she was still considered to be Confederate property, and apparently remained so until the end of the American Civil War. She was purchased by Chile for 75,000 Pounds through Isaac Campbell & January or February 1866.[2]

The Spanish frigatte Gerona captures the Chilean ship Pampero

Robert Winthrop Simpson in behalf of the Chilean Government ordered both ships, Pampero and Texas to be manned in Hamburg and later to the Faroe Islands.

The Texas arrived at Valparaiso in November 1866 and was rechristened as Abtao after the Naval Battle of Abtao.

The fate of Pampero[edit]

But the Pampero (later Spanish cruiser Tornado) should have been in rendezvous with the British filibustering ship steamer Greathem Hall, aiming to interfere against the Spanish trade, as planned by the Chilean Government. But the later was captured by Caledonia and taken into Portland. The Pampero waited patiently in the rendezvous point, until the crew were ordered to re-coal and head for the desolate islands of Fernando de Noronha, an old pirate haunt off the Brazilian coast, in order to collect unpaid wages and bonuses offered by the delivery of the vessel.[3]

The Spanish frigate Gerona, brought strict orders from the Spanish government to capture the Chilean (and the Peruvian Independencia and Huáscar) ships.[4] However, the Peruvian vessels made it to Latin American waters but the Chilean Pampero was about to be captured. The Gerona sailed from Cadiz in the early morning of the 20th instant, arriving at Madeira, Portugal on the 22nd instant. At 6'15 in the evening; before arriving at the anchoring ground, she discovered a suspicious steamer weighing anchor and apparently getting ready to put to sea, for which reason the Commander of the Gerona Don Benito Escalera, thought fit to proceed towards her to see if he could obtains news, and to be at the same time in readiness to follow in her track, should she turn out to be either of the vessels indicated to him by the Spanish government.[5]

Career of the Abtao[edit]

Officers of the Abtao during the War of the Pacific

The Abtao was commissioned on 1 June 1867, after the Chinchas war, under the command of Capitán de Fragata Enrique Simpson Baeza later was she under command of Galvarino Riveros Cárdenas and 1868 she brought help to Arica after the 1868 Arica earthquake.

Under Capitan de Corbeta Francisco Rondizzoni de la Cotera she made a hydrographic survey of the Chilean coast between Mataquito River and the Tumán Bay.

On 12 February 1873 she was put under the command of Capitán de Corbeta Jorge Montt Alvarez and she sail to the Strait of Magellan to a hydrographic survey as she did up 1876 between the Parallel 23°S and the Caleta del Cobre.

According to Oscar Bermudez Miral,[6] the corvette Abtao set sail under the command of Commander F. Rondizzoni, member of the Northern Atacama Coastal Exploration Committee, tasked with making studies as proposed by Minister Victorio Lastarria. Also aboard the steamship Abtao were the engineers Eugenio Plazolles and Macario Sierralta who were under government orders to do reconnaissance work along the northern Atacama coast. They set sail the twenty-first of October, 1876' from Mejillones, arriving the next night at Antofagasta. There, the engineers Sierralta and Plazolles chose the elderly miner Secundino Corvalan, who was familiar with the area, to help them reach the interior of the desert in the area between the 24th parallel and Caleta el Cobre, some 15 or 16 nautical miles south of that parallel.

According to Bermudez, as the corvette Abtao continued further south of Caleta el Cobre, the members of the expedition observed that the mountain range was further and further from the coast and, in its place, a wide plane appeared. In front of the expedition was Caleta de Remiendos and the ravine of the same name. The members of the expedition had located the conditions necessary for the establishment of a port, as well as an overland means of communication with the desert interior.

1877 the Abtao could not be sold and was used as transporter until 1878 as she was sold for $18.000.

At the beginning of the War of the Pacific she was bought by the Chilean Government for $25.000 and armed with four 150 lbs and four 40 lbs guns and set sail for Callao with the Chilean Fleet as planned by Almirante Juan Williams Rebolledo.

On 28 August 1879 she fought off Antofagasta together with the Magallanes against the Huáscar.

She was involved in almost all Chilean expeditions and landings during the war. In the final stages of the war she was refitted completely.

At the beginning of the 1891 Chilean Civil War she sailed out of Valparaiso harbour and adhered to the cause of the Congress.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ There are some differences between the data given by Carlos Urrutia Lopez, "Historia de la Marina de Chile", Editorial Andrés Bello, 1969, page 406, url and the data from the Chilean Navy website Abtao, corbeta (1º)
  2. ^ a b c
  3. ^ Graham p. 62
  4. ^ Sondhaus p.98
  5. ^ House of Commons p.18
  6. ^ Bermúdez, Oscar Miral (1963). Historia del Salitre desde sus orígenes hasta la Guerra del Pacífico. Ediciones de la Universidad de Chile. p. 291. 

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