Luis Pardo Villalón (born Santiago, Chile, 20 September 1882—died Santiago, 21 February 1935) was the captain of the Chilean steam tug Yelcho which rescued the 22 stranded crewmen of Sir Ernest Shackleton's ship Endurance from Elephant Island, Antarctica, in August 1916. In Chile he is frequently referred to by his rank, "Piloto Pardo".
Captain Pardo entered the Chilean Naval Pilot's School in July 1900, and joined the Chilean Navy as a Pilot 3rd Class in June 1906. He was promoted to Pilot 2nd class in September 1910, and assigned to the Magallanes Naval Base in southern Chile as captain of the steam tug Yelcho.
Rescue of the Shackleton expedition
During the ill-fated Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition, Sir Ernest Shackleton's ship Endurance became trapped in the ice of the Weddell Sea, in January 1915. Nine months later the Endurance was crushed by the ice and sank on 27 October 1915. Shackleton and his crew of 27 made their way by foot, sledge and lifeboats to Elephant Island in the South Shetland Islands at the northern tip of the Antarctic Peninsula facing South America. On 24 April 1916 Shackleton and five of his men began an epic 800-mile open-boat voyage to the Island of South Georgia, leaving the remaining 22 men behind on Elephant Island while he sought help to rescue them. After three frustrated attempts to rescue the Elephant Island group, Shackleton persuaded the Chilean Government to provide the Yelcho (a 36.5 meter steam tug) under Captain Pardo. With Shackleton aboard the Yelcho sailed on 25 August from Punta Arenas, on the Strait of Magellan. By now the Antarctic winter was at its height, and ice conditions were difficult as the Yelcho neared Elephant Island. On 30 August 1916 the 22 men on Elephant Island were indeed rescued and the Yelcho returned to Punta Arenas on 3 September 1916 to an enthusiastic reception from the population of the city as well as Chilean Naval authorities.
After the rescue
Captain Pardo was given a hero's welcome and immediately promoted to Pilot 1st class and given several civilian medals and naval honors, including credit for ten years of service for his rescue feat. He retired from the Navy in 1919. The British government authorized a large monetary award, which he turned down, stating that he was simply fulfilling a mission assigned to him by the Chilean Navy. He was later named Chilean consul in Liverpool. He died on 21 February 1935, at age 54.
Pardo Ridge, the highest portion of Elephant Island, was named after him, and a cape on the northern tip of the Island was given the name Yelcho. The bow of the Yelcho is on display at Puerto Williams, a Chilean Naval base on the Beagle Channel, and a bust of Captain Pardo has been placed at the site of the Endurance crew's camp on Elephant Island.
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