Yelcho (1906)

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Contemporary picture of the Yelcho
Name: Yelcho
  • 1906-1908 Sociedad Ganadera e Industrial Yelcho y Palena de Puerto Montt
  • 1908-1958 Chilean Navy
  • 1958-1962 Astilleros y Maestranzas de la Armada (ASMAR)
Builder: George Brown & Company Greenock, Yard No 34, Engines by Muir & Houston, Glasgow
Launched: 23 June 1906
Commissioned: 1908 (Navy)
Decommissioned: 1945 (Navy)
Reinstated: 1945-1958 as tender
Honours and
Rescue of the Endurance crew of Ernest Henry Shackleton(1916)
Fate: scrapped 1965
Notes: Bow preserved in Puerto Williams
General characteristics
Tonnage: 219 grt[1]
Displacement: 467 t
Length: 120 feet (37 m)
Beam: 23 feet (7.0 m)
Depth: 9.9 feet (3.0 m)[2]
Installed power: 350 ihp
Propulsion: compound steam engine by Muir & Houston Ltd, Glasgow
Speed: 10 knots
Crew: 22 men
Armament: 1 Hotchkiss 37mm Canon
Notes: There are two others Yelcho in the Chilean Navy, Chilean tug Yelcho (AGS-64) and Yelcho (1971).

The Yelcho was built in 1906 by the Scottish firm Geo. Brown and Co. of Greenock, on the River Clyde for towage and cargo service of the Chilean Sociedad Ganadera e Industrial Yelcho y Palena, Puerto Montt. In 1908 she was sold to the Chilean Navy and ordered to Punta Arenas as a tug and for periodic maintenance and supply of the lighthouses in that region.[1]

The rescue of the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition[edit]

After the dramatic voyage of the James Caird, Ernest Shackleton had attempted and failed three times to rescue the crew left on Elephant Island: the ships Southern Sky (loaned by the English Whaling Co, 23–31 May 1916), Instituto de Pesca N°1 (loaned by the Government of Uruguay, 10–16 June 1916) and Emma[3] (a sealer, funded by the British Club, Punta Arenas, 12 July – 8 August 1916) all failed to reach Elephant Island.

Yelcho circa 1913

In July 1916, Yelcho was authorised by the president of Chile, Juan Luis Sanfuentes, to escort and tow Emma to a point 200 miles (320 km) south of Cape Horn.[4] but this third attempt was also unsuccessful.

At dawn on 7 August Yelcho under the command of Captain Luis Pardo was ordered to Port Stanley in order to tug Emma and the British explorers back to Punta Arenas to make a fourth attempt.

The Chilean government offered Yelcho although she was totally unsuited for operations in Antarctic waters. With no radio, no proper heating system, no electric lighting and no double hull the small ship had to cross the 500 miles (800 km) of the Drake's Passage in Antarctic winter.

On 25 August 1916 at 00:15 she sailed bound for Elephant Island with 22 men under command of Pardo, carrying Shackleton, Frank Worsley and Tom Crean. After making it safely through the complex tides and channels of the west side of the Tierra del Fuego, Yelcho headed out into the Beagle Channel. On the 27th at 11:15 she arrived at Picton Island, where she bunkered 300 sacks of coal (a total of 72 tons were in the ship) from the Puerto Banner Naval Station.[5] The process was completed within only 12 hours and on 28 August at 3:30 she weighed anchor and left for Elephant Island. 60 miles (97 km) south of Cape Horn the lookout spotted the first icebergs[6]

At 11:40 am on 30 August the fog lifted, the camp on Elephant Island was spotted, and Yelcho immediately entered the bay. Within an hour, in two trips of a small boat, all the Elephant Island party were safely aboard Yelcho, which sailed for Punta Arenas.

"Yelcho", at the left is Ernest Shackleton and Luis Pardo Villalón at the right

The 23 crew of Yelcho at the rescue was:[7]

Crew Name
Captain Luis Alberto Pardo Villalón
2nd in Command León Aguirre Romero
Chief Engineer Jorge L. Valenzuela Mesa
2nd Engineer Jose Beltrán Gamarra
Engineers Nicolás Muñoz Molina,
Manuel Blackwood
Firemen Herbito Cariz Caramo,
Juan Vera Jara,
Pedro Chaura,
Pedro Soto Nuñez,
Luis Contreras Castro
Guard Manuel Ojeda,
Ladislao Gallego Trujillo,
Hipólito Aries,
José Leiva Chacón,
Antonio Colin Parada
Foreman José Muñoz Tellez
Blacksmith Froilan Cabana Rodríguez
Seamen Pedro Pairo,
José del Carmen Galindo,
Florentino González Estay,
Clodomiro Aguero Soto
Cabin Boy Bautista Ibarra Carvajal


Prow of the Yelcho in Puerto Williams preserved as a monument

After the successful rescue mission of 1916 the name Yelcho has been given to streets and ships of Chile, particularly to Chile's southernmost coastal Puerto Williams, and it is there that the prow of the Yelcho has been preserved and is prominently displayed as a tribute to Captain Pardo's ship and crew.

In 1945 the ship was decommissioned and used as tender in the Petty officer School of the Chilean Navy. On 27 January 1958 was retired by decree 190 and 1962 sold to ASMAR under terms of Law 14.564 (5 May 1954) for 300.000 CLP.[8]


  1. ^ a b "Yelcho". Clyde Built Ships. Caledonian Maritime Research Trust. Retrieved 16 July 2017.
  2. ^ histamar
  3. ^ Emma
  4. ^ James Caird Society Shackleton, Piloto Pardo, a reluctant hero, retrieved on 17 April 2012
  5. ^ Mateo Martinic, Crónica de las tierras del sur del canal Beagle, page 110. The station had been built short before as response to the sinking of the Norwegian ship Drummuir by British ships.
  6. ^ Alfonso M. Filippi Parada, Shackleton versus Pardo, retrieved 15 April 2012
  7. ^ Mann, John F. "The SS Yelcho". The Endurance Obituaries. Retrieved 16 July 2017.
  8. ^ Website of the Chilean Navy, Yelcho (1906), retrieved on 17 April 1906

See also[edit]