The story of the men of Sir Ernest Shackleton’s ship S.Y. Endurance

The S.S. Yelcho

( 1906 -1962 )
BUILT: 1906. G.BROWN & CO. GREENOCK. SCOTLAND
DISPLACEMENT : 467 tonnes.
ARMAMENT : 1 HOTCHKISS 37MM CANON
ENGINE POWER: 350 IHP
TOP SPEED: 10 KNOTS
LENGTH: 120 FEET
BEAM : 23 FEET

WITHDRAWN FROM ACTIVE SERVICE : 1945
CAPTAIN: LUIS ALBERTO PARDO VILLALON ( 1882-1935 )
DUTY : PILOT TUG


The S.S. Yelcho arrives at Valparaiso 27th September.1916. ( photo. By permission of the National Library of Australia. )

 

Once Shackleton had arrived back at South Georgia he immediately set about trying to organize the rescue of the 22 men left stranded behind on Elephant Island.

Between 23rd May 1916 and 31st August 1916 he made four attempts to return to Elephant Island and secure their rescue:

Southern Sky
(Loaned by English Whaling Co.)
23rd - 31st May 1916
Instituto de Pesco No1
(loaned by the Government of Equador)
10th - 16th June 1916
Emma
( Sealer, funded by the British Club. Punta Arenas)
12th July – 8th August 1916
Yelcho
(loaned by the Government of Chile)
25th August – 3rd September 1916
Shackleton’s first three attempts had failed due to bad weather and adverse ice conditions. By early August 1916 he was desperate to reach his men and was offered a small steam tug by the Chilean Government, the S.S Yelcho . Captained by one Luis Alberto Pardo Villalon.

The Yelcho was totally unsuited for the job in hand, having no Radio, no proper heating system, no electric lighting and no double hull.

This time luck was with Shackleton , as the Yelcho some how managed to find a safe passage through the ice and arrived at a mist covered Elephant Island at around 1:10pm. on August 30th 1916.

Shackleton would not risk landing on the island himself and instead stayed on one of the landing boats close enough to the shore to be able to throw packets of cigarettes to the men massed on the shoreline. He insisted that all were evacuated immediately before the ice started to close in again. By 2:10pm all 22 men were safely on board the Yelcho. Once on board food was arranged and many of the men happily chain- smoked having been without any real tobacco for some considerable time.

Years later, Charlie Green the cook on the Endurance was to write :

“ Shackleton sent me down to the galley to do the cooking – for all their crowd and our crowd too. That was a bit thick I thought ! They had some live sheep aboard and the captain ordered them to be killed. Well, his chef was slicing pieces of meat off and cooking it like bacon. But I chopped the things up and put them in the oven, in three or four sections. They all joined in doing the potatoes and then I made a dumpling and put an onion in it. They couldn’t understand what it was! Then the boss told me to make some puddings. I must have made twelve pounds of macaroni cheese. They all went down well – and then everybody was sick!!

“Dr. Macklin told me afterwards, “That’s just what they needed, Green, that’s cleared their stomachs!”


The 23 crew of The Yelcho that fateful day was:

Captain : Luis Alberto Pardo Villalon.
2nd in Command : Leon Aguirre Romero.
Chief Engineer : Jorge L. Valenzuela Mesa.
2nd Engineer : Jose Beltran Gamarra.
Engineers : Nicolas Munoz Molina and Manuel Blackwood.
Firemen : Herbito Cariz Caramo. Juan Vera Jara. Pedro Chaura. Pedro Soto Nunez. Luis Contreras Castro.
Guard : Manuel Ojeda. Ladislao Gallego Trujillo. Hopolito Aries. Jose Leiva Chacon. Antonio Colin Parada.
Foreman : Jose Munoz Tellez.
Blacksmith : Froilan Cabana Rodriguez
Seamen : Pedro Pairo. Jose del C. Galindo. Florentino Gonzalez Estay. Clodomiro Aguero Soto.
Cabin Boy : Bautista Ibarra Carvajal.

So it was that the Yelcho with her crew of 23 and cargo of 25 men from Shackleton’s expedition ( McNish, Vincent and McCarthy were already on their way home to England) , headed back to Chile and on 3rd September 1916 stood off Rio Seco whilst Shackleton , always the one to seek publicity, telephoned the Governor of Punta Arenas to forewarn him of their imminent arrival. Shackleton made sure that none of the men shaved or cut their hair ,and that they wore their tattered soot covered clothing . Presumably he wanted the outside world to appreciate just what these men had been through.

The welcome they received on arriving at Punta Arenas was unbelievable. Almost the entire population had turned out to welcome them . This was to be nothing compared to the reception they received when the Yelcho arrived at Valparaiso on 27th September. At least 30,000 people thronged around the harbour and nearby streets. Shackleton wrote “ Everything that could swim in the way of a boat was out to meet us “.The Captain of the Yelcho , Luis Pardo had played a great part in the rescue and was quite rightly honoured in his home country of Chile and also by the British Government.

Luis , it seems was a modest man and it is believed that he declined a reward of £25000 ( an absolute fortune at the time ) from the British Government . He said that he had “simply done his duty”. He became a friend of Shackleton, and between

1930 – 1934 was the Chilean Consul to Liverpool . Quite an honour as at that time Liverpool was the greatest sea-port in Europe if not the world.

The Yelcho was retired from active Navy duty in 1945, but was still used as a ship’s tender at the Chilean School for Cabin Boys until 1958. In 1962 she was sold off, presumably for scrap.

 


All that remains of the Yelcho today. Her bow rests as a monument at Puerto William , the most Southerly town in Chile. ( photo courtesy of Grace Garrett. victory-cruises.com )

 


The plaque below the Yelcho’s bow translated from Spanish reads: “ Bow of Chilean Navy tugboat “Yelcho” that commanded by 2nd Pilot Don Luis Pardo Villalon, rescued the members of Sir Ernest Shackleton from the H.M.S. Endurance in Elephant Island, Chilean Antarctica. The 30th of August 1916. Donated by the Navy to the city of Punta Arenas 21st May.1970.”

With Thanks to Roy Cockram, Nephew of Charles Green.
Captain Ben Garrett and Grace Garrett.