Sailors and Royal Marines from Ice Patrol HMS Protector participated on Sunday in a major parade in Punta Arenas, next to members from the Chilean Navy, local Fire fighters and two schools, as part of the commemorations to honor pilot Luis Pardo Villalón, the Chilean navy officer who a century ago rescued the 22 survivors of Sir Ernest Shackleton's expedition Endurance.
The Sunday solemn ceremony not only remembers the expertise and courage of the Chilean navy officer in the Yelcho tug, probably the first successful rescue operation in Antarctica, but also was the launching of a weeklong of events and exhibitions dedicated to Pardo Villalón and his feat, and the founding of Chile's maritime rescue and salvage operations in Antarctica.
The ceremony was headed by Magallanes region governor Jorge Flies next to the Commander of Chile's III Naval Zone R/Admiral Ivo Brito Sánchez, other local civilian and military authorities and the British guests.
It's a great privilege to be here a hundred years after Pilot Pardo's rescue operation, and a milestone in the close cooperation links between the Chilean Navy and the Royal Navy, said HMS Protector Captain Angus Essenhigh. We're proud and honored to jointly commemorate this anniversary dedicated to a heroic man, whose admiration for rescuing our 22 compatriots is proof of his great courage and technical abilities of which the Royal Navy is most grateful.
Without the participation of the Chilean government, the Chilean navy and the courage of Pardo and his crew, it would have been an impossible feat, and we wouldn't be here commemorating such a noble ceremony, said HMS Protector commander.
Governor Files pointed out that the legacy of Piloto Pardo merits to be remembered since he is a national hero and each page of the rescue operation reflects the epic feat of a seaman against all odds, but completely committed to this adventure, and 100 years later finally we can count with the possibility of erecting a monument to such a majestic figure for Magallanes and Chilean Antarctica, here in Punta Arenas.
Governor Flies also underlined the two parallel epic feats: one, the survival of Sir Shackleton's expedition and secondly the rescue operation, an unbelievable achievement in Antarctica history. This is evidence of what must be rescued of what has been a close alliance relation with England, while the figure of Pilot Pardo which for years was relegated is now commanding with all the merits he deserves
This Monday was scheduled the opening of the Pilot Pardo Visual Show at the Naval and Maritime Museum of Punta Arenas, and referred to the rescue of the Endurance survivors from Elephant Island. Some of the exhibits include the Chilean government's instructions to the tug Yelcho, the vessel's bell, as well as Piloto Pardo officer's sword, two medals he was awarded a century ago following the heroic rescue, plus unpublished images of the rescue operation and some letters from the Trip's Dairy, among other elements loaned by the Chilean Foreign ministry and the Chilean Libraries, Archives and Museum Office.
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.