built by George Brown & Company Greenock,
Yard No 34 Engines by Muir & Houston, Glasgow
Propulsion: Steam 350ihp 10kn
Launched: Saturday, 23/06/1906
Ship Type: Iron salvage tug
Tonnage: 219 grt, 467t displ.
Sociedad Ganadera e Industrial Yelcho y Palena, Puerto Montt, Chile
1908 Chilean Navy
Status: Scrapped - 1962
Built for towage and cargo service in Chile.
She was loaned by the Government of Chile in August 1916 to assist with an attempt by
the explorer Shackleton to reach his men on Elephant Island in Antartica. He needed her as three attempts to rescue them had already failed due to bad weather and adverse ice conditions. She was totally unsuited for the job in hand, having no radio, no proper heating system, no electric lighting and no double hull.
However, this time luck was with Shackleton, as the tug somehow managed to find a safe passage through the ice and arrived at a mist covered Elephant Island at around 1:10pm. on August 30th.
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 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.
So it was that YELCHO and 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 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 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 tug, Luis Pardo, had played a great part in the rescue and was honoured in his home country of Chile and also by the British Government.
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, by Asmar, Talcahuano.
Photo supplied by John Newth
Previous update by John Newth
Last updated: by David Asprey from the original records by Stuart Cameron
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