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HMS PROTECTOR marks centenary of the rescue of the crew of ENDURANCE

Speech by Ambassador Fiona Clouder on board HMS Protector to mark the centenary of the rescue by Piloto Pardo of Shackleton's men.

British Newspaper Archives Western Daily Press - Tuesday 05 September 1916 Image © Local World Limited/Trinity Mirror. Image created courtesy of THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD.
British Newspaper Archives Western Daily Press - Tuesday 05 September 1916 Image © Local World Limited/Trinity Mirror. Image created courtesy of THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD.

It is important to say thank you

It is important to say thank you. I would like to say thank you to the Armada de Chile, Jorge Flies, Ambassador Pardo, the people of Punta Arenas, and all those involved in these historic commemorations to mark the centenary of the rescue by Pilot Pardo of the men of Shackleton’s ship ENDURANCE.

Thank you particularly to Admiral Larrañaga and the Captain and crew of MARINERO FUENTEALBA, for today’s voyage to help us see and understand a little more of the rescue and the challenges of this very special part of Chile. And thank you to Captain Essenhigh and all the crew of HMS PROTECTOR, our ice patrol ship, that plays such an important role in hydrography and in facilitating co-operation through the Antarctic Treaty system. And Chile hosted a very successful Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting, earlier this year, of 53 countries, where both the UK and Chile, highlighted the historic rescue by Pardo.

And thank you to my husband, Jeremy Richards, who first introduced me to the story of Shackleton, when he was on our previous ice patrol ship, HMS ENDURANCE, named after Shackleton’s ship. Little did we think thirty years later, we would have the privilege to be part of these important celebrations.

And in initially learning about Shackleton, I have to admit that I did not know much about Pardo. The name was there in the story, but I did not know of the incredible bravery of Pardo and his men, in effecting the rescue; that the ship they used – the YELCHO – was not suited to the purpose; and that they risked their own lives to save others, in a spirit of humanity, valour and comradeship. Values shared between Shackleton and Pardo, and their teams. Values shared between our Navies today.

I know that there is a belief, in Chile, that Shackleton did not thank Pardo and hence his name has been lost in the telling of the story. I would like to put forward some evidence that suggests a different history.

In researching the story of Pardo and Shackleton, I have found many interesting facts. One, and as I have highlighted before, is that in granting permission for the YELCHO to be used, the Chilean authorities stated ‘The YELCHO must not be risked in the ice!’. It is a good thing that Pardo ignored this instruction, otherwise we would not all be here today, celebrating one of the most incredible rescues in history!

As others have covered in this week’s centenary celebrations, the arrival of the YELCHO’s successful expedition, here in Punta Arenas was greeted with ‘indescribable enthusiasm’. But what has not been covered is Shackleton’s subsequent report. I found in the British Newspaper Archives, coverage of the rescue was syndicated to every main newspaper in the UK – from Aberdeen to Exeter, from Lincolnshire to Bristol. I quote:

Western Daily Press, Bristol, Tuesday, September 5, 1916

Shackleton’s Men Rescued from Elephant Island. A Story of Pluck and Endurance.

The Press Association is indebted to the courtesy of the Editor of the ‘Daily Chronicle’ for the following cablegram from Sir Ernest Shackleton:

Punta Arenas, Chili, Sept, 3

Our fourth attempt to rescue our comrades left on Elephant Island has succeeded, and all have arrived here safe and well. The Chilian government very generously placed at our disposal of the steam YELCHO, under Commander Pardo. The steamer, manned and equipped at the expense of the Chilian government, left Punta Arenas on August 4. On this occasion I set a course which would enable us to approach Elephant Island from the northwest, my reason being that I hoped the ice had worked towards the north-east. This hope was realised, and on August 30, after steering in a fog through numerous stranded bergs, I reached Wild’s Camp, all well, at one p.m.

At two p.m. we were homeward bound.

To the Chilian government, to Commander Pardo and to Lieutenant Aguiress, I own my deepest thanks, for the means of rescue. With Wild lies the credit of having kept his party together in strength and safety, under the most trying of difficult conditions. Of Crean and Worsley, who have seen this thing through with me, I cannot speak too highly.

Whilst the British government went on to offer Piloto Pardo a reward of £25 000 (which he declined, saying that he was only doing his duty), and he was later made Honorary Consul of Liverpool, why is this high profile thanks from Shackleton not better known?

There are more clues in the Newspaper Archives. A further article in the same newspaper that day:

‘Another Relief Expedition to Follow’

Nothing is known of Sir Ernest Shackleton’s future movements, but it is expected that he and his companions will return to England at once, and that Sir Ernest will then go to Australia to effect the relief of 10 members of the expedition, who are now in the Ross Sea…

And so after the rescue here from Chile, Shackleton’s immediate focus was to try to save the other part of the expedition, on the other side of the world.

Shackleton died in 1922. On 31 January 1922, the Hull Daily Mail published ‘Reminiscences of Shackleton’, drawn from ‘Sea Breezes’, the magazine of the Pacific Steam Navigation Company. The article is titled: ‘How the Little YELCHO Saved the Castaways’

And I quote:

You will please remember that when Shackleton’s ENDURANCE effort failed – I think I ought to say brilliantly failed – this country was in the thick of war; nothing but war was talked about, and … the press censor … would have made sure that nothing much appeared about it…

As a matter of fact, scarcely anything did appear. Yet Shackleton was greatly mixed up with our steamers …And it struck me that you might like to hear something about these visits…

And so war intervened, and the full story of the rescue was not widely known. But this article, at the time of the death of Shackleton, goes on to say:

…After Shackleton had landed at Punta Arenas …he gave a public lecture under the auspices of the [British] Association [of Magallanes]…and I have a fairly full note of it.

The article goes on to tell the full ENDURANCE story, in Shackleton’s own words, but to relay some key quotes for our theme today:

As soon as …[Shackleton] …landed in Chile, the authorities there immediately offered the little Chilean steamer YELCHO, under the command of Pilot Pardo, a fine man as well as an exceptionally fine sailor, and off she went, heading straight for Elephant Island. “It was the luckiest thing in the world that the YELCHO came when she did.”, said Frank Wild, who had been in charge of those left behind.

It then describes the landing on Elephant Island. Finally the article ends:

Thus the little YELCHO saved the castaways and brought them safely to Chile.

After the success of the small steamer YELCHO, in charge of Commandante Pardo, with his Chilian crew and engineers, several banquets and entertainment were given…Admiral Lopez announced the promotion of Commandante Pardo from second to first pilot, which was greeted with deafening cheers…

And finally, I would like to highlight an article from when Piloto Pardo died in 1935. It pays tribute to Pardo, and ends:

…Captain Pardo visited London last year for the unveiling of a statue of Shackleton. Ever since his heroic efforts 20 years ago, he has kept in touch with Lady Shackleton, who was grieved to hear of his death.

Captain Pardo was decorated by the British Government for saving the Shackleton expedition and Shackleton in his ‘Life’ expressed his gratitude to the Chilean commander.

So thanks were given, and tribute made in the years following the rescue. But generations pass, wars intervene, and memories fade. Which is why these centenary commemorations are so important. To remind, and inspire, all of us with the values these great men showed. Values I have tried to highlight in this article on Pardo and Shackleton, for the Antarctic Heritage Trust. Values today upheld by both our Navies. Commitment, courage, discipline, respect, integrity, loyalty. Values epitomised by Piloto Pardo. Thank you, Piloto Pardo. Thank you, Gobierno de Chile. Thank you, Armada de Chile.

Fiona Clouder, Her Majesty’s Ambassador.

Punta Arenas, 30th August 2016.

Related article

Article by Ambassador Fiona Clouder - “Pardo and Shackleton: Parallel Lives; Shared Values” published by the UK Antarctic Heritage Trust.

Published 6 September 2016