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HMS Protector’s crew mark centenary of rescue of explorers

5 September 2016
Personnel from HMS Protector have taken part in commemorations in Chile to mark the centenary of the rescue of explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton’s crew from Antarctica.

The patrol ship’s crew joined platoons from the Chilean Navy and marines for a parade in the port city of Punta Arenas.

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the rescue of Shackleton’s men from Elephant Island following the ill-fated Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition of 1914-16.

Following the loss of their ship Endurance in the ice of the Weddell Sea, 28 men reached Cape Valentine on Elephant Island after their ordeal on drifting ice floes.

Protector is proud to be representing the UK and supporting Chile’s centenary celebrations of the rescue

Captain Angus Essenhigh RN

Realising there was no chance of rescue, Shackleton and five of his men set sail for South Georgia in the open lifeboat James Caird.

The perilous 800-mile voyage across mountainous seas took them 16 days. When they arrived Shackleton took two men on a 36-hour trek across unmapped mountain ranges to the small whaling station at Stromness on the northern side of the island.

It would take four months and three failed rescue attempts before appealing to the Chilean government, which offered the use of a small navy tug the Yelcho, commanded by Captain Luis Pardo.

The successful rescue of the stranded men saw Pardo given a hero’s welcome and promoted to Pilot 1st class and given several civilian medals and naval honours.

The Yelcho’s successful rescue of all 22 men stranded on Elephant Island is celebrated by both the Royal Navy and Chilean Navy.

Petty Officer (Above Water Warfare) Ollie Colman, who spent weeks preparing Protector’s personnel for the parade, said: “It was a challenge not knowing what to expect from the parade and slowing the marching pace down to keep everyone in step with our hosts was tricky, but in pretty cold and wet conditions the crew managed to put on a great parade.”

During their visit, Royal Navy personnel saw historical displays produced by the Scott Polar Research Institute and the local Naval Museum.

Protector hosted a number of dignitaries, including the British Ambassador to Chile, who were entertained by drummers from the Royal Marines Band.

Protector’s Commanding Officer, Captain Angus Essenhigh, said: “Protector is proud to be representing the UK and supporting Chile’s centenary celebrations of the rescue of Sir Ernest Shackleton’s expedition by Captain Pardo and the crew of the Yelcho.

“The heroic efforts of Captain Pardo and his men undoubtedly saved the lives of 22 members of Shackleton’s expedition and were vital in preventing the endeavour ending in tragedy.”

HMS Protector, which left Devonport in October last year, will shortly depart the relative warmth of South America and head south to begin her first Antarctic work period of the season.

In the coming months the ship will sail to some of the most remote and inhospitable regions of the planet to provide support to the FCO, conduct hydrographic survey work as well as delivering vital supplies to the British Antarctic Survey bases on the ice.

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