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Shackleton in Punta Arenas (1916)
Weekly reports from "The Magellan Times" — the news as it happened

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"The Magellan Times", 17 August 1916

"Round the Town"

Sir Ernest Shackleton, Captain Worsley and Mr. Crean arrived from Port Stanley in the Emma early on Monday morning [14th], and we were all pleased to welcome them back again.

The Shackleton Relief Expedition
Voyage of the Schooner «Emma»
Sir Ernest's Report

« The following is a report of the voyage of the schooner Emma, so generously chartered, equipped and provisioned by the members of the British Association of Magallanes and in delivering this report, I take the opportunity of expressing my deep sense of gratitude to the Association for what they have done and my keen regret that owing to the adverse forces of nature I have not been able to effect the rescue of my twenty-two comrades marooned on Elephant Island.

The Emma left Punta Arenas at 11.40 p.m. on the 12th of July. The following is the personnel of the expedition:-- Sir Ernest Shackleton, C.V.O. Captain, Irish; Captain F. A. Worsley, R.N.R. Chief Officer, New Zealander; Tom Crean, R.N., Second Officer, Irish; L. Aguirre, Chilean Navy, Third Officer, Chilean; H. Gosselin, Engineer, American; A. Delcey, Cook, Mauritian; D. Gateca, A.B., Chilean; M. Piosca, A.B., Andorran; E. Neyman, A.B., Norwegian; J. Johannsen, A.B., Russian Finn.

We proceeded in tow of the Chilean patrol-boat Yelcho, generously lent by the Chilean Government. My original intention was to proceed through the channels via the Brecknock Pass, calling at Picton to replenish bunkers from the coal placed at our disposal there by the Chilean Government, but being faced by strong westerly wind the following day, and our tow line having parted, I decided to go out via Cape Virgins in order not to risk the tow-line parting again when passing through the Brecknock Channel, with the wind in the position that it then was.

On Saturday the 15th we entered the open sea with a fresh increasing gale and a rough lumpy short sea. At 10 o'clock in the morning the tow-line parted, and at 11 o'clock we proceeded again in tow. At 1 p.m. the tow-rope parted again so I set sail. At 3 p.m. the Yelcho hailed us and the Captain informed me that he had to go into port as a pipe had broken and his bilges were full of water. I informed him that I would steer for Staten Island, and that I was short of coal and water. The winter moderated towards night and the next day, Sunday, July 16th, it was calm and we proceeded all day under her motor engine. At 4 in the morning of the 17th we observed the Yelcho coming up astern. Later she took us in tow and we entered San Juan Harbour. I there took coal and water from her, also the Chilean Officer, L. Aguirre volunteered and was permitted by the Commander of the Yelcho to accompany the expedition. I here wish to state that he was a great help to us throughout the whole time. At 4 o'clock we left San Juan Harbour and steered south in fine weather and with a moderate breeze. At 10.30 p.m. the Commander of the Yelcho asked us to let go the tow-line, I thereupon did so and set all sail. We were then about 460 miles north-west of Elephant Island. For the next two days we made good progress with strong favourable winds.

On the 20th of July the wind shifted to the south and we made little progress. The weather was heavy and there was constant snow. It blew hard on the 21st and at 7 o'clock in the morning, to our great disappointment, we saw the ice ahead of us in long streams of heavy old pack. We were still more than 100 miles north-west of the island and the conditions were much worse than the last time I made the attempt. We passed through the first stream of ice but then encountered much more formidable pack and were forced to retreat.

The schooner rising and falling in the heavy north-west swell came down on the ice and carried away the outer bobstay. The water inlet pipe of the engine became choked with ice and the engine stopped. All that day we proceeded to the east, keeping to the edge of the ice; but unfortunately found it trending continually to the north-east. We hove-to during the night, which lasted sixteen hours, with a heavy south-east wind, and owing to the driving spray and the schooner rising and falling in the sea, the running gear, sails and bows of the ship became iced up. The engines were running unsatisfactorily, and indeed from the time we left we had only one day when they were at all useful. On the following morning we started at daylight towards the eastward. We were now 128 miles north of the island, and the ice-blink to the south warned us that it would be impossible, even if the wind was fair, to proceed in that direction. That night there was a strong wind, and we added to the coating of ice all over the ship. Next morning I decided to return to Punta Arenas as it was obvious that the ice conditions were too formidable and the ship was becoming unmanageable as a sailing vessel, and as a power-driven vessel, owing to the breakdown of the engines, she was useless. We proceeded to the westward and the engines ran satisfactorily during the day, and this was the last occasion on which they were any help. From the 25th of July to the 2nd of August we had a practically constant north-west wind, at times increasing to a gale which precluded all chance of making Punta Arenas and during the few calms the engines were useless. We finally arrived at Port Stanley in the Falkland Islands at 7 o'clock p.m. Thursday the 3rd of August, from which port I cabled to the Association the failure of the attempted rescue of my comrades. I also cabled Admiral Lopez requesting him to send the Yelcho to tow us across to Punta Arenas. Admiral Lopez, after communicating with his Government, most kindly acceeded to my request and the Yelcho arrived at Port Stanley on the 9th of August under the command of Commandante Pardo. We left for Punta Arenas at 10 a.m. on the 10th and arrived at Punta Arenas at 3.30 p.m. on Monday. We had very bad weather on the voyage across, on one occasion, in a gale, parting the tow-rope but Commandante Pardo stood by us throughout the night and at the earliest opportunity picked us up again. I cannot speak too highly of the seaman-like way in which Commandante Pardo handled the Yelcho in this heavy weather. We made the land in a dense fog and on its lifting, saw Dungeness lighthouse ahead and proceeded through the Narrows to Punta Arenas.

Thus ended our third attempt to rescue my men on Elephant Island. We were unsuccessful but I never will forget the prompt and practical assistance given by the British Association of Magallanes, and the Association will be glad to hear that the Polar-ship Discovery is now en route for Port Stanley and I hope to leave in her for Elephant Island early next month. »

[17 August 1916]

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