He Became the Hero of a Failed Antarctic Expedition

February 21, 1935

Luis Antonio Pardo Villalón, a Chilean Navy veteran who became famous for his against-the-odds rescue of explorers in the Antarctic region, died in Santiago at the age of 52. Pardo, who was born in Santiago in 1882, received extensive training as a maritime pilot (a mariner who is skilled in maneuvering vessels through unusually hazardous or congested waters). He joined the Chilean Navy in 1906 and was eventually made the captain of the steam tugboat Yelcho at the naval base of Punta Arenas in southern Chile.

Pardo achieved international renown in 1916 as a result of Sir Ernest Shackleton’s hapless Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition. Shackleton’s objective for this expedition was to make the first land crossing of Antarctica, but his ship Endurance ended up sinking in the South Ocean’s Weddell Sea in the fall of 1915. Shackleton and his crew of 27 men subsequently used their feet, lifeboats, and sleighs to travel across both ice and open sea in search of land. They made their way to ice-covered Elephant Island off the coast of Antarctica.

In April 1916, Shackleton and five others made a long-distance voyage via lifeboat in search of help and were rescued. Shackleton then focused on rescuing the 22 others still stranded on Elephant Island. He failed three times to mount such a mission before persuading the Chilean government to provide assistance. Consequently, on August 25, Pardo and 25 other men (including Shackleton) left Punta Arenas on board Yelcho and made their way towards Elephant Island.

Without any electric lighting or suitable heating system on board, Yelcho was not optimally designed for Antarctic waters. It was also the height of the Antarctic winter by this time and ice conditions were especially harsh. Despite all these difficulties, Pardo managed to steer the tugboat safely to Elephant Island by August 30, pick up the 22 men still stranded there, and bring back everyone to Punta Arenas four days later. Along with being promoted to Pilot 1st Class for his successful rescue, Pardo was widely hailed as Chile’s newest hero.

For more information on Luis Antonio Pardo Villalón, please check out  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Luis_Pardo.

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