Shackleton expedition hero receives sculpture at IMO | Polarjournal
At Point Wild stands a bronze bust of Captain Luis Pardo, who on August 30, 1916, brought his ship “Yelcho” close enough to the rugged coast of Elephant Island for Shackleton to pick up his 22 men. Now there is a second bust in a slightly more accessible place. (Photo: Dr Michael Wenger)

The story of Shackleton’s “Endurance” expedition would hardly have ended so well had it not been for the extraordinary courage and risk-taking of Luis Pardo, the captain of the ship “Yelcho,” which was sent to rescue Shackleton’s men from Elephant Island. That’s why some corners in Antarctica were named after him and even a bust was erected at the site of the rescue, at Point Wild. But now you don’t have to go to Antarctica or Chile to see a bust of him.

Since November 23, 2021, a bust made of stone stands in the entrance hall of the International Maritime Organization IMO in London. This is only the second bust that shows the face of the legendary Chilean captain Luis Pardo. The other bust stands at the site of the rescue of Shackleton’s men, at the storm-tossed corner of Point Wild on Elephant Island, in the middle of the Southern Ocean. Here, despite the Antarctic winter, pack ice and storm, the Chilean captain had steered his steamer “Yelcho” so that Sir Ernest Shackleton could cross over to the island in a rowboat and pick up his remaining 22 men. Thus, a nerve-wrecking wait of over four months ended for the men and they were all rescued within an hour.

For his daring and rescue, Pardo was elevated to a first rank captain. This was later followed by a career as a consul in Liverpool. The modest sailor even had refused a reward from the British government.

British sculptor and former Merchant Marine sailor Shawn Williamson was responsible for the design and fabrication of the bust. Williamson had already traveled to Chile in 2017 and had thereby created a wooden figurehead during the visit. At that time he had also learned about the heroic act of the Chilean captain. ” I had never heard of the brave officer before,” Williamson explains. Because there had been a close connection between his region of Cumbria and Chile at the time of Shackleton and Pardo, he wanted to revive it. “In the spirit of collaboration, I approached the Anglo-Chilean Society about commemorating the brave Captain Luis Pardo with a portrait bust, and they generously provided a bursary.” The stone was sponsored by the Portland Stone Company, and Williamson set to work in Cumbria, UK, before the end of 2021. The material, Williamson said, has long been used for sculpture, but also as a quality building material. “I copied various images of the intrepid Pardo to capture his likeness and essence in stone,” Williamson recalls. “Portland stone was the perfect choice to convey the marine culture and essence of Luis Pardo, the savior of Shackleton’s brave crew.”

Shawn Williamson, shown here with two representatives of the Chilean Navy, himself served several years at sea in the British Merchant Marine. He lives and works in the Cumbria region of the UK. He is planning a statue for the new Antarctic Center in Punta Arenas and would like to return there after his visit to Chile in 2017. Image: Shawn Williamson

Luis Pardo has received numerous awards and honors for his deed with his ship “Yelcho”. Some points on the Antarctic Peninsula and the South Shetland Islands also bear the name of the Chilean captain. But statues and busts of Pardo exist only a few. In addition to the two busts on Elephant Island and at the IMO headquarters, there is also a statue in Punta Arenas, the starting point of the rescue mission of the “Yelcho”. The new Chilean Antarctic Center will also be built here. And Shawn Williamson wants to contribute a statue to the center. The Briton has already launched the corresponding plans. After visiting Chiloë in 2017 and working on sculptures there, Williamson has one wish: “The Chilean Tour de Force was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, but I’d love to come back.”

Dr Michael Wenger, PolarJournal

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