Valparaiso Connections VIII

Captain Arturo Prat and Chilean Naval Tradition

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Captain Arturo Prat and the Esmeralda

After reading my last post “Valparaiso Connections VII” why Captain Pratt was so honored by the nation?  

From the starboard side of the Regatta while docking at Valparaiso. On the right is the port with shipping containers, beyond are the Chilean Navy frigates 
Almirante Blanco Encalada and
Almirante Latorre at anchor.

On that morning, May 21, 1879 the two Chilean ships blockading Iquique port were surprised by two Peruvian warships from the port of Callao, the monitor Huáscar and armored frigate Independencia.

View west from La Sebastiana, former residence of Neruda, on Florida Hill.  We look over the city, docks and Chilean Naval Vessels to the Pacific Ocean.


Arturo Prat commanded the Chilean corvette Esmeralda. 
 Carlos Condell de la Haza  was Covadonga’s commander.

CS Almirante Blanco Encalada (FF-15), a modern frigate of the Chilean Navy at anchor.  With the Durante Point lighthouse, several fast fishing boats returning with their catch. 

The Chileans are outgunned by the Peruvians in armored ships.  Condell fled in the Convadonga, pursued by the Independencia.  This was the wiser course and most militarily effective because, following the Convadonga into shallow waters the deeper draft Independencia lost advantage when it ran aground and was lost. 

We did not have time to explore the National Maritime Museum.

Prat stood ground in the middle of the bay, any canon shots simply bounced off the heavily armored Huascar.  The Esmeralda suffered shot after shot until the command of the Huascar, Captain Graf, decided to ram the Esmeralda to force a surrender and safe useless death.

Naval Cadet with friend viewing the ships at anchor.

At the first ram to the stern, as the ships were in contact, Prat ordered an attack, “Let’s board, boys.”  In the confusion only two seamen joined   Prat.  One failed to board, Prat and Petty Officer Juan de Dios Aldea attacked.  Dios Aldea was mortally wounded.  Prat continued to advance alone, to the amazement of the Peruvians, awed at his courage.  Prat was gunned down on the deck of the Huascar. 

He crew watched in horror.  When the Esmeralda was rammed again, this time in the bow, Sublieutenant Ignacio Serrano lead  of 10 Chileans to board for an attack with machetes and rifles.  They were massacred by the mounted Gatling gun, only Serrano survived.  

The example of Prat and his crew is taught today.  Arturo Pratt is the most common street name, as well as plazas, buildings.  Four major warships were named after him.  The current active ship is the frigate FFG 11, the Capitan Prat.  The Chilean naval academy is named 
Escuela Naval Arturo Prat.  His portrait is on the 10,000 peso Chilean note.

Lighthouse on Punta Duprat

Click this link for the first post in this Valparaiso Connections series.

Valparaiso Departure I

Thoughts on Departures

To continue with the theme of our encounter with Isla Mocha in my previous posting, “Island Romance”, we return to Valparaiso to experience a departure.  Late that afternoon Pam and I enjoyed entertainments on the Regatta.  This painting of a ship under sail brings to mind the history of Valparaiso, as a place only reachable by ship, clinging to a narrow ledge on the Andes, barely existing for centuries, repeatedly destroyed by earthquakes until the 19th century brought sailing vessels such as this, growth and prosperity.  Major earthquakes hit the years 1730, 1822, 1839, 1873, 1906, 1907.  After 1907, the city was rebuilt anew in the modern form.  The inhabitants must enjoy spot, naming it “Vale of Paradise.”

Click this link for my Fine Art Photography gallery.

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While, in the 21st century the city enjoys a refreshment of an influx of artists and visitors such as the Regatta, the danger of the next massive quake is ever present and unpredictable.

As we enjoyed the artwork….

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….a pianist entertained us.

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As usual, I was carting photography equipment to capture the moments as the afternoon moved towards…

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….the scheduled departure among still life painting in the style of the Dutch masters.

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That day I chose the upper decks as the best vantage point.  From there, Pam and I viewed the departure of a similar ship to the Regatta, the “Ocean Princess.”  It must have been the last voyage of the Princess under that name as, the same year, it was acquired by the Oceania line, refurbished, relaunched as the “Sirena”.

The Chilean navy base and Naval Academy is there.  The Ocean Princess navigated around this docked destroyer…..

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…with the assistance of the tugboat Alcatraz, a name derived from the Spanish word for pelican as in “La Isla de los Alcatraces” (Island of the Pelicans) where the former Alcatraz prison was built in San Francisco Harbor.  Spanish speakers think of birds when viewing the tub boat.  Americans think of prisoners (escaping) and San Francisco.  Unlike San Francisco Harbor, Valparaiso Bay is a semi-circle open to the ocean, the harbor is on the southern, north facing (away from the ocean) shore, protected by a long (3,000 foot) breakwater along which the Chilean war ships dock.  We are viewing the Alcatraz after most of the work for the Ocean Princess departure was done.

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The north end of the bay is residential, behind the towers are homes arrayed on the hillside, the only land available.

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Much of the harbor and city business district, in the foreground (below), on the south side is on land reclaimed from the sea.

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All around the Regatta was a working port.  Here rolls of cable (wire?) are prepared for hoisting onto a cargo ship.  Note the hawsers, taught under the strain, between the workmen and the ship hull.

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Passengers board the Regatta from the last tours.  I expect this is the trip to Santiago.  Most of the dockings the Regatta was surrounded by the port, the only way to access the city was on a tour bus as the port activity made walking too dangerous.

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I can only guess the role the Alcatraz is playing here…..

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…. probably it is positioned to give the Ocean Princess a nudge if the harbor pilot misjudges the turn around the breakwater and warships.  In a harbor, a ship’s crew passes control to a harbor pilot who knows the navigation challenges much better than is possible for them.

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Today, as 99.9% of all days, the pilot makes the turn safely.  Here is a better view of the warship.

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Looking back toward the harbor, the crane is hoisting those rolls, the tug boat “Lauca” framed by the superstructure of (I think) the crane.

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The Ocean Princess is will under way, as shown by the long wake.  As luck will have it, When the Regatta follows the sun will be much lower, the light better for photography.  At the stern of the warship, the masted vessel is a training ship for the Chilean Naval Academy.

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Learn of the view of the highest mountain in North and South American in my posting “Valparaiso Departure II.”

Copyright 2018 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills