JUNE, 1916: THE UNCERTAIN BEGINNING OF THE INSTITUTIO DE PESCA NO. 1 RESUCE ATTEMPT
Following the failure of Southern Sky to reach Elephant Island, Shackleton turned to the governments of South America for assistance in his mission to rescue the twenty-two men. By 6 June, 1916, Shackleton had negotiated, through the British Minister at Montevideo (Alfred Mitchell-Innes was Minister to Uruguay, 1913-1919), the free use of a Uruguayan trawler, Instituto de Pesca no. 1. As Mill wrote:
‘Sparing nothing on cables, which indeed he always used as carelessly as the old sixpenny telegrams at home, Shackleton got the promise of a trawler from the Government of Uruguay.’
Shackleton described Instituto de Pesca no. 1 as ‘a stout little vessel’ that was generously equipped at the cost of the Uruguayan government with coal, provisions, clothing and other necessities. The ship, which was a steam trawler, was owned by the Uruguayan fisheries research institute and Dr Juan José de Amézaga Landaraso, as Minister of Industry in 1916, was responsible for the institute and its ships. (He was later to become President of Uruguay 1943-1947.) As well as providing the ship, they also provided her commander, Lieutenant Ruperto Leopoldo Elichiribehety Arhancet, and her crew of twenty-six. Shackleton acknowledged the assistance that the government had provided and thanked them
for their generous assistance in placing the government trawler, Instituto de Pesca, for the second attempt at the relief of my men on Elephant Island.
Both Hurley and Worsley also recognised the generosity of the assistance in their own written works later. Though Shackleton jumped at the offer, it seems that, as Huntford has written, he accepted it not because it was the best option but because it was the one that would be able to depart first.
In the books of Shackleton, Mill and Worsley, it is written that Instituto de Pesca no. 1 arrived at Port Stanley on 10 June, 1916, and that they ‘started south at once’ (South). However, according to the Falkland Islands Shipping Register (Vol. I, 8 Jan., 1913 – 26 Nov., 1922), the vessel arrived from Montevideo on 15 June and departed for the ‘Southern Seas’ on 17 June.
In numerous works concerning the rescue, the dates given for the arrival and departure of Instituto de Pesca no. 1 differ slightly. Roland Huntford wrote in his Shackleton (1985), that the ship arrived on 16 June and departed the next day. In Michael Smith’s Unsung Hero: Tom Crean—Antarctic Survivor (2000), it says that the ship arrived on 10 June and sailed on 16 June. In Smith’s Polar Crusader: A Life of Sir James Wordie (2004), no date is given for arrival but 17 June is given for her departure. In Shackleton: By Endurance We Conquer (2012), Smith avoids dates for arrival and departure.
Worsley wrote that the three men, Shackleton, Crean and Worsley himself, were thankful to be aboard the ship and begin another rescue mission, ‘for the time we had spent in kicking our heels about the cable office and trying to find a ship had got on our nerves’. In particular, Shackleton ‘was in a fever of impatience.’ While Instituto de Pesca no. 1 was at Port Stanley (between 15 & 17 June), R. L. Elichiribehety issued an order that Shackleton, Worsley and Crean were to be treated and considered as officers while aboard.
As they began their journey Worsley described the weather as stormy all the way. Though the weather was bad, Mill noted that nothing else could be expected at those latitudes and at that time of the year.
Falkland Islands Shipping Register, Vol. I (8 Jan., 1913 – 26 Nov., 1922). Jane Cameron National Archives, Falkland Island Government, [SHI/REG/4].
Huntford, R. Shackleton. London, 2000.
Hurley, F. Argonauts of the South: Being a Narrative of Voyagings and Polar Seas and
Adventures in the Antarctic with Sir Douglas Mawson and Sir Ernest Shackleton. New York, 1925.
Mazzeo, J. J. La expedición de Uruguay a la Antártida en 1916: Primera Expedición Nacional al Sur. Montevideo, 1989.
Mill, R. H. The Life of Sir Ernest Shackleton. London, 1923.
Shackleton, Sir E. H. South: The Endurance Expedition. London, 2013.
Smith, M. Polar Crusader: A Life of Sir James Wordie. Edinburgh, 2012.
————. Shackleton: By Endurance We Conquer. Cork, 2012.
————. Unsung Hero: Tom Crean—Antarctic Survivor. Cork, 2013.
Worsley, F. A. Endurance: An Epic of Polar Adventure. New York, 2000.