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Punta Arenas, Chile

Shipwreck of the Lord Lonsdale

The rusty hull of this 1899 ship serves as a tribute to explorers of the bottom of the world. 

Near the tip of Chile, in the town of Punta Arenas, rest the remains of a frigate: an old workhorse of a ship called the “Lord Lonsdale.” Exactly how and why she ended up here is a bit of a mystery.

The Lord Lonsdale started its final journey a world away in Hamburg, Germany, in 1909. The 10-year old ship was set to sail all the way to Mazatlán on the western coast of Mexico. With the Panama Canal still under construction, that meant a trip through the Strait of Magellan, which separates mainland Chile from Tierra del Fuego. While stopped over in Stanley Harbour in the Falkland Islands, the ship caught fire. With the blaze out of control they did the only thing they could – they sank the ship.

Stanley Harbour is 560 miles away from Punta Arenas, so how and why she ended up here is where the trail runs a little cold. After the fire, the steel hulk (the body of a ship that floats but isn’t seaworthy), was sold to a company of traders called Braun & Blanchard. They may have had plans to move it to their warehouses in Puerto Natales to use it for storage – a feat requiring hundreds of miles of towing through the straits – but it only got moved to Punta Arenas before they literally abandoned ship.

Punta Arenas is a small city along the Strait of Magellan, often used as a jumping-off point for excursions to Antarctica. With the Lord Lonsdale left stranded at their beach, they were stuck with it. In what may be a case of looking for a little silver lining, there is now a sign at the site which reads (translated from Spanish): “The English Frigate Lord Lonsdale - A tribute to seafarers of all nationalities who crossed the Magellanic sea and made possible the best knowledge and settlement of this region.”  

Know Before You Go

Follow Ruta (Route) 9 south from Punta Arenas, and the Lord Lonsdale will be on your left, along the beach at Maria Behety Park.