O’Higgins’ man walked into the Portsmouth tavern to see the two men he had sailed for several months to meet.Two sea captains “on the beach” after the end of the Napoleonic War. Captains Horatio Hornblower and Jack Aubrey were out of work as were many others. Chile had just gained it’s independence in 1815 and President O’Higgins was on the look out for men to form a navy
Admiral Cochrane (the sea wolf) and other ex British Naval Officers and crew did come to Valparaiso in 1818 and created the Navy. More Europeans, British, German, French and Swiss arrived and Valparaiso was transformed into the most successful port on the Pacific Coast.
There was no Panama Canal and so ships stopped here after passing through the dangerous Magellan Straits. The nitrate trade and for a while prospectors bound for the California Gold Rush made the port highly wealthy and successful.
The British presence was a strong influence – Cochrane, O’Brien and Simpson are amongst many street names – also A Prat, but we don’t know who he was.. Many homes were built in an English terraced style as well as the grand mansions of the industrial magnates.
That was until 1906. An earthquake struck and then the Panama Canal was completed in 1914 providing shorter, safer routes. The nitrate trade started to dry up because a cheaper manufacturing process had been discovered and by 1930 the city was a former shadow of itself.
It is only recently that Valparaiso has started to regain its former importance through tourism (it’s a world heritage site) and it can cater for the huge modern container ships that cannot pass through the Panama Canal.
(Horatio and Jack are fictional sea captions well known to the English male. OHIggins and Cochrane were there making history.)
The photo is of Valparaiso’s naval arch which commemorates these British adventurers.