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Controversial torture ship to sail into Charlottetown

Published on July 10, 2017

La Esmeralda at Amsterdam in August, 2015

©Hans Knikman/Demotix/Corbis

It seems Charlottetown can’t get enough tall ships, but the next one due to arrive on Wednesday this week has a dark, controversial past.

After the July 1 parade of sails, the capital city is gearing up for yet one more ship visit, this time from the Esmeralda.

Since her commissioning in 1953, Esmeralda has been a training ship for the Chilean Navy, but that’s not all.

The Guardian newspaper in Britain notes the ships history in a news article from 2015.

Wikipedia also sets out the vessel’s dark past.

“Reports from Amnesty International, the US Senate and Chilean Truth and Reconciliation Commission[1] describe the ship as a kind of a floating jail and torture chamber for political prisoners of the Augusto Pinochet regime from 1973 to 1980,” says Wikipedia.

“It is claimed that probably over a hundred persons were kept there at times and subjected to hideous treatment,[2] among them British priest Michael Woodward, who later died as a result of torture.[3]

“Due to this dark part of its history, the international voyages of the Esmeralda are often highly controversial – especially at the time when Pinochet was still in power but even after the restoration of Chilean democracy. The ship's arrival in various ports is accompanied by protests and demonstrations by local political groups and Chilean exiles.”

Tall ships seem to attract a harrowing past.

The Nazi Third Reich in Germany had once owned the biggest tall ship in Charlottetown last weekend, the Eagle, and Hitler had spent some time on board.

La Esmeralda, for its part, has visited more than 300 ports worldwide acting as a floating embassy for Chile. It is a huge, steel-hulled, four-masted barquentine tall ship.

Free deck tours will be available to the public during its Charlottetown visit on Wednesday from 2-6 p.m., and Thursday from 11 a.m. to  6 p.m.

The Esmeralda will be departing from Charlottetown Friday evening. 

Anyone visiting the port is encouraged to carpool or walk to the site if possible as there is limited public parking is available off Stan Macpherson Way.

Accessible parking will also be available on site.