The shipwreck tragedy of the A.R.A Fournier

The story of a shipwreck, nearby Usuhaia,South of Argentina...by Bob Frassinetti
by

During the first hours of January 22nd 1949, a tragedy occurred on Argentinean waters. The ARA* Fournier shipwrecked through the frozen waters of the Magellan canal in front of the Cone Point, 60 miles south from Sand Point. There were no survivors and the factual story regarding the shipwreck has remained partially unknown to our days.

The Fournier was a ship mine detector, tracer, built in San Fernando, Buenos Aires during the early days of 1940 and by October 13th it was incorporated to the Navy's float. The company in charge of the construction was Sanchez & Company (Cia.). A big and impressive craft of 59 meters length, 7.30 wind sail and a displacement of 554 tons.

This craft was part of a float of modern tracers such as the Spiro, Seaver and Comodoro Py as well as an essential mean of communication within those southern Argentinean and Chilean Patagonian lands. News, relatives, boyfriends, sailors traveled on board of the Fournier back and forth. At the time of it's disappearance there were 78 people on board and non of them was ever seen with life again.

According to local registers the Fournier left the Ushuaia port heading to Rio Gallegos in a routine mission. Once in Rio Gallegos, the ship was to return to Ushuaia. Experts say there are two possible routes, the most direct one goes through the Le Maire Straight; the other runs through the Magellan Straight to St Gabriel's channel, then through the northwest arm of the Beagle Channel. This last one, though longer, is much more beautiful in terms of sight for it runs through the glaciers. It's also considered to be "more protected" from the southern storms.

According to the latest information the captain was aware of a possible storm heading to their location, therefore he took the Magellan route.

It was last seen leaving Rio Gallegos port at 7 40 AM on September 21st 1949. Latter on, while passing by Thin Point the craft contacted another Navy vessel. That was the last time the Fournier made any contact, for it wasn't even seen at St. Isidro Lighthouse.

Without any news from the craft for a couple of days other navy stations begin to worry about the Fournier's destiny and begin to search for the craft and it's crew. Both, the Argentinean and Chilean navy begin joint works in order to rescue the Fournier. Aware of the harsh weather and natural conditions all procedures had to be handled fast and efficiently in order to succeed.

As hours and days went by, hopes of finding survivors narrowed and the magnitude of the tragic event grew. Nontheless the search and rescue tasks kept on going. On the 28th, on an other joint procedure the Argentinean and Chilean airforces flew over the area the craft was supposed to have been sunk. Two Chilean pilots saw a big oil stain in the ocean. they had found the exact shipwreck location. The tragedy of the event was unquestionable.

However everybody hoped to find survivors on nearby canals. This never happened. No survivors were found. And even worst, many of the crew members began to appear on mainland's shores without life brought by tides; in nearby locations several emergency boats were found, but no one had survived.

The Navy doubled the efforts. That was all they could now do. But the results did not change. Just a few elements were to be found, lifesavers, pieces of boats, etc. All these elements are now in local Museums. Night and day Navy Vessels searched the canals using the latest radar technology and cartography available. But nothing was to change.

On October 12th, President Peron and his wife Evita, awaited at the Buenos Aires Port together with the widowers for the Heroine Frigate carrying the 78 coffins covered with the Argentinean flag. An unquestionable tragedy covered by a mystery we might never unveil.



*ARA,Armada Republica Argentina.

http://bobfrassinetti.tripod.com/art-dealer/  - Bob Frassinetti.
 


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7 Comments

anonymous by ivan lussich on 7/5/2010
I am Uruguayan,71, and I do remember the big headlines when this happened. Sad as it was , the Fournier shipwreck remains as a rather misterious one.
anonymous by Claudio Vargas on 7/30/2012
The magellan strait never have been argentinean waters, the tragic accident was at Punta Cono, few miles to the southeast of Froward Cape in chilean waters.
For further information see: (in spanish) http://es.wikisource.org/wiki/Informe_del_Comandante_Hugo_Alsina_Calder%C3%B3n_sobre_el_naufragio_del_ARA_Fournier
Newbie here. I'm a green hand treasure hunter. Is there any treasure hunter here? What did you found these two month? All I found these two months are several unknown coins, I've already lost my interests in treasure hunting. Plan to sale my Underground Gold Treasure Metal Detector with 3.5 Meters Depth bought from detectorall. It has the function of distinguishing ferrous and non-ferrous metal. Asked for only $280, delivery free. Just bought two month ago.
anonymous by Pablo James on 2/28/2014
Claudio is absolutely correct, the Fournier sank in Chilean waters, and nowhere near argentina. The exact position as he mentions is near Dawson Island which is in the Strait of Magellan, which in turn is completely within Chile. Very unfortunate for this article to start with such a serious error, especially when it makes the rest of the story difficult to understand (why would Chilean planes and ships looking for an Argentine ship lost in Argentine water -- they were not!).

While Chile assisted in the search, and indeed found the location of the shipwreck, this none the less created a significant diplomatic incident. This important fact is also nowhere mentioned in this article.

This is all fixable with some re-editing -- and should be done to improve the accuracy of the account as well as the reliability of this webpage.
Claudio is absolutely correct, the Fournier sank in Chilean waters, and nowhere near argentina. The exact position as he mentions is near Dawson Island which is in the Strait of Magellan, which in turn is completely within Chile. Very unfortunate for this article to start with such a serious error, especially when it makes the rest of the story difficult to understand (why would Chilean planes and ships looking for an Argentine ship lost in Argentine water -- they were not!).

While Chile assisted in the search, and indeed found the location of the shipwreck, this none the less created a significant diplomatic incident. This important fact is also nowhere mentioned in this article.

This is all fixable with some re-editing -- and should be done to improve the accuracy of the account as well as the reliability of this webpage.
Soy sobrino nieto de uno de los marineros fallecidos a bordo.....específicamente del marinero de 1° Manuel Gonzalez, era hermano de mi abuelo materno. En base a lo que se de parte de lo contado por mi abuelo que dicho sea de paso en esa misma época era integrante de la Prefectura Naval, nosotros a nivel familiar hacemos absolutamente responsable de todo lo malo sucedido al mismo capitán de dicho barco, es decir Carlos Negri ya que fue de el la decisión de navegar hacia Ushuaia atravesando como es de publico conocimiento las aguas del Magallanes y por ende ingresar sin autorización en aguas chilenas. En su lugar, debería haber navegado por la costa del lado del atlántico hasta el estrecho de Le Maire, Isla de los Estados y virar hacia el oeste rumbo a Ushuaia. Por un capricho PERSONAL y queriendo llegar mas rapido a esa ciudad porque debia abordar un vuelo que lo llevaría a Bs As por cuestiones "personales", las cuales desconozco pero que les costaría la vida a todos a bordo. Para agravar esta situación, tuvo acceso a 2 partes meteorológicos que le confirmaban lo pésimo que iba a estar el clima durante el cruce en el estrecho y si eso no era suficiente, conocía la alta peligrosidad del Magallanes y peor aun al llegar a la zona de Cabo Froward. Para culminar la fatalidad sabia que iban a pasar de noche/madrugada ya que zarparon de Rio Gallegos a las 7.40 AM. A todos los que somos familiares, sentimos la perdida del ser querido y NO nos interesa los aspectos políticos ya que sucedió en tiempos de paz, no había guerra con nadie, lo cual agrava la inutilidad de la perdida de vidas humanas. Es todo muy lamentable y trágico. Aparecieron solo 9 cuerpos. 5 en una balsa y otros 4 flotando quizás ahogados o congelados. Mi tío abuelo fue uno de esos 4 que aparecieron flotando, específicamente el ultimo de todos, sin uniforme, solo en ropa interior, sospecho que se quito el uniforme para nadar mas rápido e intentar llegar a la costa de isla Dawson, no se a que distancia estaría o si al momento de la vuelta campana del barco había condiciones de visibilidad hacia dicha costa/isla.... sabemos que las guardias fueron conformadas en tierra, antes de zarpar y a el le toco la guardia desde las 00.00 hasta las 04.00 y el naufragio fue a las 4.20 por hallarse todos los relojes de los 9 fallecidos detenidos a esa hora. Estuvo de timonel como guardia saliente y por eso tuvo tiempo de saltar al agua, sino estaría fondeado dentro del barco junto con sus compañeros. Y vuelvo a hacer hincapié, a los familiares no nos interesa las cuestiones políticas, solo quien fue el culpable de esta atrocidad y ese se llama Negri, es decir, su capitán de tomar toda una serie de pésimas decisiones. O casualidad, uno de los 5 cuerpos hallados en la balsa era este personaje nefasto que tuvieron como "capitan", no cumplió con lo de hundirse con su barco...... solo atino a arrancarse las insignias de su capote, quizás como ultimo acto de auto degradarse de rango.... y esto lo se porque consta en varios lados que sus insignias estaban arrancadas.
Pido disculpas, el corrector de texto del celular puso otras palabras y no encontré opción para editar el comentario, lo vuelvo a subir .... ya corregido...:
Soy sobrino nieto de uno de los marineros fallecidos a bordo ..... específicamente del marinero de 1 ° torpedista Manuel González, era hermano de mi abuelo materno. En base a lo que se de parte de lo contado por mi abuelo que dijo sea de paso en esa misma época era integrante de la Prefectura Naval, nosotros a nivel familiar hacemos absolutamente responsable de todo lo malo sucedido, al mismo capitán de dichos sucesos, es decir, Carlos Negri ya que fue el que tomo la decisión de navegar hacia Ushuaia atravesando como es de público conocimiento las aguas del Magallanes y por ende ingresar sin autorización en aguas chilenas. En su lugar, debería haber navegado por la costa del lado del Atlántico hasta el estrecho de Le Maire, Isla de los Estados y virar hacia el oeste rumbo a Ushuaia. Por un capricho PERSONAL y queriendo llegar mas rápido a esa ciudad porque debía abordar un vuelo que lo llevaría a Bs. As. Para agravar esta situación, tuvo acceso a 2 partes meteorológicos que le confirmaron lo malo que iba a estar el clima durante el cruce en el estrecho y si eso no era suficiente, conocia de sobra la alta peligrosidad del Magallanes y peor aún al llegar a la zona de Cabo Froward. Para culminar la fatalidad sabia que iban a pasar de noche / madrugada ya que zarparon de Río Gallegos a las 7.40 AM. todos los que somos familiares, sentimos la perdida del ser querido y NO nos interesan los aspectos políticos ya que sucedió en tiempos de paz, no había guerra con nadie, lo cual agrava la inutilidad de la perdida de vidas humanas. Es todo muy lamentable y trágico. Aparecieron solo 9 cuerpos. 5 en una balsa y otros 4 flotando quizás ahogados o congelados. Mi tío abuelo fue uno de esos 4 que aparecieron flotando, específicamente el último de todos, sin uniforme, solo en ropa interior, sospecho que se quito el uniforme para nadar más rápido e intentar llegar a la costa de la isla Dawson, no se a que distancia estaban o si al momento de la vuelta campaña del código de barras había condiciones de visibilidad hacia dicha costa / isla ...oficialmente jamas se marco en la actualidad el lugar exacto con GPS donde esta hundido.... sabemos que las guardias fueron conformadas en tierra, antes de zarpar y a mi tio abuelo le toco la guardia desde las 00.00 hasta las 04.00 y el naufragio fue a las 4.20 por hallarse todos los relojes de los 9 fallecidos detenidos a esa hora. Estuvo de timonel como guardia saliente y por eso tuvo tiempo de saltar al agua, sino estária fondeado dentro del barco junto con sus compañeros. Y vuelvo a hacer hincapié, a los familiares no nos interesa las cuestiones políticas, solo quien fue el culpable de esta atrocidad y esa se llama Negri, es decir, su capitán, por tomar toda una serie de pésimas decisiones. O casualidad, uno de los 5 cuerpos hallados en la balsa fue este personaje nefasto que tuvieron como "capitan", no cumplió con lo de hundirse con su barco ...... solo atino a arrancarse las insignias de su capote, quizás como ultimo acto de auto degradarse de rango antes de morir congelado .... y esto lo se porque consta en varios lados que sus insignias estaban arrancadas.

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