The S.S. Ortega entering the straits of Nelson with the S.M.S. Dresden in pursuit signed and dated with intertwined initials "T.J. Somerscales_1916" oil on canvas 15-1/4 x 22 in. (39.7 x 55.8 cm.)
Literature: Alex A. Hurst, Thomas Somerscales - Marine Artist, Teredo Books, Brighton, Sussex, 1988; p. 262 with a description of the painting and this event (not illustrated). There is the belief that there were two or three versions of this painting created by Mr. Somerscales. The one described in the book is belived to have been destroyed in the blitz of Liverpool during WWII when the Pacific Steam Navigation Company's offices were destroyed.
On 18 September 1914 the S.S. Ortega was traveling southward along the Chilean coast from Valparaiso to Montevideo. In addition to a valuable cargo of £117,000, the Ortega was carrying 300 French reservists and confidential mail from the Admiralty. When the Ortega was about 50 miles from the entrance to the Straits of Magellan, she sighted the German cruiser, Dresden, approaching on an opposite course. The S.S. Ortega was only capable of 14 knots whereas the cruiser could achieve a speed of 20 knots. With the Dresden in pursuit, the Ortega changed course for Cape George and the ship's engineers achieved a speed of 18 knots, the Dresden soon came within range and fired a shot as a signal to heave to. Captain Kinnier of the Ortega, ignored the signal and continued on course, driving the ship as fast as he could. The Dresden then opened fire in earnest, but the Ortega, stern on, did not present a target and all of the shots missed their mark. Chancing the shallow and uncharted channels of Nelson Strait, the S.S. Ortega succeeded in reaching waters where it was impossible for the Dresden to follow. They lowered some boats and sent them ahead of the ship to take soundings, and by following slowly in their wake, the Ortega succeeded in working it's way through nearly one hundred miles of narrow and treacherous channel and emerged into the Straits of Magellan, and then into Smyth's Channel and thereafter to Rio de Janeiro where they arrived safely.
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