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The Heroina was a privately owned frigate that was operated as a privateer under a license issued by the United Provinces of the River Plate (later Argentina). It was under the command of Colonel David Jewett and has become linked with the Argentine claim to sovereignty of the Falkland Islands. This stems from a ceremony that took place on 6 November 1820, where Jewett formally claimed the Falkland Islands for the United Provinces.

The Buenos Aires businessman Patrick Lynch acquired the French frigate Braque at some point in 1819/1820. The exact date is unknown with dates for the transaction ranging from August 1819 until January 1820. Initially it was planned to name the ship Tomas Guido but that name was considered inappropriate as Guido was still living at the time. [*] Etcheverry, Gerardo, Listado de buques de guerra a vela de las Provincias Unidas del Rio de la Plata (List of Warships of the United Provinces of the River Plate), Accessed 2007-10-27 After naming her Heroina and fitting out the ship to act as a privateer, Lynch obtained a corsair license from the Buenos Aires Supreme Director Jose Rondeau.

Colonel David Jewett, an American privateer was given command of Heroina in 1820 and set out on a voyage marked by misfortune, a mutiny, and scurvy.

In July 1820, Jewett captured the Portuguese Frigate Carlota that was en-route to Lisbon. In doing so, Jewett crossed the line between privateer and pirate, since his corsairs license restricted his activities to Spanish ships (the United Provinces of the River Plate were not at war with Portugal). Jewett continued to capture ships of other flags causing further controversy.

In August, the crew mutinied and Jewett was only able to restore order with the support of the soldiers on board. The leader of the mutiny, James Thomas, was executed. Following the mutiny there was an outbreak of scurvy at a time when the crew of the Heroina was depleted by the need to man the prize Carlota. A storm severely damaged the Heroina and sank the Carlota forcing Jewett to put into Puerto Soledad for repairs. [*] O'Donnell, Pacho El Aguila Guerrera, Accessed 2007-10-27

Some 80 of the ''Heroina'screw of 200 were either sick or dead by the time he arrived in October at Puerto Soledad . There he found some fifty British and U.S. sealing ships at anchor.

Captain Jewett chose to rest and recover in the islands seeking assistance from the British explorer James Weddell. Weddell reports only 30 seamen and 40 soldiers out of a crew of 200 fit for duty, and how Jewett slept with pistols over his head following an attempted mutiny. Whilst in the Falkland Islands, there was a further attempt at mutiny with the crew eager to return to Buenos Aires.

On 6 November 1820, Col Jewett raised the flag of the United Provinces of the River Plate and claimed possession of the islands. Weddell reports the letter he received from Jewett asWeddell, James, A Voyage Towards the South Pole, London, Longman, Rees, Orme, Brown and Green, 1827:

Sir, I have the honor of informing you that I have arrived in this port with a commission from the Supreme Government of the United Provinces of the Rio de la Plata to take possession of these islands on behalf of the country to which they belong by Natural Law. While carrying out this mission I want to do so with all the courtesy and respect all friendly nations; one of the objectives of my mission is to prevent the destruction of resources necessary for all ships passing by and forced to cast anchor here, as well as to help them to obtain the necessary supplies, with minimum expenses and inconvenience. Since your presence here is not in competition with these purposes and in the belief that a personal meeting will be fruitful for both of us, I invite you to come aboard, where you'll be welcomed to stay as long as you wish; I would also greatly appreciate your extending this invitation to any other British subject found in the vicinity; I am, respectfully yours.Signed, Jewett, Colonel of the Navy of the United Provinces of South America and commander of the frigate Heroina.

Many modern authors report this letter as the declaration issued by David Jewett.Laurio H. Destefani, The Malvinas, the South Georgias and the South Sandwich Islands, the conflict with Britain, Buenos Aires, 1982 Weddell did not believe that Jewett was acting with the interests of the United Provinces of the River Plate in mind, rather Jewett had merely put into the harbour in order to obtain refreshments for his crew, and that the assumption of possession was chiefly intended for the purpose of securing an exclusive claim to the wreck of the French ship Uraniethat had a few mouths previously foundered at the entrance of Berkeley Sound. Weddell left the islands on 20 November 1820 noting that Jewett had not completed repairs to the Heroina.

On leaving the Islands, Jewett took the American schooner Rampartas a prize, an incident that had diplomatic repercussions with the United States of America.

In February 1821, Jewett was relieved of command being replaced by Guillermo Roberto Mason. On June 14, 1821 Heroinacaptured the Spanish brig Maipu, which was incorporated into the flotilla. Mason also attacked and seized the Portuguese ships Viscondesaand Providenciabefore putting into Gibraltar for repairs.

On the 20th March 1822 the Heroinawas met by the Portuguese 44 gun Frigate Perola off Gibraltar. The Perolamanaged to approach the Heroinaand fired a broadside at point-blank range, ravaging the deck on the Heroinaand forcing Mason to surrender. The Heroinawas taken to Lisbon as a prize. For his action the Portuguese commander, captain Marcal de Ataide Barahona, was made a knight of the Portuguese Military Order of the Tower and of the Sword, of Valour, Loyalty and Merit. The actions of the Heroinain seizing Portuguese ships combined with the fact that the Portuguese government, as most European governments at the time, had not yet recognised the United Provinces of the River Plate as an independent and legitimate state led to her being labelled as a pirate ship.

Mason was held by Portugal for two years before returning to Buenos Aires.


Child, Jack. Geopolitics and Conflict in South America: Quarrels Among Neighbors. New York; Praeger, 1985, pp. 112-115.

Gough, Barry. The Falkland Islands/Malvinas: The Contest for Empire in the South Atlantic. London: Athlone Press, 1992, pp. 55-59.

Strange, Ian J. The Falkland Islands. London: David & Charles Press, 1983, p. 194.

Pereira, Jose Antonio R. A Marinha Portuguesa na Epoca de Napoleao - campanhas navais 1807-1823; volume II: A Armada e o Brasil. Lisbon, Tribuna de Historia, Edicao de Livros e Revistas Lda, 2005, p. 79.

Instituto dos Arquivos Nacionais Torre do Tombo'' Merces de D. Maria II, book V
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