The Peruvian Navy took a chance in 1861. It ordered two huge iron gunboats—the Yavarí and the Yapura—for patrolling Lake Titicaca, which at 3,838 meters is the world’s highest navigable lake.
‘Navigable’ is often added as there are smaller, higher lakes elsewhere in the Andes, but these are more isolated and lack the requisite depth for larger ships.
But that’s not the case for the 100-mile long Lake Titicaca, the largest fresh-water body on the South American continent proper* and the mythical cradle of the Inca civilization. It was here that the Sun was born and the first Inca descended from the heavens to create the Inca Empire.
But protecting this magnificent lake with modern ships was no simple matter. There were no ship-building facilities and one of the world’s largest mountain ranges, the Andes, lay in-between the Pacific Ocean port of Arica—where the boats were to be received piecemeal from England—and the lake which they were supposed to patrol. Continue reading