Esmeralda IV - The fastest armored cruiser of its time

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Esmeralda IV


On May 15, 1895, the construction contract was signed. It was built in England at the Armstrong Mitchell and Co. Ltd shipyard in Elswick, Newcastle upon Tyne and designed by Philip Watts. It was put into service for the Chilean Navy on September 4, 1896. It was requested in the context of the arms race between Chile and Argentina, since at that time the borders between the two countries were not yet well defined. The two began to order their own ships to be built to impose their presence and respect their rival, through the many years that this arms race lasted, many very powerful ships were bought, one of those ships was the “Esmeralda IV” Chilean that was considered one of the most powerful cruisers of its kind in the world since the Chilean government ordered it to be built with all the technological advances of the time, the new ship was defined by historian Adrian J. English as “the first armored cruiser to be built for any navy,” and the contemporary Naval Annual called it “one of the most powerful cruisers in the world”. Finally and after several years of arms race, it ended on May 28 of 1902, signing 3 pacts that would put an end to the matter.

Its name “Esmeralda IV” comes from the first ship called Esmeralda under the command of the famous Chilean captain Arturo Prat who would die on May 21, 1879 in the battle of Iquique that was very important during the Pacific war between Chile vs Peru-Bolvia, so after the first Esmeralda that was sunk in that battle several other ships in the future would be called “Esmeralda” in honor of the importance of the first.

1910 modernization

Since at that time there were moments of peace between Argentina and Chile after signing the pacts, on May 2, 1910, he set sail together with the cruise ship “O’Higgins” to Buenos Aires to participate in the Naval Magazine for the centenary of the Argentine Republic. That same year the ship was refitted; The Chilean ship had a large number of weapons, 2 very powerful 203 mm main guns and a number of sixteen 152mm rapid-fire guns, and a large number of other guns, so the Chilean navy decided to change the cylindrical boilers for Niclausse multitubular ones, and remove four 152 mm guns, leaving the armored cruiser with twelve 152 mm guns, perhaps they were withdrawn due to weight and efficiency issues, in order to increase the speed of the ship, or perhaps to show Argentina that the peace pact they had signed was serious, be that as it may, the ship gained a total speed of 23.5 knots (43.5 km/h).


A curious fact is that this ship appeared in the American newspaper “The New York Times” on July 11, 1915, where they say that the Chilean Navy claimed that Esmeralda set speed and accuracy world records in big-gun shooting. For the latter, 100 out of 100 shots hit a target. Finally, after several years of service, the Esmeralda IV reached its useful life and began to become technologically outdated with the new advances of the following times, for which reason it was decommissioned in 1930 and later sold for scrap in 1933. Its immense firepower kept the peace with its neighbors and was an engineering marvel for those years.



  • Crew:
    • 520
  • Armament:
    • Primary: 2 x 1 - 203/40 Armstrong Mark P cannon
      • Max elevation angle: +15°
      • Shooting range: 10.5 km
      • Fire rate: 4 shots/minute
Name Type Projectile mass Velocity Explosive mass Penetration
203,2mm AP 95.3 kg 783 m/s - 302 mm
203,2mm HE 95.3 kg 783 m/s -
203,2mm AP 113.4 kg 722 m/s - 304 mm
  • Secondary armament:
    • 12 x 1 - 152/40 Armstrong Mark W2 cannon
      • Max elevation angle: +15°
      • Projectile mass: 45.4 kg
      • Muzzle Velocity: 762 m/s
      • Shooting range: 9.8 km
      • Fire rate: 7 shots/minute
    • 8 x 1 - 76 mm/40 Armstrong Mark N cannon
      • Max elevation angle: +20°
      • Projectile mass: 5.9 kg
      • Muzzle Velocity: 674 m/s
      • Shooting range: 7.3 km
      • Fire rate: 15 shots/minute
  • Anti-aircraft armament: 8 Maxim machine guns (originally, unknown for 1910)
  • Torpedo launcher: 3 x 457 mm torpedoes
  • Dimensions:
    • Length: 132.9 m (pp)
    • Beam: 16.2 m
    • Draft: 6.17 mean
    • Standard displacement: 7.000 t
  • Maneuverability :
    • Propulsion: 2 vertical triple expansion engines, 6 double-ended multitubular Niclausse boilers, 16100 hp
    • Max. speed: 43.5 km/h
    • Endurance: 5500 nm (10 kts)
  • Armour (front / side / back):
    • Citadel: 152 / 152 / 152 mm
    • Main fire tower: 130 / - / - mm
    • Conning tower: 203 / 203 / 203 mm




Special thanks to @COLDOWN who helped me a lot by sharing all the necessary information to make this publication as complete as possible.


+1 i like it

1 Like

Could you suggest those that are from Argentina as well, at that time the rivals from Chile, Argentina also has several ships from before the great war that are powerful