Yapura is a ship that was commissioned to be built in 1861 alongside its sister boat the Yavari, and she was built to be used on the Lake Titicaca. Aptly named after the Javary river that runs through the Loreto Region of Peru, this in itself is nothing special – until you learn the Yavari is still in operation today.
Constructed in the Thames Ironworks of West Ham, the boat was designed to be a combined cargo, passenger and gunboats for the Peruvian Navy. They were built in a special way that allowed them to be dismantled and shipped easily to their final destination: Lake Titicaca. This was quite an amazing act in itself as each boat was split into 2,766 pieces. This was needed as the final leg of the journey would be by mule, from Puno to the lake.
The original British contractors were able to get the boats to Puno, but the section of the journey via mules proved impossible for them and they originally gave up. And it wasn’t until 1868 that this task was resumed, finally bringing the ships to the lake. This meant the Yapura was not actually in operation on the lake until 1873.
One of the cool things about the Yapura, though today it is known as the BAP Puno, is that it still has its original steam-powered engine – which is actually fuelled by dried llama dung. The ship has actually gone through many owners, during the War of the Pacific in 1879 the Peruvian government became so poor that foreign investors were able to buy up all of Peru’s railway and lake ships.
But in 1976, Peru nationalized all these private corporations and then eventually transferred the BAP Puno back to the Peruvian Navy. It was at this time that the navy converted Yapura into a hospital ship and renamed it to BAP Puno. Pretty cool to think a boat constructed over 150 years ago, is still in operation and helping people every day.