The Ship, The Lady, and the Lake follows the extraordinary account of Meriel Larken’s quest to restore the “Yavari” steamship in Peru’s Lake Titicaca. The story vividly describes her account of finding the decrepit ship rotting away in the Lake, how she discovered the ship’s incredible history, and her project to restore and preserve this piece of history.
In 1861, the Peruvian government ordered the construction of the steamships for Lake Titicaca to transport cargo and passengers between lake ports in Peru and Bolivia. One year later, the British-built ship arrived at the southern coast of Peru, and the government faced the daunting task of transporting the ship through the Andes to Lake Titicaca, which arrived in thousands of separate pieces. Piece by piece and with the help of mules, the ship was carried over 12,500 feet to the world’s highest navigable lake where it was reconstructed for use. Larken’s book recalls this epic journey and puts the remarkable feat into perspective. Following its reconstruction, the steamship was operated by a British company and provided transport for the region’s exports and moved passengers between lakeside communities for more than a century. Around 1975, the ship became the property of the Peruvian Navy, and unfortunately, due to a lack of resources, was allowed to fall into disrepair.
By the time Meriel Larken discovered the Yavari in 1985, it had been rotting away for years in a Puno port. Fortunately for Larken, having been in fresh water and a high altitude, the ship’s iron hull was preserved and deemed worthy of a restoration. This is where her quest began to restore the ship to its former glory and turn it into a major tourist attraction. As she describes in her book, years of dedication and hard work paid off, and in 1998 the ship was officially opened as a State museum.
Today, the Yavari, which recently celebrated its 150th anniversary last year, is open to the public and interested guests can visit the famous ship parked conveniently outside the Sonesta Posada Hotel in Puno. Be sure to check out Meriel Larken’s book The Ship, The Lady, and the Lake beforehand though, a tale of unerring determination and achievement.