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Allen Gardiner

Allen  GardinerAllen Francis Gardiner (1794–1851) was a British Royal Navy officer and missionary to Patagonia. He was born in the parsonage house at Basildon, Berkshire, where his parents were temporarily residing. He was religiously educated, and in May 1808 entered the Royal Naval College, Portsmouth.

In 1810 he went to sea as a volunteer on board HMS. Fortune and after a time moved to the Phœbe. He served in that ship as midshipman until August 1814, when, having distinguished himself in the capture of the American frigate Essex, he was sent to England as acting lieutenant of that prize. Being confirmed as lieutenant 13 December he afterwards served in the Ganymede, the Leander, and the Dauntless in various parts of the world, and returned invalided to Portsmouth in 1822. In 1824 he served as second lieutenant of the Jupiter at Newfoundland and in 1825 came back to England in charge of the Clinker, when he obtained his promotion as commander although he never succeeded in obtaining another appointment.

He then resolved that he would devote his life to the work of a missionary pioneer and went to Africa in 1834, exploring the Zulu country and starting the first missionary station at Port Natal. From 1834 to 1838 he was engaged in earnest endeavours to establish Christian churches in Zululand, but political events and native wars combined to prevent any permanent success. From 1838 to 1843 he laboured among the Indians of Chile, and went from island to island in the Indian Archipelago, but his efforts were foiled by the opposition of the various governments. His first visit to Tierra del Fuego took place in 1842, when, coming from the Falkland Islands in the schooner Montgomery, he landed in Oazy harbour. A second attempt to establish a mission but Gardiner was not discouraged and he left England again in 1845 with Federico Gonzales, a Spanish Protestant,going to Bolivia where he distributed bibles to the Indian population. He spent 1848 in making a survey of Tierra del Fuego with a view to a mission, and suffered great hardships. Next he sailed from Liverpool in 1850 on the Ocean Queen, and was landed at Picton Island in December. He had with him two launches, each twenty-six feet long, in which had been stowed provisions to last for six months. The Yahgan people were hostile and great thieves; the climate was severe and the country barren. Six months elapsed without the arrival of further supplies, which were detained at the Falkland Islands for want of a vessel. The unfortunate men of the mission gradually died of starvation, Gardiner, himself the last survivor, expiring, as it is believed, 6 September 1851.

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