The frigate had been on a two- month deployment of the Falkland islands.
She is thought to have run aground in a canal between islands near the notorious Cape Horn. Weather in the area can be treacherous and fast-changing - although it is thought conditions were fine yesterday.
None of the 220 crew were hurt and Navy sources said last night there was no danger that the ship, built by Yarrow on the Clyde, would break up. But the ship's bows were firmly stuck, suggesting it was not a trivial incident, which will produce red faces in the Navy.
The two Rolls-Royce Olympus gas turbines, producing 54,600 horse-power, were unable to pull the ship free and the Navy was waiting for the high tide and the Chilean Navy based at Punta Arenas to help free it. Until the ship is freed, it will not be possible to assess the damage to her hull, Navy sources said.
The 3,500-ton Type-22 anti- submarine frigate, commissioned in 1982, is not one of the Navy's very latest ships but the Navy does not take kindly to captains running ships of this size aground. Brazen cost pounds 70m at 1981 prices. About half the Royal Navy ships deployed to the South Atlantic return up the west coast of South America, in order to pay courtesy calls on the Chileans. The link has been strategically important since the 1982 Falklands war.
A Ministry of Defence spokesman confirmed last night that 'a ship has gone aground in Chilean waters. The Chilean Navy and government are lending every assistance.'