He enlisted in the Chilean Navy in 1871 and visited Easter Island in 1875. From 1877 to 1879, he joined the English Navy as a second lieutenant. In 1879, as the War of the Pacific started, he asked to return to Chile and participated in several actions.
In 1883, he visited Easter Island a second time and elaborated in a document the economic advantages to Chile in acquiring the island. With government approval, he visited the island in 1887. After a year of negotiations with the islanders, on 9 September 1888, he took possession of the island on behalf of Chile.
In 1891, he refused to participate in naval actions against José Manuel Balmaceda's government in the 1891 Chilean Civil War and was separated from the Army. In 1893, in the general amnesty enacted by the new government, he was pensioned. He died in Santiago in 1921.