STANLEY, FALKLAND ISLANDS


The Falklands is made up of over 700 islands with an equivalent lad area to Connecticut, but with a total population of around 3,000 people many of whom are descendants of shipwrecked sailors, Antarctic whalers and Scottish shepherds.  The primary industries are sheep and cattle farming, and wildlife conservation. Stanley, also known as Port Stanley, is the capital of the Falkland Islands. It is located on the island of East Falkland, on a north facing slope in one of the wettest parts of the islands. At the 2012 census, the town had a population of 2,121; the entire population of the Falkland Islands was 2,841 on Census Day on 15 April 2012. It began as a settlement in 1843 and became the capital in July 1845. It was named after Lord Stanley, Secretary of State for War and the Colonies at the time. Stanley is the main shopping centre on the islands and the hub of East Falkland's road network. Attractions include the Falkland Islands Museum, Government House – built in 1845 and home to the Governor of the Falkland Islands – and a golf course, as well as a whalebone arch, a totem pole, several war memorials and the shipwrecks in its harbour.

Although the Falklands is a British territory, it was occupied by Argentine troops for about ten weeks during the Falklands War in 1982. After the British secured the high ground around the town the Argentines surrendered with no fighting in the town itself. The beaches and land around it were heavily mined and some areas remain marked minefields. A bomb disposal unit in the town is a legacy of the Falklands War.
As the ship approached the islands, I wondered why a war was fought over such a desolate looking place, a question which was answered as part of our tour - the islands are strategic as a connection to British bases in Antarctica, both military and scientific. As for desolate, I overheard a tourist ask a young man working in a food truck why he stayed there. His response: "Why would I want to leave? It's the best place to live." Enough said.

The climate of Stanley is classified as a sub polar oceanic climate, as the mean temperature is greater than 10 °C (50 °F) for two months of the year. When we arrived, it was overcast and the temperature was 12C/54F, keeping in mind it was their summer.


Our tour took us on an off road trip to Bluff Cove Lagoon to play with the penguins. Bluff Cove is part of a 35,000 acre sheep and cattle ranch, and is preserved as a breeding ground for penguins and a variety of seabirds.
 

Our first view of the island. The majority of the islands are barren, displaying a variety of colours: pale yellow of the white grass, gray of the stone runs, green of the Diddle Dee (a small berry plant used to make wonderful jam) and brown of the peat bogs
. I'm sure it would have looked much nicer if it were a clear, sunny day.
   
The water of the bay is too shallow for large ships to enter, so it anchored off-shore and we had to take tenders to the dock. That small boat in the distance is one of the tenders, making it's way to shore.
A word to the wise. If you ever take a cruise where you have to tender, don't get a cabin at the front of the ship, because the rattle of the chains as the anchor is lowered is loud enough to wake the dead.



Another view
of the island.


On the tender, headed for shore.
The tenders are actually quite large, holding 150 people when being used as a tender, and up to 250 when used as a lifeboat.

 

Dina sitting at the back of the tender with one of the ship's crew members.
   
On the shore opposite the dock, the names of over a dozen famous ships that have visited the Falklands are laid out in granite. The three shown here are the 'Endurance', the 'Dumbarton Castle' and the 'Clyde'.


Our first view of the town as we got off the tender.



The town itself is actually quite quaint and colourful, the more popular venues being the four pubs and the fish and chip shop.


The Jubilee Villas
These villas were built in 1887 to commemorate Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee. They are typical examples of British terraced town houses of that era, making a curious contrast to the rest of Stanley's architecture.


The town is somewhat hilly, which may explain why everyone there drives all wheel drive vehicles, which no doubt come in handy during winter.

    
Both Izak's and Dina's heads were a little chilly, so they went to the gift shop and bought matching wool caps. Cute aren't they!



Our tour started with a scenic 20 minute drive in a minibus to where we would transfer to 4x4 vehicles. During the drive I spotted this. Apparently, at one point  someone found an old boot and stuck in on a stick in the ground, after which everyone got into the act, resulting in a lot of old boots and shoes being stuck on posts and sticks.
   
I got to sit in the front seat of the 4x4, which proceeded to travel off road across some pretty rough terrain. While not hilly, the ground was full of rocks, dips, holes and small creeks. Hard on the kidneys but lots of fun.



Being in the front seat I could see what was ahead and spent half the time thinking "No, he's not" and "Oh No! He is!" the rest of the time.
  

Bluff Cove Lagoon
Bluff Cove Lagoon Is part of a 35,000 sheep and cattle ranch. The owners have preserved the lagoon area as a penguin rookery, and built a small restaurant and gift shop for tourists. Upon our arrival we were met by rangers who explained we were not to go past the flag markers that surrounded the penguins and the reasons why, so we never could get too close.
.
Gentoo P
enguins
There are 120,000 breeding pairs of Gentoos in the Falklands, one third of the world's Gentoo population, and have been classified as "near threatened". About 1,000 pairs breed in this lagoon. They are the third largest penguin, about 30" tall, weight 12 to 15 lbs and have a life expectancy of 10 to 12 years.
These penguins were shedding their pin feathers and had not been to sea to feed for over a month, as they can't dive for food until it's gone. That is why we were not to go near them. The concern was they would move around too much and expend whatever energy they had left. Since they were already in a weakened state, there was a high risk that they would not be able to make it back to sea and die of starvation.


Gentoos are easily recognized by the white stripe above their eyes, a bright orange beak and matching feet and long tails.



For the most part, they conserve their energy by lying quietly on the ground..



All those white things on the ground are feathers that have been shed. To help things along, they will spend time "pruning" themselves. The one lying down in the middle still has a long way to go before he's ready to return to the sea.



This little guy is ready and venturing towards the lagoon. Penguins are so cute when they walk on land. They waddle along with their 'arms' stuck out for balance, as this one is doing.



King Penguins
Nearby was a small colony of King Penguins, the second largest penguin after the Emperor Penguins of Antarctica (the birds starring in the movie "March of the Penguins"). They stand 36" tall, weigh 30 lbs and have a life expectancy of 30 years. There are 1.5 million pairs in the world, with about 1,000 breeding pairs in the  Falkland Islands. They are recognized by the orange patches on their heads, and orange/yellow necks and gray backs. King Penguins have recovered from near extermination, having been harvested for their oil in the 19th century, and are no longer considered to be endangered.
    

Actually, this is only half of the colony, as their mates are feeding at sea. Like the Emperor, parents take turns going to sea to feed (approximately 3 weeks), while the other stays and "minds the kid". The King Penguin breeds every other year, laying one egg, which they incubate on their feet. After hatching the chick is kept warm by
balancing on its parents' feet, sheltered by a pouch formed from the abdominal skin, like the little guy in this picture.
 

Chicks can be born at anytime during the summer months and not always around the same time. The chick on the right is old enough to waddle around on it's own, under the watchful eye of the colony. The one on the left however is only 48 hours old and will remain sheltered alternately by it's parents for 30 to 40 days. by the way, that 'stuff' on the ground is not feathers, it's "projectile poop".



Colony members watching over one of the chicks. I almost thought the two adults on the right were warning off the one on the left, but then . . .



. . . the two on the left ended up being the ones to fuss over the young one.



Afterward, we wandered down to the Sea Cabbage Cafe by the beach for a complimentary tea/coffee/hot chocolate and a variety of wonderful home baking (including scones with Diddle Dee jam). Beside the cafe is this small building, the Bluff Cove Museum and Gift Shop. The museum focuses on the life of the Island's sheep farmers, as well as the history of the farm. The Gift Shop sells a variety of items including works from wildlife artists, china, textiles, jewelry, sculptures and collectibles such as fridge magnets, pins, key rings, etc.



While we waited for the 4x4's to return, we took some snaps of the lagoon. The tide was out and the place looked pretty barren, especially since there is a noticeable lack of trees everywhere.



One of the other tourists managed to venture out on the wet sand to take pictures, but he wasn't alone . . .



. . . having a waddling king penguin for company.



A small group of Upland Geese taking off.
The upland goose or Magellan Goose is indigenous to the southern part of South America.
 

Dina and I beside the 4x4, awaiting our 'bouncy' return to the ship.



The 4x4's traveled in groups of 4. Right now we're 'following the leader'.



Of course, groups had a tendency to try and out race each other. That's our competition thinking they have the upper hand.



The driver actually stopped to I could get this picture of  one of the stone runs I mentioned earlier.
A stone run is actually a path of granite stones left by the glaciers as they traveled across the
islands, stretching on for miles.

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