Sunday, November 15, 2009

Arrival in the Falkland Islands

After three days of traveling and stopovers, I arrived yesterday in the Falkland Islands (made-up of two large islands with 740 smaller ones) at the Mount Pleasant airport. After exiting the plane (old movie-style down a ramp and onto the runway) we had about an hour drive to Stanley, the capital of the Falkland Islands where the ship is in port. Here’s there the rundown of what I was seeing and thinking during that drive: First, there is not a single tree in sight! There are no trees naturally in the Falkland Islands. However, there are hills that seem to go on forever covered in grasses and scrubby plants, scattered with sheep and geese. The overall color is drab with hits of tan, gray and dark green. It is quite a cloudy day with spotty rain and it is freezing cold. I am definitely not in Alabama anymore, I hope I adjust soon! We arrive in Stanley, which almost appears out of nowhere. I can now see why this part of the island was settled. It is by far the most picturesque. We head to the James Clark Ross to unpack our things and get acquainted with the ship’s crew. The crew is very welcoming and I feel almost at home already. This is going to be a great cruise.

Today we spent the entire day exploring around. Stanley is such a quaint town, claiming about 2500 people, no atm, and an interesting history. Despite the “there is nothing to do in Stanley” buzz around the ship, we found quite a lot to fill the day. Although it was gray and snowing yesterday, today was gorgeous and sunny… at least for a while. (The weather here apparently changes on a dime). We started the morning off with a two hour stroll to Gypsy Cove in search of penguins, stopping along the way to see the Totem pole, the “Lady Liz” and to do a bit of tide pooling. The Totem pole was first built by British soldiers just after the 1982 Conflict to show the direction and distance to their home town in the UK. Over the years, many other have added their own signs pointing to destinations all over the world.

The Lady Elizabeth Shipwreck (shout-out to my seester!) is at the east end of Stanley Harbour and originally launched form the UK in 1879. She apparently suffered damage while rounding Cape Horn and then limped back into Stanley for repair, where she still remains today unrepaired blown aground. Tide pooling was fantastic! So many limpets, mussels, amphipods and isopods. Next, fighting the rain, we trudged up and over the hill to Gypsy Cove. This area is a natural reserve and is supposed to be the best spot for viewing Magellanic penguins. Although it was breathtakingly gorgeous and sunny again, we only saw two penguins, both far away and brief. This part of the island honestly looks like a tropical beach! One might actually be fooled into the tropical beach part, if it wasn’t for the cold winds as a constant reminder that the Falkland Islands are indeed the gateway to the Antarctic. So we saw just a few penguins, but tallied up so much more to add to the list. So many interesting plants, mosses, and lichens; one sea lion, countless Falkland Island birds and a lighthouse, barely visible far off in the distance.

After some lunch back in Stanley, we headed to the museum to gather a bit of history of the Falkland Islands. This is a town full of history. Stanley was first sighted in 1592 and then colonized by the British in 1690. The British administration remained unbroken from 1833 until the Argentine invasion on April 2, 1982. 1982!! The 1982 Conflict lasted for about one month until the British overtook the Argentineans and regained control. The museum was full of old ship part and artifacts, as well as reconstructions of what it was like to live on the island in the early 1900’s. If there isn’t much to do now, I can’t begin to imagine what it was like then! We then wandered around town for the rest of the afternoon, seeing many of the sights offered by Stanley, strolling along the coast.

Tomorrow will be a day on a guided tour to Kidney Cove on the other side of the island in search of rockhopper, gentoo, Magellanic and king penguins! Can’t wait to see to penguins up close and explore the other side of the island. Tuesday morning we set sail for the Antarctic, entailing approximately a ten day “cruise” to Rothera Station. The internet isn’t the best of the ship, but hopefully I’ll still be able to update a time or two during the cruise.

1 comment:

  1. I was told by Grandma J that I had to print off your blog and give it to her and Grandpa before I even knew the address to the blog. They are both excited to read about your travels even though they are not on the internet. Aunt Marla