The Falkland Islands had never really been on my list of “Must Visit” places, it was not even on
the secondary list but when it was a short walk down the gangplank, (actually a tender boat ride) and
offered a trip to a penguin rookery I leaped at the chance.
Traveling on a cruise ship does have it’s advantages, and the library is typically stocked with the
classics and a good regional section that deals with the areas that you are visiting. I also find the lectures
before a stop most valuable but it has taken me a while to differentiate between the lectures and which are
promotional sessions for the tours offered by the ship. Both are of value but I like to get my mind
prepared for whether it will be receiving information worthy of storing or sales material that has to be
sorted and a choice made.
I remembered the conflict from the early 80’s but even with some time in the library I could not
get to why it came about or why Mrs. Thatcher was that determined Britain keep control of this
windswept group of islands in the south pacific. Even the name of the port Puerto Argentina/Stanley told
me the conflict was not over, and I was not disappointed when I stepped ashore.
Stanley is not a bustling city, it is a mid size town on the edge of the ocean and accommodates
tourists when the arrive, the location does not afford them the same traffic as say Disneyland or Busch
Gardens. We made our way ashore and were beset by a small number of shops that selling things the
locals might make but would never buy.
Amanda was in the midst of her knitting period and I had the requirements for mittens, scarf or a
sweater safely stowed in my wallet and I had them recorded in both newbie and knitter units so that I
could make a decision on the amount of wool we were purchasing and not leave her a skein short of a
sweater when we got home. We were not returning to this store and it was unlikely they would have the
color to match, though some stores did offer a mail order service and if you kept you lot number promised
to do the best they could to provide a matching skein or complementary color.
When I exited the yarn/knickknack/ceramic penguin store the Falkland Island Post Office was in
across the street and in the next block so I made my inside prepared to make a few philanthropic
purchases. I was overwhelmed, this place understood marketing, somehow with my Canadian upbringing
I thought the Post Office was on the same level as the military and about as serious. Not so, these guys
were in the business of selling stamps oh sure you could put one on a letter or card if you want and mail it
home but the choice was as wide as the ocean on the horizon just out the window.
I may be exaggerating a bit when I say they had a stamp to commemorate Tommy painting his
house a couple of years ago “and it needs it again, that will be the second in the series. The sea is hard on
paint.” said the clerk. I purchase a few stamps commemorating penguins since that was the target of my
visit and I had not done significant research to understand what was at stake in the war. Britain still
viewed the islands as an overseas British Colony and Argentina had declared them part of the country in
its last constitution.
We wanted to try one of the less “touristy” spots for lunch since they would be over run with
people for the cruise boat so we wander to the edge of town about two blocks on a street parallel to main
and wandered into a local pub.
“Lots of room” shouted the operator coming through the door from what I guess was his
dwelling, “Sit where ever you like” It was lunch time and we were the only people in the place, we made
our way to the back of the pub and up a single step to what I assume might have been a stage at the time
of a live band.
I ordered a draft beer to save him the trip of coming to take my drink order when he brought the
menus. I did not open mine, as is my rule asked if they had a special and orders it. Sandra and Christine a
pleasant Australian lady we had befriend in a per-cruise tour studied the menu and then settled on Fish
“Three fish and chips with mushy peas” he said as he turned back through the door that I
assumed housed the kitchen for this fine establishment. He delivered the meals to the table and since no
one else had chosen this fine establishment over the lunch hour he had time to visit with us. It turned out
he was not a native Falkland but rather from St Helen’s “where Napoleon had been banished to” and had
come to visit a few years earlier but never quiet got around to leaving. As with most stories like this there
was a girl involved but she had since left the story and now he was tending bar and enjoying the company
of the locals when they did frequent his barn. I could have easily stayed for another brew and few more
yarns but it was time to be off so we headed down to the dock where we were loaded in into 4x4s of the
newest vintage to head over to the Penguin Rookery.
I can not comment on the condition of the road because there was none, we limped and crawled
over the desolate countryside until we cane too a flat green house trailer set upon the rocks with ropes
going out the other side of it to control the crowds that might be rushing the penguins. I don’t know where
I developed my love of avian photography but it burst to the surface now. I wanted to be taking pictures
of the rookery, of the waddles (groups) as the headed down to the water, and the colony that stayed back
as well as an creche (group of chicks that might appear. This this point in my life I rated pictures of birds
as only slightly better more interesting than pictures of insects which I thought of a text book material,
Suddenly I was down on the ground shoot eye level with the birds – honesty the are so much
more than birds they are almost human in their behavior and facial expressions, I was happily snapping
away calculating if I had enough fire power to keep going. Yes I had an extra battery, and empty memory
card to start the day and another one in my camera bag – I should be good for about 8547 pictures
according to my calculations, I had to keep busty. Sandra took a few shots with her phone, and then was
content to watch the little fellows and point out a interesting antic to me. I though ti deserved at least a
half dozen frames.
I was moving around to the other side of the colony and hoping to get shots of a waddle returning
from the ocean. It warned of land mines, these little creates were forced to walk through a mine field to
get to the ocean, my heart went out to them. The operator of the rookery explained that the penguins were
not heavy enough to trip the mines, “But the cows a re, and off course people are” It had been determined
hat in 2008 clearing the mines would cause more damage tot he country side than the danger of them
being triggered. It 2011 there were sill 113 uncleared mines.
In November of 2019 the British declared all the mines had been cleared but that was after out
I am sure that other visitors saw this a serious issue that the penguins were treading this path
fraught with mines down to the beach, assure they were to light for the trigger I felt relived but I wonder
about the cows that were grading down there and if in fact they might cause a mine to detonate, I could
not help but think of being hit by hamburger shrapnel as I continued to take my pics, I quickly evaluated
and determined it was worth the risk.
A few thousand pics safely in my camera I begin to scan the sky and found an huge amount of
birds in one quadrant of the sky, it was not a flock of the same type but an assortment. When we headed
back to town I asked our driver what attracted the birds and after an awkward pause he said, “It is the
“does the smell attract them?” I queried.
“No, it is the spillage in the water.” he offered sheepishly.
“Can we go see?
“It is not on the tour, but I suppose.” We headed toward a large precast concrete structure devoid
of windows or signage but with the entrails of at least 4 animals floating in the water beside it and the
birds having an absolute picnic.
“No need to worry about it floating out to sea, the birds will clean it up.” They did, I am sure it
could not be advertised on the tour stops, but for variety of birds and exhibiting their diving skill it was a
facility like none I have ever seen. No structure build around it and no admission just birds diving and
eating and helping with the refuse cost of the slaughter plant, it was a win/win situation.
On the way back to the dock I became aware of why wool was the flagship product of this island
– no mater how often the driver got out and opened the gate for us to pass trough we were in another
paddock filled with sheep. The 3 islands raise nearly a half million sheep a year comparing that to the
human population of 3,000 gives them by far the highers sheep to people ratio in the world far surpassing
New Zealand or Australia.
The are not the fine wooled sheep of my friends farm in Oz, they are working sheep who have to
deal with the climate, the land forms and everything else and sill produce a wool crop. The most populate
breeds are Coniedald and Powlwoth with some Merino influence as the government tries to upgrade the
quality of the wool produced. Most of the wool is sold into the wool pool which provides a mix or micro
widths and therefore quality.
Some of the producers keep their wool separate for sale in the specialty shops and while it brings
a premium from Dad’s like me it is not enough to buy the production of a half million sheep.
We saw a few sea lions lounging on the shore as we loaded to the tenders but they were so last
stop the may have only solicited a photo or two as I headed back to the ship.
Can one really see a country in a day? I have never been one to say that but it is the best I could
do in this case and it is not a huge island. I believe with a good tour and some self explanatory missions
you can see a country in a day or at least an awful lot of it.