South America – Falkland Islands

After our time in Puerto Madryn, we had a day at sea.  We took advantage to do abit of laundry.  This ship has self-serve laundry facility but they were very busy, so we washed everything out in the sink and used towels from the pool to wring out the water.  We like to travel with black socks as they don’t show the dirt.

We enjoyed the magician show…

The juggler

Some great food and a beautiful sunset.

The port of Stanley in the Falkland Islands, could not accommodate our ship so we had to use the life boats to tender/be transported to shore.

Just as we were boarding the tender it began to rain…

The Falkland Island are comprised of over 750 islands but only have 3400 residents with 2100 living in Stanley.  Most of the residents are descendants of ship wrecked sailors, Antarctic whalers, and Scottish shepherds.  The islands are a British territory, but have a self-governing system.  The United Kingdom oversees their defense and foreign affairs.  They have their own currency and are debt-free.  The main economy was ship re-supplying and sheep farming.  However, after the Falkland War with Argentina, the UK helped establish a fishing zone.  Any commercial fishing vessel who wants to fish in this zone must obtain a license from the Falkland Islands.  The area has a very healthy fish population, particularly deep-sea fishing for squid and sea bass. The licenses are highly prized by the fishing vessels.  Recently there has been a focus on tourism, specifically cruise ships, which bring 60,000 visitors per year. The tourist season is October to April.  These economic factors have created a 1% unemployment rate and a 1.4% inflation rate.

We thought it was pretty funny that Princess chose their mascot Stanley the Bear, to welcome us to Stanley 🙂

We met our guide Harley and headed for Bluff Cove which is a 35,000 acre family-owned sheep and cattle ranch that has been turned into a private wildlife reserve.   On the way to the farm drop off, our guide told us about the area.  There are no natural trees.  There is white grass on the lowland and diddle-dee bush on the hill slopes.  40% of Stanley’s power needs come from 4 wind turbines.  There is 1 hospital that has 20 beds, 1 general surgeon, and 1 x-ray technician.  There are 20 police officers that are all from the UK.  There is a British military base, but the residents can use most of the entertainment facilities such as the movie theater.  There is a 10 room prison, but it is mostly used for drinking related offenses.  To travel to the other inhabited islands, there is an 8 seat air taxi.  We arrived at our drop-off, with the promise to learn about the Falkland War with Argentina on the return ride.  We were ready to go mud bogging out to Bluff Cove.

So as not to leave huge ruts, each vehicle makes their own trail, it was abit bumpy and very muddy.  Cindy tried to get a good picture, but to no avail.

Once at the cove, we were given instructions about the white markers.  We were not to go past the markers.  If the penguins were outside the markers, we were to quietly walk around them.

These were Gentoo penguins.  There are 1,000 breeding pairs at Bluff Cove.  The adults were molting and are not water-proof during this process.  They can not enter the water to eat or drink until the old feathers are gone.  To speed the process they pull the feathers off their body, but it can still take 3 weeks!!

There was a small group of King Penguins and their chicks.

We loved being this close to nature…Upland Geese flew over Jim as he walked toward the beach.

The guides at the cove told us about the red strings found on the grass.  It is penguin poop.  They expel it in a kind of explosion and it is red due to the krill they eat.

There were also sea cabbage plants.  These were very important to early sailors as they contain a large amount of vitamin C.  When a ship anchored in the Falkland Islands, the sailors would gather these to take back on the ship to avoid scurvy.

We walked toward the beach where the juvenile Gentoo penguins were playing.

There was a large group on the beach.

A few were outside the white barriers so we were able to “walk with the penguins”.  How cool is that!!!

Walking back toward the visitor buildings, we had to avoid the piles of kelp that line the beach.

Bluff Cove has a small museum as well as a The Sea Cabbage Cafe.

The baked goods were part of our tour.  We could have sat there all day and ate. Absolutely delicious.

The scone was topped with butter and Diddle-Dee Jam.

Wow, what a tour.  As promised on the way back to Stanley, our driver told the Falkland Island side of the 1982 war.  Argentina invaded the Falkland Islands on April 1, 1982 with 4500 troops.  The governor knew with only 80 British troops to defend the islands that he would need to surrender, but first he called the UK for help.  The UK mobilized their navy and on June 14th Argentina surrendered.  Even though the war took place almost 37 years ago, there are still very bitter feelings.  No plane from Argentina is allowed to land.  If someone is extremely ill, they are flown to Santiago, Chile for medical care.  We also saw numerous signs in Stanley.

We had time before we had to catch the tender back to the ship so  visited the most southernmost Anglican cathedral in the world, Christ Church Cathedral.  It was consecrated in 1892.  It is the parish church of the Falkland Islands, South Georgia, and the British Antarctic Territories.

The inside was small but beautiful.

We loved the prayer pillows

The cathedral was full of memorials to sailors lost at sea.

Outside the church is a whalebone arch.  It was constructed in 1933 from the jawbones of 2 Blue whales to commemorate a century of continuous British administration in the islands.

We made our way back to the pier and caught the tender back to the boat.  Once on the boat, it was fun to watch the penguins play near the back of the boat.

It had been a great day in the Falkland Islands.  On to Cape Horn…