The Falkland Islands

by Robert Bush: November 3, 2015

Today is November 2, and it is the first day that we have set foot on land since we left Puerto Madryn on the afternoon of October 30. We are in the Falkland Islands. The Falkland Islands are really quite amazing – 700 islands sitting in the middle of the south Atlantic Ocean – unprotected from the wind and weather – but home to a small population of humans, and thousands of seabirds and penguins.

Each parcel of the Falklands is owned privately. We made landfall on West Point Island which is owned by the Napier family and which is on the northeast part of the Falklands. The reason for the stop at this particular spot is because it is one of the primary breeding and nesting spots for the Black Browed Albatross (which were pictured in the previous entry as they surfed the slip stream of our ship) as well as the Rockhopper Penguins. They share nesting locations on cliffs over the wild ocean. An albatross can at least fly up the nests. The Penguins have no choice but to hop up the steep cliffs – hence their name. One of the photos I am including with this entry will show the nesting site on the cliffs that rise sharply above the ocean. There are only about a million of these penguins left in the world and their population is still rapidly decreasing for reasons that are not understood.

To get to these nesting spots, we first rode the rubber zodiacs to a protected beach and then hiked for about a mile and a half up the island over spongy, grass-covered land. We were lucky to have made landfall at all because the winds were over 40 miles an hour, with gusts that approached 70 mph.  The caretakers of the island said they did not believe another tourist group had ever been able to visit in winds that high.

We were not so lucky on our second intended destination, which was a beach on Saunders Island. The winds had picked up even more and our ship was unable to anchor. We were unable to land on a beach that is filled with king penguins and is near another Rockhopper nesting spot. We will be able to see the king penguins in even greater numbers on South Georgia Island, but we will not see the Rockhoppers again.

As the Expedition Leader said to us when he announced that we couldn’t stop at Saunders Island, “that’s expedition cruising”. In other words, you can’t predict the weather and sometimes you are lucky and sometimes you aren’t.

And to illustrate that point, an announcement was made in the late afternoon that the ship was surrounded by Commerson’s dolphins. We ran outside and there were hundreds of them swimming along the boat, surfing the waves and the very large swells that had been whipped up by the still very high winds. I took pictures until it started snowing. Yes, it started snowing and it was cold, so I went back inside, just in time for dinner.

Finally, I have attached a photo of the “bar” area on the boat. It is on the 4th floor deck, and is a place to sit around and have a drink or snack. Right below it on the 3th floor is the lounge where the main presentations take place. And right below that on the 2rd floor is the dining area. I will include images of those locations as well in the future so you can get a sense of the trip.

Tomorrow we are schedule to arrive at Stanley, the main town on the Falklands. It is mandatory stop, since the ship needs to refuel and resupply. The weather is a bit iffy but we are not leaving until we can refuel so we are all hoping that the weather clears enough for the boat to dock.

Finally, a note on the internet. It is slow here. No one is using their cell phones or any other devices. Try to think about when you last have been around 100 people where no one is on a cell phone. It is very refreshing. However, it also means that I have to keep the picture sizes small so that they will upload and I never know whether I will be able to actually send these blogs out. If you are reading this, it worked.

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