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01/08/2008

Port Stanley, Falkland Islands

The day began drizzly and windy. Fortunately that changed very quickly and throughout the rest of the day and into the evening we enjoyed gorgeous, sunny and clear skies, with very little wind. The wind only came up when we took to the tender to return to the ship in the late afternoon. The ship came into Port William and tied up at the floating dock early. After breakfast most of us met our respective mode of transportation, whether bus, land rover or limo, for one of seven different tours run entirely by locals. It was so warm throughout the day that parkas had to be shed and relegated to the rucksack. One tour focused on the battlefields of the 1982 Falklands War where many mine fields today preclude human entry. Freezing action, heaving, and the resulting sorted rocks or ‘stone runs’ were seen. Another tour visited a farm where a sheep shearing demonstration took place and a massive stove efficiently burned peat. The island’s peat is comprised entirely of organic plant matter that is cut block-like out of the ground after years of accumulation and then left to dry. One tour walked along the shoreline to Gypsy Cove and encountered many birds such as dark-faced ground-tyrant, ruddy-headed, upland, and kelp geese, and Magellanic penguins in and around their burrows. A southern sea lion was glimpsed as it pursued some creature in the water and excellent views of a red-backed hawk were had. Still others went to see penguin colonies, either Gentoo or rockhopper, the islands being globally important breeding sites for both species.

Those on self-guided tours and folks wandering about on their own encountered Stanley at a perfect time. The quaint town was peaceful and quiet and we visited it either via shuttle or by walking along the lichen-covered shingle with its families of steamer ducks and many flowering plants. The red rock cathedral with its distinctive arch of four blue whale jaws, (from two animals), and garden of varied colored lupines was beautiful against the blue sky. Other sites of interest were the pink shop, the government house, the philatelic bureau, the mine disposal office, the war memorial and the museum, the latter with a collection of human as well as natural artifacts. Bookstores carried volumes on everything Falkland and information was available on the numerous projects of Falklands Conservation. Their work has been instrumental in protecting the island’s natural resources and in restoring and rehabilitating areas that have been damaged in the past. At the Globe tavern pints of beer and fish and chips were had. Some commented that the entire scene felt more British than Britain itself.

In the afternoon Explorer II repositioned to a nearby ship to bunker fuel. Getting safely and securely alongside was a bit tricky as offshore winds had picked up and were at times gusting to 40 knots. The officers did a fine job, however, and not even the slightest nudge was felt. Everyone was back aboard via tender by 18:00 and we met in the main lounge for our first recap. Russ Manning told us he was taking photos for the website and encouraged us to smile. Ralph Eshelman discussed his find of a projectile point, or arrowhead, at Steeple Jason Island a couple years back and speculated on the potential arrival of Tierra del Fuegan natives to these shores by canoe. Tucker gave us an excellent encapsulated history of the Falklands, noting its first discover, its early inhabitants, the varying national claims of sovereignty over time, and the eventual war, which seemed largely to have started out of desperation and despite recent negotiations. Suzana complimented us for having been eager to take in as much as the Falklands had to offer. In the bar and over dinner we shared stories of our memorable day in this remote South Atlantic outpost. Still calm and with a lovely late evening glow of light over the rough hills beyond Falkland Sound, Explorer II cast lines and heaved anchor and we headed east and out to sea once again.

   

WARM WELCOME TO PORT STANLEY, THE FALKLAND ISLANDS

NO VISIT TO STANLEY IS COMPLETE UNTIL, 'A PINT IN THE GLOBE'

STANLEY CATHEDARAL BASKED IN SUN ALL DAY

THE WATERFRONT AREA, SOUTH ATLANTIC STYLE

EXPLORER II DEPARTING PORT STANLEY


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