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12/22/2007

Port Stanley, Falklands

By 0700 we had arrived alongside the dock at Port Stanley in the Falklands Islands and within an hour started embarking buses for various tours. The excursions introduced us to island life, wildlife and flora, and the sometimes-colorful history of these islands. The smell of burning peat wafted through the air now and then as an array of blossoms came into view on our walks.

One group on the Sparrow Cove tour witnessed a female Gentoo penguin lay an egg, which cracked and was promptly carried away from the colony by the female. Others of us toured Stanley and its surrounding natural areas on foot, sampling the offerings of the stores, restaurants, and museums, and observing the quaint homes and gardens and the varied storied shipwrecks. We had all been prepared for the mysterious and captivating stone runs, the rivers of rock that streak the island, and to those who saw them, they were unforgettable. The wildlife surrounded us as well. Barely off the ship this morning, some of us spotted a few southern sea lions lounging on and swimming near a partially deflated zodiac resting on the dock. Others spotted a red-backed hawk, with its white underbelly and banded tail, and a turkey vulture or two passing above.

At Gypsy Cove, the Magellanic penguins gathered on the beach below, while breeding parents allopreened with their chicks in burrows just above the trail, offering an intimate glimpse into the heart of penguin domesticity. The shoreline offered a beautiful array of other feathered species, such as the rock shags that perched atop the waterlogged shipwrecks, their red-rimmed eyes brilliant against the black of their faces and the peeled layers of ancient blue and green ship paint, worn down to the timbers in places. Some saw a black-crowned night heron, its eyeball crimson red, peering intently into the shallows after its next meal, its white head streamer blowing gently in the damp breeze. Steamer ducks, their feathers wetly fluffed and heads tucked, slept atop paired rocks. Inland, the white-petaled heads of the vanilla daisies oriented heliotropically to the sun that there was, their velvety pale green funnel-like stalk offering sturdy support. This was one of a variety of species endemic to, (found only in), the Falklands. Delicate ‘scurvy grass’ flowers were also seen – but one of several plants utilized by early explorers and sealers to stave off the effects of the noxious scurvy.

The shuttles shuttled us to and from the ship to Stanley for much of the day, but after the Explorer II repositioned offshore in the early afternoon to on load fuel, transportation back to the ship was limited to trips by tender, accompanied by a couple diminutive piebald Commerson’s dolphins. The weather was lovely throughout the day with barely a breeze, intermittent sun, and a light drizzle in the afternoon. Although many of us were exhausted from the day, there was still a healthy crowd assembled for the first recap of the trip. Mike provided a very nice introduction to some basics of navigation and wished us all a Happy Austral Summer Solstice followed by discussions on varied subjects. The library after dinner was full of heads bowed intently over books, many of which were natural history guides. Our day in the remote South Atlantic archipelago had been a very fine one.

   

These famous arches at the Cathedral in Stanley are made from the jaw bones of Blue Whales!

Expedition leader Marco Favaro (left in yellow) and Assistant Expedition Leader Russ Manning (right) stop to give directions to passengers as they explore the town of Stanlely.

Some passengers took the opportunity to do some last minute Christmas shopping as they walked around the town.

Passengers disembark early in the morning at Port Stanley, Falkland Islands for various excursions in the area.

The neat houses in Stanley add to the quaintness of this small community.


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