Day 4 |
Nov 28, 2011

Stanley, Falkland Islands, British Overseas Territory 

By Peter W. Damisch – Historian, General Naturalist, Cartographer

Co-ordinates: 51o 41’ S, 057o 51’ W
Weather: 50% sun with 2 brief periods of rain showers
Air Temperature: 10o C / 50 o F
Pressure: 997 HPa
Wind: 20 km / hour

Yesterday we had the joy of visiting two of the most outstanding albatross and penguin breeding colonies in the South Atlantic. Today we had the privilege of stopping by to see the other side of the Falkland Islands, the capital city Stanley. This is just like visiting a little piece of England. Now when I said capital, perhaps I should add that the entire archipelago has a population of just about 3,000 of which fully 2,500 live in Stanley.

Founded in the 1840s, Stanley essentially maintained the same population for most of the 20th century, but has now grown 15% in just the past decade as young adults are changing past tradition by moving back to the Falklands after completing their higher level college or university level education in England. This growth is partially driven by increased eco-tourism as well as a growing desire to live in a small town with friendly people, slower pace and a safe environment for children to grow up.

Yet for a relatively village-sized location, there is quite a bit to do. There are so many great things to see that it’s difficult to select just a few highlights. Many guests took my suggestion to visit the local museum, which, in my opinion, is the best quality museum in the world on a per capita basis. I’ve been many times and it’s always wonderful to see such a wide range of exhibits spanning both the early stages of colonization and home life, through the Falklands War.

Many individuals opted to walk from our landing jetty to the museum and pass on the free shuttle bus service that was offered. This relative short walk of less than 1 km passes by some wonderful Victorian architecture then continues past the southernmost cathedral in the world. This beautiful structure is also famous for having a huge memorial arch just outside, but unique in that it was constructed in the 1930s from the jawbones of whales.

Farther down the harbor path are war memorials commemorating the conflicts of 1982 and 1914. In addition, I always take a peek into the garden area of the Governor’s house, which usually has a very nice selection of flowers.

Other people extended their hike into town to include an outdoor whaling exhibit or to obtain some refreshments in one of the local English-style pubs.

Just before assisting guests in their transportation to and from the ship, I continued a long-standing personal tradition of visiting the bulletin board of the town council, which is located in the city hall, adjacent to the small British Post Office. This cork board is the center of information for the town and I discovered that two couples are going to be married over the next 6 weeks. Under British law, couples must have their wedding application posted for 90 days to give anyone the opportunity to ‘object’. I also learned that the Falklands voted to maintain daylight savings throughout 2011 and that there were 31 births, 16 marriages and 10 deaths in the islands during 2010. It’s always a fun stop for me to visit!

After a somewhat reluctant return to the ship, we departed just as the rain clouds began to close in for the balance of the afternoon, so we seemed to have timed our visit just perfectly.

After a nice lunch with toffee and butterscotch sauce for dessert, Michaela was up on stage in our specially designed theatre to give a comprehensive presentation titled ‘Whales of our Sailing Route’. She has a tremendous amount of great information based on her many years of research and study in oceans around the world. Behavioral characteristics, breeding and population numbers as well as historical impacts of the whaling era were all topics covered in this superb review of these largest creatures ever to exist on the planet earth. Many of Michaela’s lecture slides were illustrated by her own personal images that she taken from the Antarctic to the Arctic.

Just a bit later on I sat down with several couples who wanted to have a spot of tea while informally discussing our next major port of call, South Georgia Island.

Next on stage was Uli who gave an outstanding presentation titled ‘Legends of the Deep’ which touches on those vast stretches of the ocean along with their biological inhabitants that are just now being discovered. Uli has a lengthy background in marine biology and operations at sea, including work as a professional diver under polar ice. He provided an insider’s view about the fascinating new creatures that have only recently been identified.

As usual and just before dinner, the Expedition Team conducted a ‘Recap & Briefing’. This yields the opportunity to review plans for tomorrow as well as answer questions from guests and present information about current topics that range across all of the scientific specialties of the Expedition Team members. Tonight we followed up on our discussions from yesterday regarding albatross, penguins and Commerson’s Dolphins. In addition, new topics included a review of sheathbills, seabird coloration and the change in the power dynamics of the Falkland Islands, which spans the range from being the leader in wind energy to their first forays into oil exploration. Now we’re off towards South Georgia Island!