Co-ordinates: 51° 41’ S, 57° 51’ W
Weather: overcast, raining and windy
Air Temperature: 9° C
Pressure: 1003 hPa
Wind: 48 km / h
The charming small town of Stanley awaited us today. On this, our first stop of the voyage, we were fortunate to have plenty of time to enjoy this charming and very British-style town. At 7 am in the morning our Captain eased the Silver Explorer gently through the narrow gap that leads into the inner harbor, and Stanley opened up before us. The colorful roofs – such a bright splash of color after a long day on the grey sea yesterday - struck us powerfully on approaching the town. It seemed as if the roof of each house had been painted a different color, which made for a wonderful effect.
Stanley is the capital and the only true city in the Falkland Islands. It is located on the east side of the isle of East Falkland on a north-facing slope and is one of the wettest parts of the islands. Indeed, it lived up to this reputation today with scattered showers throughout the day and mostly overcast skies, although the sun did poke out at times and the temperature was quite warm. The town is known for its museum, government house built in 1845, several war memorials as well as several shipwrecks in its harbor.
Those up and ready started heading to shore in the Zodiacs as soon as breakfast was finished at 7:45, and everyone had the opportunity to enjoy the day in whatever way they chose. It was windy today – a wind that never seemed to subside during the course of the day and at times the Zodiac rides back and forth between the ship and shore were choppy with some spray.
Many elected to take the bus tour out to Bluff Cove to view the king penguins, Magellanic penguins, gentoo penguins with new chicks, as well as other wonderful bird life. Others stayed in town to explore on their own, inspect the wonderful small museum, or to join the walking tour that explored some of small streets and strange hidden gems of this town that included monuments, whale skeletons and garden gnomes.
Being Christmas Eve, most of the gift shops were doing a roaring trade, and the presence of another cruise ship added to the busy shopping fever. It was possible to buy nearly anything you could think of with a penguin on it. Some people found their way into the quaint pubs for a pint of beer. Others stretched their legs in a nice walk along the waterfront and watched ducks, oystercatchers and other bird life.
Around 6 pm many gathered outside the cathedral near the beautiful whale-bone arch to sing Christmas carols with the tiny band that had gathered together. Though the numbers were fairly small, the spirit was there and everyone enjoyed a bit of festive music. This Christ Church cathedral is the southernmost cathedral in the world, and Christmas could not have been celebrated in a more interesting place.
By 7 pm everyone was back on board and the decision was made to heave the anchor up a bit early and start heading out towards the west. Residual swell from the strong wind yesterday and today meant that lumpy seas were anticipated and an earlier departure could result in the luxury of reducing the speed towards tomorrow’s destination – and therefore making the ride a bit more comfortable. We headed in to dinner in hopes that it would not be too rough during the night.