Day 4 |
Nov 17, 2008

Stanley, Falkland Islands

By Chris Harbard

Weather: beautiful sunny day

We arrived at Stanley at about 7 am, and coaches were ready to take us from our berth into town straight after breakfast. Often referred to as Port Stanley, it is perhaps the smallest and remotest capital in the world and is surprisingly charming. We were lucky that the weather was fantastic with bright blue sky and sunshine, although it was still a little chilly.

The seafront is littered with shipwrecks dating back 100 years or more. Most of the houses seem to be built with roofs of every colour. Buildings of note in Stanley include Christ Church Cathedral – more than 100 years old with an imposing whalebone archway, and Jubilee Villas – a terrace of Victorian houses built in 1887 that look typically British. One of them is now the home of Falklands Conservation, the wildlife conservation body for the islands.

The Falkland Islands Museum is a popular destination where early Falklands life is displayed including such novelties as a cup for the best turnip, awarded in the late 1800s. The museum proved popular with its displays that trace the social history of the islands, from its contribution to past wars and, of course, the more recent Falklands conflict. As well as stepping back in time, there are also displays relating to the wildlife of the islands.

Some guests headed for the shops where it is possible to purchase souvenirs, with penguins being a major theme. Some ventured into the local pubs for a taste of British beer while others sat in the sun and wrote postcards.

The ‘Britishness’ of Stanley is emphasised by the traditional red telephone boxes and the pillar-box for mail, situated outside the Post Office where you can purchase some of the wonderful Falklands stamps. Cars drive on the left-hand side, like Britain, and the predominant vehicle is the Land Rover.

Back onboard, we enjoyed lunch as the ship left the quayside and headed out into the South Atlantic, bound for South Georgia. After lunch, we were treated to a talk by Rob Suisted about the Seals of the Southern Ocean – giving us an idea of what awaits us in South Georgia and further south.

As we passed Cape Pembroke, we began to feel a slight swell upon entering open water. The birders were up on deck and were soon rewarded by the first sightings of Grey-backed Storm-Petrels, soon followed by one of the great albatrosses, a Southern Royal Albatross. The delightful Cape Petrels entertained in their swirling groups and by the end of the afternoon a Wandering Albatross was seen, the bird with the largest wingspan in the world, of 11 feet (3.5 metres).

At the evening recap, we received our mandatory IAATO (International Association of Antarctic Tour Operators) briefing where we learned all about how we should behave when in Antarctica with special reference to the birds and other wildlife. The day had begun with an injured Southern Giant Petrel on the deck, which was collected by a vet in Stanley, and it finished with the discovery of a Grey-backed Storm-Petrel fluttering under a light on Deck 5. It was soon picked up and released back into the night.

A poem by Silversea guest Geoff Spencer

Adrenalin soars

New horizons beckon

The assembled cast

Adventure calls

Raging ocean

Cross latitude 60

Time displaced

Ice…violent crystal walls

Challenging us

At the end of the world

— by Geoff Spencer, guest