Co-ordinates: 51º 26. 53 S, 60º 40. 15 W
Weather: sunny in the morning, rainy in the afternoon
Air Temperature: 8ºC
Overnight we reached the Falkland Islands, an archipelago of more than 700 smaller and bigger islands, 500 km east of the Patagonian Coast. Today we visited two of them.
Westpoint Island welcomed us with wonderful weather as we approached a sheltered bay with the Zodiacs. After quickly exploring the beach, we made our way up the hill to the other side of the island because we wanted to see the albatrosses. Along the way there were lots of Upland Geese grazing, sometimes accompanied by a bunch of small fluffy chicks.
After 1,5 km while the vegetation we were hiking through had changed from meadow to Tussoc grass, there was a strange noise in the wind – produced by a colony of Black-Browed Albatrosses and Rockhopper Penguins. It was definitively worth the effort to struggle against the strong wind of up to 40 knots all the way up to the colony, although for those who did not want to walk or gave up in between, the owner of the island and his wife offered a taxi service with Jeeps.
I did not know where to watch first. So many birds breeding, resting, preening or, in the case of the penguins, even bathing in small freshwater pools to wash the salt off their feathers. The albatrosses, elegant as they are, sat on top of their nests, which were made of dried mud and plant material, while the Rockhopper Penguins huddled and walked, or rather hopped by, between them towards their own small nests.
On our way back, we dropped in at the main house of the settlement where tea and cookies were offered. Very British and very delicious.
At 1300, we arrived at Carcass Island. Worse weather conditions with strong winds forced the Expedition Team to change the original plan from bringing only hikers ashore on Leopard Beach towards offering a short landing for everybody.
As we approached the Caribbean-like white sandy beach of Carcass Island, I could already spot the first Gentoo Penguins. They stood all over the beach and as we went ashore they even approached us with curiosity.
By following the path, we passed a colony of Magellanic Penguins. One little fellow came out of its burrow but he was covered in mud so that it was difficult to see the characteristic black and white marking of this penguin species.
Although it was raining heavily during our hike, we could hear Falkland Thrushes and Long-Tailed Meadowlarks singing. But on the Falkland Islands there is a saying: If you are not happy with the weather, wait half an hour.
The rain stopped after half of the way and we could already see the settlement surrounded by the bright yellow flowering broom. There, we were invited to have tea and a chat with Lorraine McGill who made a huge amount of cookies for us. She told us that life on this remote island is not as lonely as everybody expects and that they recently reduced their sheep stock from 3,200 to only 600 on Carcass Island.
We couldn’t finish up all the cookies, but we needed to go back onboard the Prince Albert II, since Captain Peter Stahlberg had invited us to a Welcome Cocktail Party in the evening. While enjoying a glass of excellent champagne, we listened to the Captain introducing his officers: Staff Captain Mika Appel, First Engineer Dimitar Nikolov, Hotel Manager Thomas Barth and the Doctor Volodymyr Kravchenko.