On this overcast Monday morning our ship is hovering off Carcass Island in the west Falklands, where yesterday we saw Magellanic penguins and other cool birds. It’s only a short hop to our next destination, West Point Island. More on Carcass on Thursday, the last day of our trip. I’m lecturing today and will give an other talk tomorrow. Today we’re out to see albatrosses and rockhopper penguins. If I see them, it will make six species of penguin on this trip, and seven on my life list (I saw Galápagos penguins some years ago.)
Here’s our location, as of 6 a.m. on the ship’s real-time map, and one zoomed out. We’re about 300 miles (480 km) from Patagonia, and tomorrow will be a sea day as we head back to Punta Arenas, Chile: end of the line for Professor Ceiling Cat (Emeritus).
The ship’s Panomax camera shows us moored off Carcass Island. The first shot shows where we landed yesterday, and the second our destination 3.5 miles away: Leopard beach. It was a stiff 7-mile walk in cold and drizzle, but very invigorating, and I saw several nice birds. But this morning every joint in my body aches. I grow old. . .
We landed at the little harbor in the center below, near the residence of the island’s owners, who gave us a huge spread of tea and homemade pastries, including scones with clotted cream (I told you the Falklands were British!):
On the other side of the island, on the sea side of the dip in the land, is Leopard Beach, home of a gentoo and a Magellanic penguin rookery and lapped by waters of a tropical blue hue. Pictures of that on Thursday, Ceiling Cat willing.
Today’s post is about my one-day walking visit on Sunday to Stanley (also known as Port Stanley), the capital of the Falkland Islands, an archipelago that has about 400 islands, big and small. Stanley is located on the largest of these islands, East Falkland, but has a population of only about 2500 (the entire group of islands has only 3400). The Falklands are self-governing but their defense and foreign policy are the charge of Britain, and Falkland citizens, about as British as they come, are also formally British citizens.
Actually, the visit is in two parts, and this one describes my morning perambulation in Stanley. Tomorrow’s post details our excursion to a King penguin and Gentoo penguin colony 40 minutes away.
So welcome to the Falklands, mate! (And remember, to post these photos from the ship’s internet, I’ve reduced their size from about 3-5 mB to 150 kB, so they don’t look their best.)
Here’s a view of Stanley from the ship. You can see that it is not large!
And the Falklands flag, containing a Union Jack and the Falklands coat of arms, with a sheep and the motto “Desire the right”. (That could be Trump’s motto!) There are almost half a million sheep on the island, which works out to be about 153 sheep per inhabitant: far more than New Zealand or Australia!
Everything is penguins here, for that’s the big tourist draw, and there are several species. The Visitor Centre in the middle of town even has painted penguin tracks leading to it.
Lots of penguin souvenirs on sale:
The Falklands’ only newspaper is of course called The Penguin News. It’s published every Friday. Wikipedia has a funny note about it (this year the paper is 40 years old):
The newspaper made headlines internationally in 2012 when it appeared to call the Argentine President, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, a “bitch”; Penguin News‘s online site had an image of Kirchner with a default file name as “bitch.jpg”. Editor Lisa Watson blamed the incident on a colleague with “dry humour”.
As you’ll see, the memory of the 1982 war is still strong here, and feeling toward Argentina is NOT warm. Even a one-day visit brings that point home.
Below are the Jubilee Villas. Wikimapia says this:
These buildings directly behind the jetty were built by the Dean family who were important local traders in 1887. The buildings were named to commemorate the Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria. Unusual for Stanley since they are typical English 19th century brick terrace houses, however they are roofed Falkland style with corrugated iron, since the English slate was too heavy to transport to the Island.
The gardens are tended by the Falklands Conservation people, whose symbol is, of course, a rockhopper penguin.
The Falklands Post Office, flanked with two classic red British telephone boxes, both of which contain working coin telephones. The Philatelic Bureau is famous for its pretty stamps, which it issues in the name of the Falklands, South Georgia, and the British Antarctic Territory.
A display of the stamps. I would have bought some but it was Sunday and the place was closed.
Here are some beautiful penguin stamps issued in the name of the British Antarctic Territory:
There are four pubs. I didn’t go in as time was limited, but I wonder if they have real English-style ale with gravity pumps. Here’s Deano’s, a well known watering spot.
And there’s a chippy, too. I should have eaten there, as the food is reputed to be good, with the freshest local fish. Oh well, the laws of physics determined that I lunched aboard ship (I had to return to get ready for the penguin excursion.)
Marmont Row, a series of “villas’ built in 1854 as a hotel for sailors. The cottages are now privately owned.
Some houses and stores in Stanley:
The police station, with a jail that can hold 13 inmates. I doubt whether it’s ever been near capacity.
A fancy fire hydrant that has been made accessible by pruning the hedges around it:
A historic “mizzen mast”, the main mast in the middle of a sailing ship. The plaque gives information:
And the famous “Liberation Memorial”, commemorating the soldiers killed in the 10-week war in 1982 with Argentina. From Wikipedia:
The Memorial consists of an obelisk on the front of which is the coat of arms of the Falkland Islands surrounded by a laurel wreath above the words “In Memory of Those Who Liberated Us” and the date the war ended; “14 June 1982”. On top of the obelisk is a bronze figure of Britannia, the female personification of the island of Great Britain. On the back and sides of the Memorial are the lists of the British Army regiments, RAF squadrons, Royal Navy vessels and the Royal Marine formations and units that took part in the conflict. The names of the 255 British military personnel who died during the war are listed on ten plaques behind the Memorial, divided into the service branches. Directly behind the Memorial is a relief depicting famous moments during the war. [JAC: The Argentine forces lost 649 men.]
. . . In 2015 a bust of Margaret Thatcher (who was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom at the time of the 1982 war) was erected next to the Liberation Memorial.
The bust of Maggie, besidewe a road named “Thatcher Drive” in her honor, is below the first picture.
The Iron Lady! She is still revered here, as she was Prime Minister when the Brits trounced the invading Argentines.
This sign was in a second-floor window in the middle of town. It expresses the sentiments of the few locals I talked to about the war. The rancor toward Argentina runs deep here; note that even the Argentinian people are frowned upon when they’re brave enough to visit. I heard that from another person as well, but of course I was in Stanley for only one day. One thing is for sure: Argentina stands no chance of getting these islands back.
If you’re in Stanley, you must visit the Falklands Islands Museum and National Trust, which is stuffed with a gazillion objects about the history of the islands, including material about the 1982 war, old objects used by the inhabitants, natural history specimens, and objects recounting the maritime history of the islands.
Here’s an explosive harpoon gun outside the museum, along with two whale vertebrae.
Here are two views of the maker’s plaque (or so I presume) affixed to the harpoon gun. Kongsberg is in Norway, so I presume this was used on a Norwegian whaler. It makes me both sad and angry to think about the wholesale slaughter of marine mammals that occurred right up to this century. Whaling is especially cruel because it prolongs the suffering of the animal.
I’m not sure what the “2/3 Glycerin og 1/3 vand” means, but it may be the mixture of explosives. Perhaps a Norwegian will tell us.
The uniform of the governor-general of the Falklands in the Museum; this one was actually worn by a governor-general.
A replica of a 19th-century (?) store in the Falklands, stocking British goods. All these items were collected from local residents, as was nearly everything in the Museum. Do visit it if you’re in Stanley.
This life preserver, which I posted for obvious reasons, came from the RMS Darwin, a ship bought by the Falkland Islands Company in 1957. For a quarter of a century it carried mail, cargo (mostly wool) and passengers between Stanley and Montevideo, Uruguay—a four-day trip. It then operated in the Mediterranean and Caribbean until it was scuttled off Bermuda in 1983. Poor Darwin!
Here’s the RMS Darwin (photo from Sea Breezes site):
When I was chatting with one of the three delightful ladies who work at the Museum, I asked one of them, who used to be a penguin guard at Bluff Point (more tomorrow), if there was a nearby place I could see a Falkland steamer duck (Tachyeres brachypterus), a flightless duck endemic to New Zealand. (There’s one other endemic Falkland bird species, Cobb’s wren (Troglodytes cobbi), which many birder-passengers wanted to see on Carcass Island yesterday. But nobody saw it.)
I’ve posted one photo of these ducks before, but you can see from their tiny wings that they’re flightless. (They use the wings to paddle, giving rise to their name, and also in male-male fights, as the species can be very aggressive.)
The population is stable and the IUCN Red List labels it a “species of least concern.”
Three more photos of these birds. I wonder what my mallards in Chicago would think of them!
I presume the bird with the orange beak is the male, but I don’t know for sure.
An itchy beak:
In a previous post, readers identified the species below as the rock shag (also called Magellanic cormorant), Phalacrocorax magellanicus, found on the southern coast of South America and nearby islands.
Like all cormorants, the rock shag feeds by diving for underwater prey. It feeds close to shore, often diving at the edge of kelp beds and apparently finding small fish (predominantly cod icefishes, Patagonotothen species) sheltering among the weed. Studies with depth gauges suggest that it is a fairly shallow diver, typically going about 5 m below the surface with few individuals diving deeper than 10 m, although its prey mainly comes from the sea floor. Dive times are typically around 30 seconds. Its breeding range overlaps markedly with that of the imperial shag Leucocarbo atriceps, but the two species’ foraging ranges are different since the imperial shag tends to dive in deeper water, further out from shore.
Finally, we have a ubiquitous but beautiful species, the upland goose (Chloephaga picta), which we saw all over the place on Carcass Island yesterday. (They’re denizens of the southern part of South America).
It’s sexually dimorphic, with the white individuals being males and the brownish ones females. They’re lovely birds, but I still need Bruce Lyon to explain to me why, since they’re monogamous like many geese that aren’t dimorphic (e.g., Canada geese) , they differ in being sexually dimorphic.
The upland goose is primarily a herbivore, feeding mostly of seeds, leaves, stems, and other plant matter. They are very gregarious, and flocks of thousands of birds can be found grazing in one pasture alone. They are considered pests by farmers due to the fact that they eat on the pastures that are used for cattle and sheep. They breed in densely-vegetated areas on plains or slopes, mostly in September and October, or November on the Falkland Islands. Males attract females through a courtship display in which they whistle loudly, to which the female responds with softer cackles. They are monogamous, and if a male encroaches on another’s territory, a violent fight may break out. Males have been found injured or dead after these fights.
The sexual dimorphism is clear. I saw a female with chicks yesterday on Carcass Island, and will post those photos on Thursday.
Finally, the obligatory self portrait in a street mirror:
King penguins tomorrow!