A visit to Stanley

November 26, 2019 • 8:30 am

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.

Penguins everywhere:

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 Newss 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 magellanicusfound on the southern coast of South America and nearby islands.

From Wikipedia:

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.

From Wikipedia:

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!

71 thoughts on “A visit to Stanley

  1. “One thing is for sure: Argentina stands no chance of getting these islands back.”

    The locals would object to the last word of that sentence!

  2. Looks like a very interesting place to visit. I remember one of the worst parts of the war in 82 was when the Argentina plane hit a British ship with a missile. One think I notice looking at the well kept buildings is that many appear to have metal roofs. A very practical and modern solution.

    1. That happened several times although probably the crew of the General Belgrano would argue that the worst day was when they were hit by a torpedo.

      I’m British and I’m proud of the professional way our armed forces took back the Falklands and I would have sunk the General Belgrano if it had been my decision, but I’m not a fan of the way the Argentinians are often whitewashed out of the story. Most of them were conscripts and were as much victims of their government as our casualties were.

      1. The Argentinians did not (as did the British) send their dead home for burial — the logic being the the Malvinas were part of Argentina. There were many graves marked ‘Conscripto’ or ‘Soldaten known unto God’ that appeared to have been adopted by an Argentine family and embellished with photos and plastic flowers. All very sad, I thought.

        1. Not every British serviceman who died in the Falklands war was taken home ,the military cemetery at St Carlos has 13 graves in it ,plus one of someone who died in 1984 .

          I read somewhere that the high ups in the British army always buried it’s dead where they were killed ,meant as a way of paying respects to them .

          “The Devonshires Held this Trench, the Devonshires Hold it Still”

          The Somme 1916.

    2. I remember seeing footage of a boat load of Chinese sailors ,who were serving on the Sir Galahad when it was bombed .

  3. Professor Ceiling Cat (emeritus) has given us such a detailed and comprehensive account of the trip, including noms, that I feel I no longer need to go… except a close-up of other passengers, and something about them, should they like to contribute.

    However, I would have liked to have attended the professor’s lectures onboard…


  4. A historic “mizzen mast”, the main mast in the middle of a sailing ship.

    The mizzenmast is generally the aft-most mast (and smaller than the mainmast), on all but schooner-rigged ships.

        1. Very sad. For nautical folks, the Victory is almost a sacred pilgrimage, along with the Vasa and Oseberg ship.

  5. I can’t tell for sure but the construction of that mast looks like it might be a composite of many pieces of wood, possibly in layers, rather than one tree trunk. Very interesting. I would guess that using different species of wood and or different grain directions of wood in certain configurations could give you better properties for a mast than a single tree trunk.

    1. Okay, it looks like this mast was almost certainly a composite design of a central shaft (could be two or more pieces itself) with outer layers over it. From the History of Masts page at the National Museum Of The Royal New Zealand Navy website.

      “Made masts are stronger than those made of a single tree and less liable to be sprung. The general principle of construction is that it is built round a central shaft, called in English the spindle or upper tree, and in French the mèche or wick. The other pieces side trees, keel pieces, side fishes, cant pieces and fillings are coaked, i.e. dovetailed and bolted on to and around the spindle, which itself is made of two pieces, coaked and bolted. The whole is bound by iron bands, and between the bands, by rope firmly woulded or turned round, and nailed tight.

    2. Also remember that all masts (in their entirety) at that time were composites: The Main mast was stepped to the hull, then, successively above it were bound on (and sometimes removed for weather or battle): Top mast, top gallant mast, royal mast, and (sometimes) sky mast (in order from bottom to top).

      A pretty good explanation of rigging.

        1. Eric Newby sailed in 1938 as a first voyager apprentice on the Moshulu, a steel-hulled and steel-rigged 4-masted ship from Belfast to Australia. His book about the voyage, The Last Grain Race is a classic of travel literature, in my opinion.

      1. Thanks for the link.

        Rigging on big sailing ships is complicated!

        I did some crewing way back in HS for a friend who won the junior nationals 3 years in a row. His comparatively small 24′ was much simpler. Very fast too!

    1. Although apparently Thatcher was initially willing to sell the islanders down the river after the invasion, until the service heads persuaded her that they could take the islands back.

    2. Quite clearly, Argentina won the Falklands war. As a result of it, they finally got rid of their generals, while Britain was stuck with Thacher for years after.


  6. “stones with clotted cream”?? I think your spellcheck has betrayed you.

    My reading of the plaque on the harpoon gun is: “Kongsberg Weapon Factory” (then as now the national arms manufacturer). After that it says: “The brake is filled entirely with 2/3 glycerin and 1/3 water, or 3.2 liter liquid.” I think it refers to the recoil mechanism.

      1. Dwarven bread is to a hard scone as gypsum is to carborundum. And dwarven battle bread is a bit harder.

        “It was miraculous, the dwarf bread. No one ever went hungry when they had some dwarf bread to avoid. You only had to look at it for a moment, and instantly you could think of dozens of things you’d rather eat. Your boots, for example. Mountains. Raw sheep. Your own foot.” – Terry Pratchett – Witches Abroad

        1. In the same spirit is the traditional New Zealand recipe for cooking Pukeko. I like Pooks, they’re cool funky birds. But anyway –

          1. Place (dead) Pukeko in a pot with a rock.
          2. Boil until the rock goes soft.
          3. Throw away Pukeko and eat the rock.


    1. But is the clotted cream placed on the scone before the strawberry jam (the Devon version) or after (Cornwall)? It is not acceptable to evade the question by omitting the jam.

      I think we should be told.

  7. Wonderful post, Jerry…. thanks!

    [Meanwhile, back at the ranch, a federal court judge has ruled that McGahn must testify before Congress and that presidents are not kings. Rachel Maddow breaks it down in her inimitable way:


    (Excerpt: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UufWycMSu2Y )

    https://www.politico.com/news/2019/11/25/mueller-star-witness-must-testify-to-congress-judge-rules-073622 . ]

    1. No surprise there; the Trump administration’s legal arguments regarding “executive immunity” from congressional process were risible.

      DC district court judge Ketanji Brown Jackson handed them a (much needed) 118-page primer on basic American civics.

      1. All well and good but there is still another court to go. We will all be dead before the court process is over.

        1. Let’s hope the Trump presidency succumbs first. 🙂

          Trump has taken a series of losses in the courts over the past few months, and he’s in for another series losses in the months ahead, en route to the 2020 election.

          Those losses probably won’t come in time for the impeachment trial before the US senate, except to the extent that the loss yesterday may encourage some reluctant witnesses — I’m looking at YOU, John Bolton — to step up to do their constitutional and patriotic duty of obeying a subpoena and testifying before congress.

          1. The hairy lipped one hopes to cash in big with a book and we know nothing is more important to a republican than money. The hearings have made the case and I don’t think more testimony will change the outcome. The Trump party or cult or whatever it is (Putin’s boy scouts in America) are not going to impeach. Many things may become apparent before the election due to our exceptionally slow legal system. We may see the taxes by around June. Plenty of time to sink this Putin puppet before any election. One thing for sure – the democrats will be really stupid to hit the Senate with an impeachment trial during the Iowa and New Hampshire elections. It would be a great advantage to someone like Biden or mayor Pete and bad news for Warren, Sanders and other Senators.

  8. There is a great photo of the SS Great Britain passing beneath Brunel’s Clifton suspension bridge after it’s journey home to Bristol .
    That fire hydrant ,SO un British .

  9. Playing with the timeline in the Webcam, I see that going back in time to 5:20 AM shows the sunrise illuminating the land area around the ship with pools of sunlight breaking through a heavy overcast. A bit spooky.

      1. The lectures aren’t onerous now, but I spent three months preparing them before I left, as I read a lot of books and papers. Now that I’m aboard with the lectures, I get to have a lot of fun besides lecturing. (The lecturing is also fun because shipboard audiences, I find, are far more appreciative than are students. After all, students have to be there but passengers come out of curiosity. I love lecturing on ships: this is the fifth time I’ve done it—twice in the Queen Mary 2 trans-Atlantic crossing, once on a Lindblad cruise of the Galapagos, and once on a Scientific American cruise in Central America and the Caribbean.)

        1. It must be an enriching experience for the passengers and crew to have you on board, Jerry. (Little do the creationists know how lucky they are!) You’re a font of knowledge.

  10. PCC:

    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

    No, it’s the glycerine/water recipe for the recoil fluid.

    It’s a whaling cannon by Kongsberg Vaabenfabrik [Kongsberg Arms Factory] of Norway. The harpoon is fired using a black powder [gunpowder] charge, in the form of a wrapped ‘parcel’ behind the harpoon which is often ignited by the firing of a normal rifle cartridge fitted into a slot in the cannon.

    There is an enormous recoil upon firing & a heck of a lot of gun smoke [until smokeless powder arrived] & underneath the cannon barrel you can see a short barrel-like thing which is the glycerine recoil cylinder that absorbs the recoil by compression of the glycerine/water [vand] mixture. Glycerine was preferred over the usual oil for recoil damping because it still worked at very low [sub-zero] temperatures – a lot of naval guns used it for the job.

    The harpoon is very fast – 100 m/s & was fired at only 50 metres from the poor whale – it would often pass right through. Later harpoons [not much later] employed a grenade at the spiky end of the harpoon which exploded around 60 cm [two foot] into the whale, below the blubber. Probably more ‘humane’ [strange word] although that was not the reason for the grenade upgrade.

  11. Jerry, I honestly think that these are your best posts ever.
    It is an utter delight, and I am sure your other faithful readers agree, to see and read about what is surely the most extraordinary experience of your life.
    And still unwoke!
    Go PCC!
    Anthony K

    1. My heart sank when PCC said he’d be away to the Antarctic & posting would be light.

      However, as you say, these posts (& MCC too) are . . . searches for superlative . . . the best ever!

      1. I’ve been following this site for years and I have learned that when PCC says posting might be light it often isn’t. But in this case, he outdid himself. A wonderful virtual trip to the Antarctic thanks to PCC.

  12. A late comment: what a difference in land and seascape after a sail two days north. The antarctic’s stark beauty brilliantly stands out in comparing jerrys pics from today (normal town and landscape) with those of the sharp peaks, glaciers, and icebergs of the past week.

  13. The local government is composed of 5 (five) members.
    About 500 people work in the budgetary sector, the rest in the private sector. The economy is based on agriculture and tourism.
    GDP / capita is about $ 78,000 – the sixth place in the world.
    They were pretty bored there – just a few buzzards, a nightclub. The driver told us that local life is family based. Probably no one wants to be there for another’s wife and the women have no curiosity about their neighbours.
    The only problem is finding the soul mate because the search area is small.

  14. I did have the chips when I was there – from a van next door to the Visitors Centre. They rank among the best chips I’ve ever eaten, anywhere in the world, and I still rave about them (including here).

    Apart from the penguins, another, smaller, highlight is the way the local residents still talk about “Argie” (meaning the Argentinian military) and will point to various places where Argie was encamped in the hills during the war. The locals are more British than the British (almost to the point of parody) and certainly don’t want to be under Argentinean rule.

    One other thing that struck me was how much the local folks love, and are proud of, their diddle-dee berry. The scones I was given used diddle-dee berry jam with cream as an (excellent) alternative to strawberry jam.

    1. Oh dog ,bay city rollers ,two tv channels ,no Sunday shopping ,no interweb ,the generation game ,bernard manning ,crossroads ,disco music ,tank tops .
      The Horror ,the horror.

      1. A good 1975 list David, especially the Bay City Rollers. To continue…

        Shite No. 1 singles: Mud, Pilot, Telly Savalas, 10cc, Queen, Rod Stewart, David Essex.

        Shite albums: Engelbert Humperdinck, Wings, Carpenters, Max Boyce.

        Shite other things: Jim’ll Fix It arrives, bawdy soft porn comedy films such as the “confessions of a …” series, football hooligans, unimaginative Brit football, Peter Gabriel leaves Genesis, footballer sideburns & perms, Brut for men, chest hair & gold medallions, three day week, crap British cars, drink driving, sexism, homophobia, Love Thy Neighbour [particularly horrible], Ain’t Half Hot Mum. IRA.

        Highlights: Abba, Hot Chocolate, Mike Oldfield, Tommy [The Who], The Sweeney, Fawlty Towers, Rutland Weekend Television, Space 1999, The Old Grey Whistle Test, Rising Damp, The Naked Civil Servant, M. Python & the Holy Grail, Dave Allen At Large, Porridge, The Tommy Cooper Hour & Frankie Howerd of course.

        1. Just realised we had three channels ,when they put the mast on the Wrekin .
          I liked Mud and their hit “Tiger Feet “.

          Rutland Weekend TV ,great stuff .Can’t remember a lot of it ,same goes for Dave Allen .Thank dog for youtube .

  15. “I presume the bird with the orange beak is the male, but I don’t know for sure”.

    Yes that is definitely the case.

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