Thursday 23rd March 2011
Went to see lots of penguins in a four-wheel drive (essential!) overland, past craggy stone heights and stone
'rivers' in countryside covered in low-lying scrub, to Volunteer Point, with its beautiful, long, white sand beach in
the N of East Falkland Island.
Stately, vividly-coloured King penguins, with their fluffy dark-brown chicks huddled with their parents in an
enormous circular 'creche,' cheeping away, in competition with the adults' noisy but somewhat musical
It's a tiring life as a king penguin:
Smaller Gentoo penguins, with their vivid orange beak, a distance away, many in various stages of moult, all
standing stationary and silent (except for eyes which followed my every move!), with their 'creche' area now
virtually deserted. Occasional ones among them taking off at speed,with flippers held out stiffly, like little toy
Magellanic penguins - with mum and one offspring beside, or partly in, their burrows dotted all over the area,
many well-inland - often just peeking their heads out of the burrow entrance... Their young much bigger than the
parents and similar in markings but much browner. A few older ones seen in the open, often mixed in with the
Kings, standing or lying around outside the 'creche' area, in all stages of moult.
The journey was interesting, through rolling countryside with frequent distant views of the highly-indented coastline, occasionally close to the water's edge, and past many small ponds in the often peaty ground. Marked
wooden fence posts were pulled out in some more remote places to allow us to drive over the fence (laid on the
ground) and on - a simple 'gate' system relying on a system of wiring easily able to be slackened off. Each farm
(mostly sheep, but an increasing number of beef cattle) comprises an enormous area because of the rocky,
boggy terrain, with the wire fencing dividing it up into big 'camps'- like enormous 'fields'. There's only the one
proper road, only partly tarmac-ed, near to the town of Stanley - and I gathered that was surfaced relatively
recently. On the approach to Stanley, large areas on either side of the road are fenced off with warning signs of
minefields - vast numbers of unexploded mines, laid by the Argentinians during their 74-day occupation of the
islands in 1982. The economy seems to be thriving, with fishing and tourism (cruise ships often stop by in the
brief summer season) as recent additions to the farming.
I moved over to the 'Canache' on Monday. It's a small protected area at the East end of the harbour and presently
just has three other boats with people on board: Peter Smithg on 'Kiwi Roa', Ben and Sebastien on Jerome's 'other'
boat, Damien II, while their own boat is being mended on the hard nearby, and Yoann Gourdet on 'Saturnin'
(although he moved yesterday down to the Town Jetty to be more in the centre of things!) . On Sunday, I was
invited out with Ben, Skye and Magnus of 'Australis' and Jerome Poncet of 'Golden Fleece' to spend another sociable evening - this time at Ian Bury's house in Stanley (where I also met Tony Smith who took me on my
Penguin tour). Ian runs the local steelwork company, and settled here recently, as have many others, from the UK.
I've still a few jobs to get done before moving on to Cape Town - hopefully next Tuesday, if not Monday ...
weather permitting. It's all too easy to relax, especially with so many welcoming peope around...!