From the National Geographic Explorer in the Falklands
Nov 12, 2012 - National Geographic Explorer
Port Stanley, Falkland Islands
Monday in the Falkland Islands and things are happening. Situated 150 miles east of the Argentine mainland, and nearly a thousand miles from landfall in any other direction, Port Stanley, the capital of the Falkland Islands, would seem an unlikely stopover for royalty. Nonetheless, Stanley was host to dozens of uniformed British veterans, a duke and, of course, the National Geographic Explorer and her guests on this beautiful, sunny afternoon. While the earth did not stop revolving for our visit, the Duke of Kent’s presence seemed to draw interest from every corner of town. Every establishment with a television was still broadcasting the ceremony that took place yesterday in honor of the British soldiers who served in the 1982 Falklands conflict while the Duke himself spent today visiting local establishments. There were even numerous sightings by guests of a tall, sharply dressed man in escort in various corners of town.
While some took the Duke’s lead and visited the many craft stores of Stanley, others left town for “Camp” and explored the countryside beyond. The afternoon option took hikers to one of the battle sites commemorated by Stanley’s visiting veterans. Tumble Down Ridge was a strategic point of interest in ’82 but today offered a scenic point of interest as well, as local guides led 58 willing hikers up the flanks of Mt. Williams, along Tumble Down Ridge and back. Despite wonderfully warm, clear and calm conditions to start with, the notorious Falkland winds lived up to their reputation and made the return a memorable one.
While some tumbled down the aptly named ridge, others experienced life on a Falkland Island farm. About an hour out of town one generous family (the Watsons) was willing to greet a couple dozen curious onlookers as we watched what it takes to raise, wrangle and shear sheep, cut peat for fuel and endure the isolation and winds of the Falkland countryside.
Another way locals have learned to deal with the harsh conditions here is to grow their vegetables indoors. The horticulturally inquisitive of us had a chance to visit Port Stanley’s one and only hydroponics farm and meet its owners, Tim and Jan. With a scientist’s precision Tim explained the ins and outs of producing enough fresh produce (including tomatoes, bell peppers, cucumbers, lettuce, etc.) to meet the needs of the roughly 3,000 residents of Stanley for most of the year. The same produce that will grace our tables tomorrow en route to South Georgia Island and remind us of the generous people of the Falkland Islands as we eat it.