West Point and Carcass Islands, West Falkland Islands

Oct 27, 2017 - National Geographic Explorer


Our passage from Ushuaia has been exceptionally calm but this morning we were experiencing only slightly more wind and overcast skies. Prior to breakfast the first glimpses of West Falkland Islands came into view through the haze. A rugged coastline was the first to emerge as the ship maneuvered toward the morning’s destination. Through binoculars white spots dotted the cliffs and steep grassy ledges of the island. It seemed like everywhere there were black-browed albatross. Being the normally windy side of the island, albatross prefer these cliffs. Once anchored in the protected bay we finished breakfast and went ashore. On the small slip of a dock we were greeted by the caretakers of the island, Alan and Jackie White. They had three hardy, rugged vehicles ready to transport those interested across the island to the windward side to view the nesting birds. For those that desired some leg stretching they had the option of a 45-minute 1.5-mile hike.

An area of cliff edge had been fenced off from the resident sheep in order to protect the tussock grass and nesting slopes for the birds. Winding our way through the tussock we came upon the amazing sight of hundreds of black-browed albatross and rockhopper penguins. For the majority of the morning people were mesmerized by the coming and going of birds and their frantic antics displaying to potential mates. As noon approached people made their way back to the landing jetty in the local Land Rovers.

During lunch the ship left West Point and cruised the short few miles across to the circular bay off the Carcass Island “camp” as the Falkland Islanders call the cluster of buildings and homes where residents live. A couple of options were planned for the afternoon. First off were long hikers and they were transported to the opposite side of the bay. Medium and short walkers went to the small slipway near the “camp” buildings.

Carcass Island is one of the few Falkland Islands that has been free of rats. This means that a number of species of small birds were around the landscape. Everyone onshore for the afternoon had a wonderful time viewing the variety of birds inland and nearby on the shoreline. 

Eventually everyone at some point in the afternoon ventured into the home of the owners of the island. A wonderful tea/coffee afternoon snack was displayed on the dining room table for all to enjoy and refresh themselves. It was an extremely pleasant afternoon - relaxed and excitingly full of sights and sounds. Leaving Carcass Island the NG Explorer set a course for the capital of the Falkland Islands, Stanley.

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About the Author

Bud Lehnhausen

Naturalist

Bud received an undergraduate degree in wildlife biology at Colorado State University. He then immediately went to Alaska where he worked and lived for 30 years. At the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, Bud studied wildlife biology and received a master's degree conducting research on four species of alcid seabird nesting on a remote island in the Gulf of Alaska.

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