The Falkland Islands

Mar 07, 2020 - National Geographic Orion


National Geographic Orion approached Stanley, capital of the Falkland Islands at dawn today, through a hanging mist. Although we anticipated inclement weather the day turned out to be dry but windy, and only slightly brisk. The day was filled with a variety of onshore tours to local points of interest.

The pick of the tours for those interested in the lifestyle of the local rural community was the “Long Island Farm” visit. Glenda, the owner, and her son Paul hosted about 25 guests at their farm and gave us a taste of life and work on one of the world’s southernmost wool growing enterprises. Paul and Glenda demonstrated mustering a mob of sheep using a working dog, sheep shearing and horse wrangling. Although the fodder is not the richest stock feed the population of sheep on the Falklands exceeds half a million. The main fuel used for heating at the farm is peat cut from the nearby peat bed. This is done using a sharpened, flat-bladed spade of nine inches in width, specially designed for cutting the square blocks of the dense, black substance that is composed of dense matted roots that have been compressed over hundreds, maybe thousands of years.

After a round of morning tea (delicious gingerbread included) we travelled back to Stanley on the coach. Stopping at a hilltop we were treated to a fascinating natural feature known locally as a stone run. Geologists call this “solifluction,” and it comprises of what appears to be a river of like-sized rocks extending for hundreds of metres down the hillsides. This is the result of repeated freezing and thawing of high rocky crags causing pieces to break away and move downhill, all the while being sorted by size resulting in the larger pieces being evident at the surface and the smaller acting like bearings to aid the downhill “flow” of the whole mass. The effect is a surprisingly even sized mass of rocks that appears from afar as if it’s a stream of water.

An interlude back in Stanley allowed a bit of fossicking in the gift shops and cafés before the afternoon “Highlights of Stanley” tour. This passed around the wreck of Lady Elizabeth, one of many in the area, scooted via Gypsy Cove and back into the “suburbs” of Stanley. The Governor’s Residence is a grand manor overlooking the harbor and the memorial to the 1982 conflict between Britain and Argentina is a fitting tribute to the fallen.

The last stop was the museum with comprehensive displays depicted maritime elements of the Falklands, the natural sciences and the life and times of the communities living in this colonial outpost. Finally, the chance to stroll around the waterfront and enjoy the ambience of this interesting slice of life topped off another excellent day.

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About the Author

Andrew Atkin

Naturalist

After more than thirty-five years work in various technical, teaching and research roles in an Australian university, Andrew is now happily released from full-time work. His research interests promoted a love of the Australian outback and a passion for overseas travel, often using bird studies as a prompt to visit wild and interesting overseas destinations. He was also instrumental in developing and maintaining a long-running program that connected environmental educators in Australia with academics and postgraduate students of the Pranakorn Rhajabat University in Bangkok.

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