We had a day of culture and history today in West Falkland. Our first stop was at the former South American Missionary Society site on Keppel Island. The site was called Cranmer Settlement and was discovered and set up in 1855 in accordance with the wishes of the society’s founder, Allen Gardiner. As Keppel Island was uninhabited and had an excellent water source, it was deemed the perfect location for the education, conversion, and “civilization” of Yámana natives from Tierra del Fuego in South America.
Cranmer Settlement served as the seat of all operations of the Anglican Church in South America and from 1858 to 1911, at least 150 Yámana people were taken from their homes to this remote outpost. Life on Keppel Island was difficult and from the very beginning, long hours of toil were required for cutting peat for heat, quarrying stone for building material, and then learning English and studying the Bible. Once the building works were completed, working hours in the settlement were dedicated to farming and tending to over 3,000 sheep.
All livestock was removed from the site in 1992 and, no longer kept in check by grazing, the grasses and introduced shrubs such as gorse have taken over the site. We toured the structures, cemetery, and the plantation, which not only features trees, but lots of raspberry and gooseberry plants. Our local hosts, Ant and Shane, even harvested some of that lovely organic fruit for our evening dessert.
In the afternoon, we came ashore at Saunders Island, the birthplace of our expedition leader, Russ Evans, and had an opportunity to see what life is like on a working sheep farm. Russ’s family members put on a wonderful demonstration of sheep shearing, wool baling, and sheep herding. To our great delight, they were even successful in persuading Russ to expertly shear a few sheep as well. It seems that you can take the man out of the farm, but you can never take the farm out of the man. Well done, Russ!
To make the Falkland Islands experience complete, we enjoyed a scrumptious afternoon barbeque of local lamb and beef, washed down with beer and wine shared with the friendly and incredibly hospitable company of our new Saunders Island friends. It was a completely authentic and unique experience that we could only get with Russ at the helm of this voyage.