Falklands bound ~ 22nd December 2022
“I had a dream when I was 22 that someday I would go to the region of ice and snow and go on and on till I came to one of the Poles of the Earth” – Sir Ernest Shackleton
The major weather system approaching the Falklands has very fortunately not advanced as fast as anticipated, and we are now heading for the Falklands hoping for a morning ashore in Stanley tomorrow. Yesterday this appeared out of the question. What a triumph that will be. Early bird coffee, tea and pastries are available onboard from 6.30am. The stretch class led by the dancers was well attended at 8am today. The Expedition Team assisted passengers to change their parkas, waterproof trousers and Bog boots for a better fit. A wonderful time to get to know guests and team a little better. A number of guests onboard have travelled with us before, and it is difficult placing them all. Some even on the KZN battlefields. The IT Officer was on hand to assist guests to link their devices to the Internet onboard. For our young travellers only being able to connect one device at a time is somewhat challenging.
Ornithologist Patri Silva gave a sparkling presentation on Seabirds of the Southern Ocean. Their adaptations for life in these cold, inhospitable regions are special, particularly the tube-noses for the excretion of salt after ingestion of sea water. Fresh water not required by many of the avian species hereabouts. Photo Coach Renato Granieri followed with his talk on improving our photography – Life Beyond Auto. For many the matters of composition, rule of thirds, aperture and shutter speed are bewildering, but it is wonderful seeing so many guests engaging with Renato, and really trying to improve their photographic skills.
At mid-afternoon we enjoyed a Falklands Medley, presented by Expedition Director Suzana Machado D’Óliveira, Falklander Pete Clement, Geologist Dani Martinioni and Ornithologist Patri Silva, giving us an overview of the islands. Half a million sheep are farmed on the Falklands, but largest revenue spinner today is offshore squid fishing. Shackleton whilst trying to arrange a ship to rescue his men on Elephant Island, spent time at the multi-roomed Government House. He said it was colder than Elephant Island! One wonders whether Shackleton meant the temperature or his reception? The government sponsors private school education for youngsters, and University tuition. Part of British Overseas Territory, with roughly 3600 inhabitants. Japanese 4×4’s replacing the previously ubiquitous Land Rovers. National pastimes include long, boozy lunches over a lamb bbq, then high-powered rifle shooting. What’s not to like about the Falklands?
Tasty, delicate French “Millefeuilles” accompanied afternoon tea, with piano music by Uliana Chubun.
The enrichment lecture program today was completed with me, presenting “The Norwegian who took the Prize “. With considerable experience, a Norwegian upbringing, and ruthless planning Roald Amundsen was first to the South Pole on 14 December 1911. Out of his incredible achievement, one of Scott’s men, Priestley was later to say “For speed of travel give me Amundsen, for scientific exploration, give me Scott. But if you are down in a hole with no way out, get down on your knees and pray for Shackleton”. Probably the greatest Polar explorer of all time, who died in an airplane crash over the Arctic Ocean in 1928, aged only 56. The response to my lecture was gratifying, and some guests have requested that I do a talk about the Anglo-Zulu War!
After cocktail hour, with music by Carlos and Alberto, the Captain’s Welcome took place. Champagne and canape’s flowed freely. Guests dressed for the occasion, as Captain Duroussy introduced his senior Officers onboard. We shall meet the remainder of the 147 crew members at a later date. Captain’s Dinner was, as always, a sumptuous affair enjoyed in Le Celeste on deck 2. Those who wanted a less formal meal, enjoyed the buffet fare in La Comete on deck 6. I sat with a delightful family from northern England, near Manchester. Turns out wife/mother is Californian born and raised. Degrees in anthropology and archeology, then became a gemologist. Designs jewellery and deals in gem stones. Husband builds and sells warehouses. They met at a mutual friend’s wedding in Scotland. Seventeen year-old son teasing both grans mercilessly, it was a wonderful evening.
Falkland Islands ~ 23rd December 2022
Falkland Islands Government writes “But if it’s peace and quiet you are after, rugged windswept beauty, with ever-changing light, superb farmhouse teas with cream, the most wonderful wildlife and fishing, a few duty-free bargains, then you will find them all in abundance in the Falklands “.
On a beautiful, calm morning we found ourselves in Port Williams, outside the narrows which dictate the entrance into Port Stanley itself. Discretion indicating this the safer option, given predicted winds later. A ship in the wind becomes a massive sail, and the narrows are as narrow as Le Lyrial is long (not wide at all). Ship life-boats (tenders) took us all to the Jetty Visitor Centre, where buses awaited to whisk guests off to Gypsy Cove. A very attractive beach, where we enjoyed the scenery and Magellanic Penguins. After which guests were allowed to wander around Stanley at leisure, along with guests off Quark’s Ocean Diamond vessel. I was delighted to secure some tins of Evaporated Milk, not available in Argentina, for my morning coffee.
The Falklands are 300 miles/480km off the east coast of South America’s Patagonian coast, and 752miles/1210km from the northern tip of the Antarctic Peninsula. As a British Overseas Territory, the Falklands have internal self-governance, but the United Kingdom takes responsibility for their defence and foreign affairs. Controversy exists over the Falklands discovery and subsequent colonisation by Europeans. At various times, French, British, Spanish and Argentinians have settled these islands. In April 1982, Argentine military forces invaded the islands. British administration was restored two months later at the end of the Falklands War. This is the 40th anniversary of the conflict, and the Dockyard Museum has a powerful display reminding all of the dire ongoing consequences of this unfortunate conflict. Margaret Thatcher when asked about negotiating with Argentina, she responded that she was happy to on most all matters, EXCEPT sovereignty! Almost all Falklanders voted in favour of remaining a British Overseas Territory in the 2013 sovereignty referendum. Sheep farming is the predominant farming activity producing high quality wool. The Falklands are treeless, and have a wind-resistant vegetation largely composed of dwarf shrubs and Tussock Grass. All the rural area outside of Stanley is known as Camp, and very much enjoyed by the local 3600 inhabitants. Sadly many bird species have abandoned breeding on the two main islands due to introduced species, such as Patagonian foxes, dogs, cats, rabbits, rats and reindeer.
Guests thoroughly enjoyed shopping for curios, walking along the foreshore, visiting the Dockyard Museum and having a cup of coffee. The weather gods certainly were on our side today – conditions positively balmy. By noon we were all safely back on Le Lyrial, with the wind picking up strongly, as anticipated. Early afternoon the award – winning documentary “Chasing Ice” was screened, leaving us in no doubt as to the dreadful rate of glacial recession around the globe. Geologist Dani Mantonioni from Argentina presented a wonderful description of the Scotia Sea geology, moving Tectonic Plates, subduction zones and why the Falklands and South Georgia are so similar to the Andes (all part of the same continent). The first Recap session of this voyage took place at 7pm, with a lively round-up of the day, including the Young Explorers. The Young Explorers had been taken out in the fire engines, tried on the fire fighting outfits, and sprayed one another with fire hoses.
After dinner Cruise Director Paul Carter hosted a Trivia Quiz, much enjoyed by all. I had dinner with a couple who are close friends of my Team member friend, geologist Wayne Ranney, who sadly cannot join us due to pneumonia. Second marriage for both, classic story of the boy from the wrong side of the tracks marrying the classy, gorgeous girl. We laughed a lot as we swopped stories about relationships, backpacking, travel and storytelling. The idea of lecture in car (LIC) and lecture in bed (LIB) caused much mirth. Le Lyrial is making good speed towards South Georgia, with a gentle rolling action from side to side. No doubting guests will sleep well tonight onboard, having all turned our clocks forward an hour to coincide with South Georgia time (GMT – 2).