Following on from my last post, we had a frantic day in Ushuaia yesterday. It was sad bidding farewell to 170 guests, many of whom had become friends. The atmosphere within this last complement of passengers was fantastic. Ed Sheeran’s party were reluctant to leave the ship, clearly having had a wonderful time onboard. Bunkering of diesel took some time, as this voyage includes the Falklands, South Georgia and Antarctica – a long way by ship.
The usual delivery of bog boots, Parkas and waterproof trousers, by size, was made to all cabins along with A&K backpacks. It is preferred that all guests have new outer clothing and backpacks for bio-security reasons, that no seeds/spores are carried in zips or velcro to Antarctica or South Georgia. IAATO insists that zips, velcro, etc be checked, backpacks and camera bags are vacuumed inside and out. Tripods/mono-pods are treated with Virkon (bactericide).
Whilst the Hotel Department dutifully clean the cabins, change linen, restock mini-bars, the kitchen is being restocked with all manner of fresh supplies, dry goods and liquor. By mid-afternoon, all staff are scrubbed and dressed in our Number One’s ready to receive the new guests. Guests off at 9am, new guests on at 4pm, the pressure is on.
This is the traditional family Christmas cruise, so there are 22 youngsters onboard, and it is interesting watching folk looking around the ship for the first time. Kids are not everyone’s cup of tea, so some temperance is going to be required. After some kids had run past an older woman, I heard her muttering that she would like to hang them upside down, with a mouthful of bees! An expression I had not previously heard. I have been making a point of introducing myself to the kids, and trying to learn their names. They have all been charming. One father arrived at the gym this afternoon, with 4 kids. I am sure not all his own, and set them up spinning and running on the treadmill. A breath of fresh air. We have two specialised teachers onboard who run a program for the Young Explorers, as they are called.
The Expedition Team is multi-national, and almost all wear longs as you may have noticed in the photograph. I love chatting to various members about their experience, their home countries, family, their day jobs, and generally what makes them tick. Two members on our team have been working for One Ocean Expeditions, who are in financial trouble, and these two fellows are each owed a large amount of money. I contacted a dear friend of mine in England whose tour operation engage One Ocean, and they have been “taken” for 300 000 Pounds! The shipping industry is a convoluted business, and this story is sadly not uncommon. It appears that there is absolutely no recourse whatsoever.
Peter Clement was born and raised on a farm in the Falklands, and has travelled ALL over the world on ships. His experience and knowledge is such a boon for the rest of us to tap into. Russ Manning has been guiding military and expedition travel in both Polar regions since 1981, year round, and spent two seasons as a Base Commander in the Antarctic. Russ takes charge of our stores, and always seems to know where everything is. Russ loves motorbikes, talking all things Polar, and has not brushed his blond locks in 25 years. Both are in a league of their own as Zodiac drivers, and ‘go to men’ were any emergency to arise. I had dinner tonight with Matt Messina (new kid on the block at 26), his partner and Young Explorer supervisor Hayley Saxe, and Pete Clement. Matt and Hayley were entranced as Pete and I were comparing various expeditions, heroes and villains of Polar travel, and Polar literature. Matt reminds me daily that guests have come to see ‘his’ whales and seals, but the history seems to be tickling his fancy more than he’d care to admit. Matt is also an incredible artist and illustrates all his presentations with his own art.
Our Captain Colaris, who was born on a coffee plantation in Ethiopia 60 years ago, runs an open Bridge policy. This means that guests are able at any time to go onto the Bridge, and see the Officers and Captain at work
navigating the ice or positioning Le Lyrial for a landing. A very special privilege indeed. Guests are asked politely not to push any buttons, nor turn any dials. Whilst we fly across a very benign Drake Passage, there is a good chance that we will be in time to attempt some whale-watching tomorrow evening around Dallmann Island. This itinerary has been reversed. We usually travel from Ushuaia to the Falklands, then South Georgia, Antarctica and back to Ushuaia. Grytviken, the primary stop on South Georgia, where all ships have to “check-in” has changed the provision from 3 ships per day to two ships per day. As a result, we were unable to get a slot on the schedule with the usual itinerary for Grytviken, and were forced to switch the itinerary around. This holds huge advantages – guests may be in Zodiacs on their second evening, rather than their 5th evening, the long crossing from Peninsula to South Georgia has weather behind us (as Shackleton did) rather than against us, and we ease back into civilisation with the Falklands as our final stop.
What’s not to love?
Returning to Antarctic Peninsula this season ~ 24th December 2019
As mentioned previously, our itinerary has been swopped around completely due to scheduling requirements on South Georgia, so we came directly from Ushuaia to the Antarctic Peninsula. After a calm first 36 hours, conditions changed appreciably. For those familiar with the Beaufort Scale, the wind, etc registered at force 9 with 30 foot waves and 50 knot (90km/hr) winds at right angles to our direction of travel. Despite the stabilisers, Le Lyrial was moving at the whim of the ocean. A huge number of guests were seasick, dining areas were deserted, and the children seemed to calm down almost instantaneously. For 5 or 6 hours the tempest raged in the Drake Passage, and seemed to abate as soon as we reached the lee of the South Shetland Islands. Some call this the tax one pays to visit Antarctica. Personally I believe the Drake’s infamous reputation grows in the sharing. There is no doubting that the combination of the world’s greatest current flowing uninterrupted around Antarctica, and then been funnelled between South America and the Peninsula creates wind and waves of massive proportions.
There are however many folk I speak to who are reticent to visit Antarctica on account of the Drake Passage? That, I feel is crazy. Three or four in ten crossings is rough, and almost all of those only for some hours. The notion of not visiting this most beguiling place perhaps on Earth because the crossing MAY be rough beggars my belief. Besides, I believe there is a connection psychologically between believing you are going to be seasick, and that becoming a reality. Of course, everyone onboard is now delighted we are travelling with the weather to South Georgia, rather than against it, as per the original itinerary.
Humpback Whales delighted guests around Dallmann Bay, and again in Cierva Cove during the Zodiac tour. Despite the Zodiacs trying to remain the specified distance from these beautiful Cetaceans, the whales don’t appear to pass the IAATO assessment annually. Regularly they swam up to the Zodiacs, or passed just beneath them. So much so, that none of our guests even noticed the weather. We could see their great mouths opening, and the abdominal ridges expanding as they ingested tons of water and krill. The plates of baleen hanging from the roof of the mouth to sieve the krill as the water is forcefully pushed out by the powerful tongue. A huge number of photographs were taken, particularly of the flukes (tails) which are as unique as fingerprints. These are being submitted to happywhale.com website – scientists compiling a catalogue of Humpback Whales, their migrations (around 16 000km/year), distribution, associations, etc. Wonderful to see how the public can be actively involved in a worthwhile science project. Helen Ahern on our team has recorded whales off Russia, Alaska, Greenland, Svalbard, Australia, New Zealand, Argentina and both sides of Antarctica. One of her Russian whales, called Ivan, swims every summer to Hawaii. Another recorded in Antarctica spends the summer in Tonga, 9000km away.
The afternoon was spent at Base Brown in Paradise Bay, belonging to Argentina. The research staff only arrived yesterday, so were very reluctant to grant us access, despite our scheduled slot. Fresh water is however a problem, usually secured from a stream which is still frozen. Despite boxes of equipment lying everywhere, the very friendly staff welcomed us in exchange for fresh water. We have a wonderful desalination system onboard, and around 10 000lt were moved to the base, and pumped into their storage tanks. A fair exchange, and a great start to their season, as I could see the female staff were looking forward to a wash. A slide was created down the snow slope behind the base, and many guests loved revisiting their childhood, getting their trousers filled with refreshing snow! En route back to the ship, a short Zodiac tour was offered, past icebergs and the Blue-eyed Shag (Cormorant) colony.
Our visit to Mikkelsen Harbour, with its multitude of whale bones and water boat remains was conducted in driving snow. Strangely all three species of brush-tailed penguins were spotted together – Adelie, Chinstrap and Gentoo. For the ornithologists this was the Holy Grail. For those who consider white penguins are those coming down, and black penguins are those going up, this was infinitely less exciting, and the differences fell on deaf ears.
It was cold, very, and I had to bite my tongue at the number of people who have seemingly never learnt to say please or thank you when I am dealing with the walking poles. The bog boots we are issued tend to be very tight around my calves, so I turn the tops over. This sadly reduces their effective wading depth, and whilst assisting guests from the Zodiacs I got wet socks and feet, which probably didn’t improve my predisposition towards common courtesy?
Tomorrow’s activities/landings will take place at the northern end of the Shetland Islands, which places us ideally for the long 850 nautical mile run to South Georgia.
Today I spoke about Robert Scott, which was very well received even by the kids. Have some Recaps planned on Frank Wild, Nordenskjold, Shackleton’s Whisky, and lectures on Amundsen, Shackleton, Mawson and Charcot, along with lesser-known characters of Antarctic exploration.
Tonight on Christmas eve the Expedition Team are due to be singing Christmas carols. Besides Marco who was taught to serenade in Venice, and John who may have a fine English singing voice, I fear the rest of us may well sound like Elephant Seals being harassed? The poor guests don’t know what they are in for …
Crossing Scotia Arc to South Georgia ~ 27th December 2019
To hear today that the intrepid rowers we had seen attempting to row from Cape Horn to the Antarctic Peninsula had made it, was cause for great celebration. They succeeded by manpower alone, no sail assistance, and should be applauded for an extraordinary effort. Quite what the human mind and body is capable of beggars belief. Everyone onboard our ship thought they were crazy, but I knew deep down held a great respect for what those young men were attempting. Reading that they have successfully reached the Peninsula is enormously gratifying.
Ships move slowly, and we require a full 48 hours, in favourable conditions, to cover the 800 nautical miles separating the South Shetland Islands from South Georgia, across the Scotia Sea. Feeling like the Minister of Midnight Affairs, I was asked to comment over the PA system at 11.10pm, as we passed Cape Valentine on Elephant Island. This is where Shackleton’s band of 28 desperate men in 3 tiny lifeboats first made landfall after 7 desperate months of drifting on the sea ice, in April 1916. It was literally their only hope of land before being swept away to certain death in the Southern Atlantic.
A friend sent me a message this week asking if I had seen any Polar Bears? I answered affirmatively – in September, in the Arctic. Down in the Antarctic, we have Penguins instead. I hadn’t the will to explain about Arktos, then Antartikos – at the opposite end of the world. One an ocean surrounded by continents, the other a continent surrounded by ocean. The North Pole is situated around 3 feet above sea level, depending on sea ice thickness. The South Pole sits at 9500 feet above sea level on the Polar Plateau. Antarctica – no native population, no tree line, no tundra, no terrestrial mammals. Arctic – clear tree line, native populations, well-defined tundra and many terrestrial mammals. Mean annual temperature at South Pole -50C versus -18C at North Pole. Antarctica, less than 20 bird species beyond 70 degrees south. Arctic, more than 100 bird species beyond 75 degrees north.
Greenland is the largest island on Earth, with the second largest icecap behind Antarctica. Two entirely different environments, both with enormous appeals all their own.
Last evening at Recaps, I spoke about Frank Wild’s early life in North Yorkshire, oldest of 11 kids. One of only two men to earn the Polar Medal with 4 clasps (5 Polar Expeditions), and was to become Shackleton’s great friend and Second-in-Command. I believe Wild lost his rudder and anchor in life when Shackleton died in 1922. He drifted between jobs in southern Africa, got divorced, remarried and spent the last 8 years of his life relatively happy as storekeeper on a mine at Klerksdorp. He died of diabetes and pneumonia in August 1939, aged 66, a poor man. His body was cremated, but with World War II, his ashes were lost to history. In 2011, Angie Butler traced those ashes to the Braamfontein crematorium. They were carried to South Georgia, and interred next to the grave of Shackleton, as was Wild’s wish. The Polar Medal and clasps were sold for 132 000 Pounds in 2009, double the anticipated value. A giant of Polar exploration is Frank Wild.
On South Georgia, our next stop, enormous progress has been made at vast expense to eliminate aliens – rats, mice, reindeer and vegetation. The rats and mice were dealt with by dividing the island into regions using crevassed glaciers as natural boundaries, and dropping poison pellets from helicopters. The pellets are carried underground and the vermin perish underground, so birds are not exposed to poisoned carcasses. One can only imagine the havoc rats and mice have wrought on sea bird colonies which nest on the ground in South Georgia? Bird populations have been decimated, but thankfully the eradication program over 7 or 8 years has been 100% successful by 2018. Reindeer were introduced by the whalers and flourished. Eventually numbering around 3000, their numbers were culled and the meat sold in the Falkland Islands.
Today onboard, I shared Shackleton’s story. Of course, most guests are hoping to visit The Boss and Wilds’ graves at Grytviken on South Georgia. Biosecurity preparations before we land on South Georgia took up much of the afternoon – meticulously cleaning boots and all clothing, vacuuming pockets and velcro, using tweezers to remove stones on boot tread, etc. I told the Young Explorers some African stories, before the Marco Polo cocktail party just before Recaps. Turns out to have been a very full day, and not over yet.
Patri spoke about krill this evening, and its crucial role in all Antarctic food webs. Living to 7 or 8 years of age, capable of laying 10 000 eggs which sink to 400-2500 meters, and 11 larval stages before emerging as young krill, much of their life cycle still not fully understood. Krill is however being harvested commercially in ever-increasing tonnages, now that technology exists to separate the poisonous exoskeleton immediately after capture. With world population as it stands, and never ending requirements for cheap food, particularly protein, the jury is out on the wisdom of commercial krill harvesting. Ironically, farmed salmon meat is white. Feeding salmon krill is what creates the fine pink colour we all desire?
I hosted a lively dinner with Patri. A family from NYC with their 10 and 12 year-old daughters, plus a retired surgeon and wife from Denver, Colorado. Patri was on top form, looking rather like a racoon on account of the marks from sunburn around her dark glasses. The kids wanted to hear “dumb tourist” stories from me, until we all began to talk about travel, favourite places, global warming, art (my contribution zero) and this ship experience. The NYC family travel extensively, the kids already have 8 African trips behind them. The Denver surgeon was dragged here by his wife, but absolutely loving the trip.
In the morning we begin our South Georgia experience with a Zodiac tour in Cooper Bay, home of Macaroni Penguins. We have been firmly asked not to call them Spaghetti Penguins or anything similar. Marco showed some gruesome images of Antarctic Fur Seal bites, which hopefully will urge our guests to take the threat these animals pose seriously. They do not have a fused pelvis, and as a result can get up on their hind flippers and move very fast on land. At this time, when they are having pups, holding sections of beach and mating, both the females and males can be very aggressive indeed. I am sure the guests will realise very quickly that they are to be taken seriously.
Sublime South Georgia ~ 28th December 2019
In preparation for our arrival onto South Georgia, we had to perform a series of bio-security measures. These requirements for South Georgia have been significantly upgraded. We began with pressure washing all the walking poles, and scrubbing any soil or organic matter off them, before treating them with Virkon. Most important, were the outer layers of guests clothing, backpacks, tripods, etc – anything that makes contact with the ground (for fear of introducing non-native species). The rented bog boots have an irritating tread pattern which picks up tiny stones, which have to be meticulously prised out of the tread with tweezers or a Leatherman tool. Boots are then re-washed and treated with Virkon. Any seeds, lint or foreign matter is removed from zips, velcro, pockets, tripod legs, gloves, etc. This took the best part of an entire afternoon with 170 guests onboard. If the examiners from South Georgia deem our ship ‘unclean’ in any way, then the ship’s FIRST stop on returning to South Georgia has to be Grytviken, for another examination. In terms of one’s scheduling this is mightily inconvenient. South Georgia is 140km long, and depending on one’s itinerary, ideally you start at one end and work your way towards the other? Grytviken is fairly central, so inconvenient as a first stop! Especially since Grytviken is only receiving two ships daily now, and not three as before. The rather fierce examiner checked the team before we were allowed ashore, and thankfully we passed with flying colours. It is easy to understand the strictness having eradicated the rats, mice and reindeer. Now eliminating alien vegetation with spot-spraying. South Georgia should be kept completely alien-free.
In almost perfect conditions, our first outing was a Zodiac tour in Cooper Bay on SE tip of South Georgia. Guests were spellbound by the abundance of wildlife – the profusion of Antarctic Fur Seals, Elephant Seals, Macaroni Penguins, Giant Petrels literally had jaws dropping. Further up on the slopes, amongst the cliffs, or Tussock Grass, birds nested in their thousands, now that the rats and mice are gone. To add to the magic, champagne was offered from specially made bar boxes created by the carpenters onboard. I was on Helen Ahern’s Zodiac. Helen’s father was a prominent New Zealand Antarctic research assistant, the Ahern Glacier named after him. Helen has an incredible overall knowledge, and entranced us all with the history of South Georgia, the facts about the wildlife and then a detailed description about the two resident species of Kelp. It was a masterclass. Born an adventurer, Helen lives in Queenstown, kite surfs, para glides, hikes, skis, and travels all over the world. Helen often leads expeditions with Heritage from Bluff, New Zealand into the wild Ross Sea. Extremely able, valued member of this team, and fair dinkum delightful lass. Ever-willing, she has been nicknamed “Eveready” which is utterly appropriate!
During afternoon, we landed at Gold Harbour, perhaps one of the most beautiful landing spots on South Georgia. The local rocks abound with iron pyrites or ‘fool’s gold’. Just this single landing made the visit to South Georgia worthwhile – it was sublime. In sunny, windless conditions we landed guests onto a sandy beach, festooned with hundreds of Elephant Seals, a few Fur Seals and around 70 000 King Penguins! King Penguins standing almost as high as a man’s belt, with their magnificent orange cheek and chest patches, always look at one in a somewhat bored fashion. Completely fearless, they will walk over and examine your glove, or your trousers, invariably looking disappointed with their findings. The Elephant Seals were finding the balmy afternoon too warm, and constantly throwing sand over themselves. The young males jostling, practicing their wrestling for years to come. Surrounded by high mountains and the Bertrab Glacier, it is an exquisite scene. Nobody wanted to leave the beach, and we had quite a time trying to wrangle guests back to the Zodiacs that the second group could come ashore – only to struggle as much getting them to leave. It was an utterly indescribable scene, and where the sensor is proven woefully lacking in terms of capturing the grandeur of what the human eye is experiencing. I would wager that many will consider, upon reflection, Gold Harbour the highlight of their entire trip.
For so many interested in Shackleton, the idea of visiting his grave at Grytviken on South Georgia is intoxicating. Of course, in 2011, the ashes of his right-hand man, Frank Wild, were interred next to Shackleton’s grave, adding to the gravitas of the spot. Today we were able to visit this historic spot, and learn more about the whaling history of Grytviken. In its heyday Grytviken could process 35 large whales a day, and to see the blubber, meat and bone cookers along with the flensing pan leaves little to the imagination in terms of what Man did to these denizens of the deep. During the afternoon we visited Fortuna Bay, with its thousands of Fur Seals and King Penguins. It was into this valley that Shackleton, Worsley and Crean descended during their epic hike across South Georgia, believing it was the Stromness valley, only to find with utter horror that it was not. They had to make their exhausted way back up onto the high mountains covered in snow and ice, and descend into the following valley where Stromness whaling station was situated. The Fur Seals terrified many of the guests, with aggressive displays and mock charges. A large male lay on the beach right where we landed for the entire afternoon, all guests having to walk around him, getting into or out of the Zodiacs. Despite a sunny, windless start to the afternoon operation, the wind came up, the temperature plummeted, and mist rolled in from the sea. Reminding us all just how fickle the weather can be here, and how warm clothing has to be carried at all times.
At Recaps Patri explained the most complicated breeding cycle of any bird belonging to the King Penguin, who generally raise two chicks in 3 years. Due to high winds anticipated tomorrow, the itinerary has been changed and we shall visit Stromness and the Shackleton Waterfall in the morning. Hoping to visit Salisbury Plain in the afternoon, wind and conditions permitting, before we begin the long haul across to the Falklands. As anticipated by those who have been before, South Georgia exceeded all guest expectations, and tomorrow beckons…
South Georgia weather and challenges ~ 30th December 2020
Due to high wind predictions yesterday, the decision was made to visit Stromness Station in the morning, and Salisbury Plain in the afternoon. Stromness was used as a ship repair yard after whaling shut down in the 1930’3, and the bay is so strewn with metal, cables and chains that it is not safe to drop anchor. The Captain and Officers did extremely well holding the ship in position using the engine and bow thrusters alone, in very strong winds, gusting up to 50 knots. The beach held thousands of Fur Seals. At one point two males having a go at one another barged right through our line of guests. I feared a guest had been bitten. Turns out the one seal only had one eye, and I don’t believe was even aware of our guests. Another big male took to literally lying on top of our backpacks for the entire landing. Our guests walked about a mile to the waterfall, Shackleton, Crean and Worsley descended on their epic hike to Stromness Whaling Station in 1916. The wind on the landing site was unrelenting, easily lifting the front of empty Zodiacs. Psychologists report that more people take their own lives on windy days than at other times, and 4 hours on the beach yesterday would confirm them correct! We watched Giant Petrels washing the blood off their faces and necks after feeding, and baby seals nursing, including a blond pup.
When we finally moved out into the open ocean, it was a tempest, and we were sure the afternoon’s proposed landing at Salisbury Plain would be cancelled. Although the Bay of Isles was calmer, there was still a large swell running onto the beach at Salisbury Plain. Stern landings were essential (Zodiacs come in engine first), and the frogmen and team had their work cut out stabilising the Zodiacs and getting guests off. I had both boots filled with water. The wind was even worse than Stromness, driving sand ahead of it, and whipping up the sea.
For those who know me, these are my ideal seaside conditions. NOT!
Zodiacs had to have somebody in the front providing ballast on empty runs, and it was a wonderful break to get onboard the ship mid-landing, have a cup of tea, but most importantly get out of the wind. We heard that every other ship on South Georgia had cancelled their afternoon activities due to wind this afternoon. Salisbury Plain is a staggering place with around 700 000 King Penguins, thousands of Fur Seals, hundreds of Elephant Seals and all the associated birdlife, so a fitting final stop on South Georgia, but a labour of love and dedication getting 170 guests onto and off the shore for the afternoon.
I had dinner with a family – grandparents from Cape Cod, the remainder from Denver, Colorado. The lamb shank was particularly good. We laughed a great deal, particularly at the location of my cabin between the Bridge and the staff stairwell. So doors bang at odd hours in the night as shifts change, and staff run up and down the metal stairs right at my head. Room dividers tend to be wafer thin, so this all makes for a particularly calm, quiet, peaceful sleep experience as you can imagine. Being high on the ship, and at the front, the ship’s movements are hugely accentuated too. Last night was a fairly bumpy night onboard, and one learns to anticipate the big lifts, and drops at the front of the ship.
We now have two full days at sea between South Georgia and the Falklands, when guests and staff can hopefully catch their breaths. Lectures are offered daily to keep passengers entertained. This wonderful show goes on…
Falkland Islands en route back to Ushuaia ~ 1st January 2020
After 60 long hours, some of which was quite rough, we finally arrived at Port Stanley, in the Falkland Islands from South Georgia. We came through the narrows at 6.45am, into the inner harbour and moored alongside FIPASS. This is a floating dock brought here by the military in the early 1980’s, already second-hand, with a predicted lifespan of 5-10 years, and now 37 years later is still serving this community with distinction. Without it ships are forced to anchor in the outer or inner harbour, and use their tenders (lifeboats) to ferry the guests ashore. We had hardly docked when a distinctive, older two-masted yacht came through the narrows. It was Tecla, who we had last seen in Nome, Alaska – the only two-masted yacht through the North-West Passage by sail alone since Amundsen in 1903-1906, allegedly. Tecla had been from 50 degrees east to 50 degrees west around Cape Horn, with crew, some of whom got onboard in Galapagos. Quite a yacht, what journeys!
At Recaps, I spoke about the whisky found underneath Shackleton’s Cape Royd’s hut in 2007, before Patri’s inimitable Red-jacket Albatross presentation which never fails to bring the house down. Absolutely hilarious.
Our guests had a wonderful evening last night, with music provided by Cruise Director Paul Carter (PeeCee), ending at 2am. As it was we turned our clocks back an hour last night, so many celebrated midnight twice. There were a range of tours offered to the guests on the Falklands. I hoped to join the battlefields tour, but the tour was absolutely full. Well, clearly New Year’s Eve was just a bit too good for one guest who never arrived for the tour, so I took the vacant seat happily. It is often said that a game drive is almost entirely dependent on the quality of the ranger, and so with many tours, the quality of the guiding is critical. Our guide today was charming, but the tour itself was mediocre. There was no background given for the 1982 invasion by Argentina or war, and the commentary became a series of disjointed stage plays with no continuity. I noticed many guests stop paying any attention as they had completely lost interest, which was a real shame. I was inclined to give an overview of my own, but felt better of it. Needless to say, the tour was decidedly underwhelming. The country over which the British forces advanced, almost exclusively at night, sopping wet and cold in winter, carrying enormous loads on foot, needs to be seen to be fully comprehended. Never mind the famous Falklands stone runs, the bogs, peat, rocks and gradients make this particularly inhospitable battle territory. To the observer it would be fair to say that it was a very close run thing.
Guests thoroughly enjoyed looking around the town of Stanley on their own, having a meal, and a local beer. Gifts are very expensive, perhaps unsurprisingly. The Scenic Eclipse is anchored in the outer harbour, tendering their guests into town, so Stanley is rather busy.
I walked back to the ship along the foreshore – a distance of 3,2km, the longest walk I have taken since my bike accident on 5 May, which lifted my spirits enormously. Small steps these. Pete Clement and Matt Messina joined me. Matt wanted to know about David Rattray, and my speaking with a stick. The slide we use as a final slide showing part of my stick collection has elicited much interest on the ship.
Pete commented at length at how the old Falklands favourite, the Land Rover, is quickly being replaced by Japanese vehicles. Perhaps the less said at this point, the better?
As we were crossing the bridge to the ship, we spotted a beautiful black and white Commerson’s Dolphin swimming in the water below. It swam around happily, regularly breaking the surface to breathe, almost posing for us. Just magical.
I am about to pack my bags to fly home, which is wildly exciting. Will be coming down here again, beginning of February, working for a different company, along Argentina coast, Antarctica and Chile coast/fjords. A great start to our 2020, and we trust yours has begun similarly…