A Travellerspoint blog

Falkland Islands to Santiago

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6th April
Today we had to farewell the Falkland Islands. We were sad to leave as this has actually been a big highlight for us and we had not been prepared for that. We love it here. We could easily live in the Falklands, the people are wonderful and there is so much to see and do. The weather had also been extremely kind to us. So we drove about 40km to Mount Pleasant. There is a big defence base there and the international airport is part of the base. So we were checked through the gate and went to the airport to check in. We had a bit of a wait but it gave us time to reflect on our time here. Once we boarded the plane we set off for Santiago via Punta Arenas. We had to get off the plane in Punta Arenas and ended up going through immigration so this saved us having to do this in Santiago. We eventually arrived in Santiago at 9.40pm and luckily we only had to cross the road to the Holiday Inn Airport Hotel. (thank goodness). It had been quite a long day.

7th April
We had a nice relaxing day today in the hotel in Santiago. Our flight leaves just before midnight so we have plenty of time to catch up on bits and pieces. This is the last of our blog for this year. So we sign off after having another fantastic trip and we hope you have enjoyed following it with us. See you all soon.

Posted by shaneandnicola 12:33 Archived in Chile Comments (0)

Falkland Islands Pt 3

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30th March
This morning we headed for the grass airstrip where the FIGAS plane was arriving to take us to Carcass Island. Carcass Island lies to the northwest of the Falkland Islands archipelago. It is 6.5km off Hope Point, the nearest land on West Falklands. We had a couple of stops to make before we arrived at Carcass. We first dropped people at Saunders Island then at Hill Cove settlement. We had a lovely view flying to Carcass Island.
Carcass Island is about 10km long with a maximum width of 2.5km and covers 4680 acres. It takes its name from the HMS Carcass which visited in the late 18th century. It has been a sheep farm since 1872. Today it is owned by Rob and Lorraine McGill, who have lived on the island for 39 years. There are no cats, rats or mice here to predate on ground nesting birds, which thrive here in abundance. Upon arrival we were met by Rob (who is also the fireman in case of a plane crash or fire). We arrived at the settlement which is nicely sheltered in Port Pattison. We settled in and then met Lorraine who had morning tea ready. (I think we will put on weight here). She had baked some lovely cakes and slices and we even had hot cross buns. We had forgotten it was Easter.
After a nice soup and pasta lunch we headed out for a little walk along part of the beach near the homestead to see some of Port Patterson Bay.
Within such a short walk there was so much bird life.
Magellanic Oystercatcher
Southern Crested Caracara
Black Oystercatcher
We even lucky enough to see a Black-Crowned Night Heron catching fish.
We then took a trip to the other side of the island to Leopard Beach.
There are Gentoo and Magallenic Penguin colonies and we were able to sit on the cliff and watch the gentoos swimming and porpoising. It was lovely.

31st March
It was Easter Sunday today. We awoke for breakfast and Lorraine had put out a big easter egg for us. That was a lovely surprise. The weather was lovely again today, it was slightly windy but nice and sunny. We had use of the land rover for the day so headed to the other side of the island to North West Point.
We climbed over the tussock grass carefully in case a big elephant seal jumped out at us. We had been told that there was some big buggers there and there was. Some were just lounging in the sun, others were play fighting on the beach whilst others wallowed in the shallows. It was great.
We even had a Cobbs Wren hop down beside us.
We then headed to Shedder Pond to see what bird life there was on the pond.
While we were there we were lucky enough to see some Striated Caracara’s eating a duck. They were even plucking it with their beaks.
We came back across Rocky Ridge where we stopped to do some whale watching. There were a few spouts that we could see.

1st April
We could not believe the weather again today, it was even better than yesterday. The water was really flat as there was no wind. We decided to head back to Leopard Beach today to watch the penguins. We skirted East End Hill and Jason Hill passing Dyke Bay.
We headed up to Gothic Point to get a really good view of Leopard Beach.
We made our way slowly down to the beach as there were quite a few Magallenic Penguin burrows. We decided to sit on the beach with the Gentoo penguins.
It was still really sunny with no wind, so Shane decided to go skinny dipping with the penguins.
Once again we were watched the penguins sunning on the beach, porpoising or just floating in the water. It was such a relaxing day.

2nd April
This morning we were to fly to Saunders Island. So we farewelled Lorraine and then Rob drove us out to the airstrip. It was another beautiful day and ideal for whale watching. We once again had the plane to ourselves and as soon as we took off we could see some whales it was fantastic. We then headed about 15 minutes by plane to Saunders.
It is the second largest offshore island in the Falklands and is named after the 18th century British Admiral Sir Charles Saunders. Today it is owned by David and Suzan Pole-Evans who run a traditional farm principally for wool with 6000 sheep. The island is 21km from east to west and almost as wide from north-east to south-west. This is the one island that we have really been waiting to visit as there is a Rock Hopper colony that showers under a natural waterfall and there is a large Black-browed Albatross colony. We were collected from the little run way by the Pole-Evans and first made a stop in the settlement to collect some groceries for the next 2 days as we were to fend for ourselves out at a little cottage called the Rookery that is self catering and only sleeps up to 4 people. As it happened we had the place all to ourselves.
The Rookery is 10km from the settlement and is close to the Rock Hopper and Black-browed Albatross colonies. So once we arrived Suzan showed us how to use the emergency hand held radio and the generator and then we were left to our own devices. We had an early lunch before heading out to check out the wildlife.
Our first stop was the Black-browed Albatross colony. It is very difficult to explain how amazing this was. Every September 12,900 pairs of albatross return to breed here. They prefer elevated sites where updrafts assist their take-off and landing. They nest right on the cliffs.
We only needed to walk 5 minutes from home and they were soaring around everywhere right over our heads. They are magnificent birds with an 8 foot wingspan.
(soaring albs)
There were some adults but a lot of the birds were fledglings. They had darker beaks and some still had down. We were lucky enough to see some of the adults feeding their chicks.
Their nests are about 50cm tall and are a solid pillar of mud and guano with some tussac grass and seaweed in there. They have a depression in the top. It is certainly something that we will remember for a life time.
We sat and watched them for ages but as the weather was so good we also wanted to see the showering penguins as well. This was another 30 minutes walk further on, but you could not miss the colony as there was down everywhere. It looked like it had been snowing.
Most of the colony was perched on the hill.
The natural spring waterfall was down closer to the cliff face. So we carefully made our way down the stone front and there is was. It was a little waterfall that was surrounded by tussac grass and there were penguins lined up to use it. It was so funny to watch them showering. Photos just don’t do it justice, but Shane has some great video footage.
Later that afternoon we headed back to the Rookery to settle in for the night. But it had been another terrific day weather and wild life wise.

3rd April
Today we had the whole day to enjoy our time around the Rookery. We had a sleep in which was unusual for us and after breakfast headed back to the Rock Hopper colony.
There was a lot of action this morning with penguins literally hopping back and forth from the rookery. They would go in little groups.
We then made our way back down to the waterfall to watch the penguins showering again. You can see it is on the side of the cliff but where the greenery is there is a little waterfall.
We just can’t get enough of this as it is so unusual. They seem to really enjoy it.
The weather was not too bad this morning although it was slightly windy. This seemed to be good for the albatross chicks as they were flapping their wings like they were practising for their first flight.
We walked back to the cottage along the cliff face so that we could enjoy our time once again with the albatross. There were quite a few adults coming and going to feed their chicks. It was great seeing them land and take off. They are so graceful. They don’t even need a run way they just took off in the wind. It will be a shame to leave them tomorrow, but it won’t be long before they all leave too.

4th April
This morning we had to leave Saunders Island for the mainland. We were to be picked up at 8.15 from the rookery so we ensured that we got one last look at the Black-browed Albatross. So just after sunrise we walked down to the cliffs to watch the adults soaring and the young ones flapping their wings strengthening them for their first flight.
It was an eerie morning as there was quite a mist over the water and the winds were quite strong. So we headed back to the settlement where the winds had picked up to 45 knots so we were told that all flights were to be delayed. The winds did not seem to ease but at 11.55 our plane arrived. The doors opened and out came a dog. The farmers dog had been to the vet and seeing everything is so remote the planes are used for just about everything. We boarded the plane for our flight to Darwin which went via Pebble Island where we collected boxes of real chooks and then on to Port Howard to pick us some more passengers. It was a bit bumpy in places, a bit like a roller coaster but we made it without either of us having to use a sick bag.
We were met by Fiona and Graham at the Goose Green airstrip and headed a short distance to Darwin House where there are only 4 permanent residents in the Darwin settlement. Darwin was once the largest settlement after Stanley with almost 200 working folk on the farms payroll. The settlement was named after Charles Darwin, who spent some time here during his travels. It was established in 1859 as a centre for cattle ranching and later for sheep farming. Today there are just the 4 of them.
Our other bag had arrived from Stanley so we spent the time catching up on emails and packing for our flight to Santiago which is in a couple of days’ time.

5th April
Today Graham took us out for a full day of battle tour history. Darwin, Goose Green and San Carlos are probably best known today for the parts they played during the 1982 conflict between the British and Argentines. We visited San Carlos Water which is a fjord like inlet.
The British Task Force started to land its troops at San Carlos Bay on May 21st 1982 after receiving the go-ahead from London.
One of the landing points.
Troops from 3, 40, 42 and 45 Commando Brigade were landed in San Carlos Bay along with men from 2 Para and 3 Parachute Regiment. The main priorities were to secure the beachhead from attack and land as many men and supplies as was possible. San Carlos Water became notorious as "Bomb Alley" during the Battle of San Carlos as British ships were pounded by Argentine air raids. We were also shown a marker where the HMS Antelope was damaged by two unexploded bombs. One of the bombs exploded that evening while being defused and she caught fire and sank next day.
Ajax Bay was immediately across from San Carlos and this was one of three landing points, and codenamed "Red Beach" as part of Operation Sutton. It was used as a military hospital during the conflict.
We also visited the Blue Beach Military Cemetery at San Carlos which is a British war cemetery holding the remains of 14 of the 260 British casualties killed in 1982. Most of the fallen were repatriated to their families in Britain. The cemetery is surrounded by a 1 metre high wall with a small entrance open to the beach in the style of a stone sheep corral which are historical here in the Falklands. Opposite the entrance, the wall is tapered higher with seven slate panels, six with the Regiment, Name, Rank and Service of the fallen and one with the three Forces' Emblems and the following inscription;
On our way back up the coast we stopped to get a great view of Falkland Sound which separates East and West Falklands and Grantham Sound.
We also visited The Argentine Military Cemetery, that holds the remains of 237 Argentine combatants killed during the conflict. It is located near the Darwin Settlement close to the location of the Battle of Goose Green. After the conflict the UK offered to send the bodies back to Argentina, but Argentina refused, knowing that the remains would ensure a continuing Argentine presence on the islands.
After lunch we continued to follow the story from when the troops landed up to when the Argentines surrendered at Goose Green. There were some good luck stories and some tragic stories that we heard along the way.
We stopped not far from where Burnside House used to be to hear about the battle that was fought on that ridge. You can still see where the Argentines were bunkered down.
We took a walk on Darwin hill to see where the Argentines had been positioned. Lieutenant Colonel H Jones was the commander of 2 Para, and he was killed leading an attack on an Argentine machine gun post near Darwin on the 28th May 1982. He was awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross for his bravery. We visited his memorial which is on the location that he was killed.
As Jones lay dying, his men radioed for urgent casualty evacuation. However, the British Scout Helicopter sent to evacuate Jones was shot down and the pilot, Lt. Richard Nunn RM was also killed.
We visited Goose Green settlement where the Battle of Goose Green had occurred on the 28th and 29th May.
Two Argentine Air Force warrant officers who were POWs were sent to the Argentine commanders at Goose Green with the terms of surrender. The following day Lieutenant-Colonel Piaggi surrendered all Argentine forces at Goose Green which was approximately 1,000 men, he had not realised that the british only had about one third of this number of men who were at the Battle of Goose Green. We saw the huge shearing sheds where the Argentine POWs were kept and also saw the community hall where over 100 Falkland Islanders were kept prisoner for a month before the troops arrived.
Up on the hill there is a memorial to 2 Para that overlooks Goose Green. This is the only memorial that was built by the actual soldiers as 2 Para did not go home immediately and chose to build the memorial while they stayed in Goose Green.
On the 4th May 1982 Lt Nick Taylor's Sea Harrier was shot down over Goose Green and his aircraft exploded and hit the ground very close to the airstrip. Argentine forces buried Nick with military honours close to where he fell. We went on to visit his grave and memorial.

Posted by shaneandnicola 12:30 Archived in Falkland Islands Comments (0)

Falkland Island Pt 2.

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25th March
This morning we headed off to Sea Lion Island. It was only a 5 minute drive up the road to the local airport where we were to fly on an 8 seater FIGAS (Falkland Islands Government Air Service) plane. As it was a little plane we not only had to have our luggage weighed but they also weighed us too. Luckily we didn’t see the end result. So we boarded the little red plane, were given a brief safety talk and then off we went. The flight was 40 minutes. It was quite a nice morning, we got a lovely view of Stanley. You can also see Mt William and Mt Tumbledown in the background so you can see how close the action was to Stanley.
The pilot told us that there were quite a few whales around and as we flew quite low we could see them really well. It was wonderful seeing a whole whale from above them.
Within no time at all we had arrived at Sea Lion Island where there was a little dirt runway right next to the lodge.
It is the remotest southerly lodge in the world. We were greeted by Jenny and settled in.
In the afternoon Jenny took us for a jeep ride around the island so we could get our bearings. There are lots of walks that we can do to see the wildlife while we are here. The first stop was near Rum Island where there were lots of kelp and a few sea lions playing in the kelp.
There was also an elephant seal wallowing in a shallow pond.
From there we headed to Rockhopper Point where we were to see our very first Rockhopper Penguins. They are the most friendliest penguins we have ever seen. They were not afraid and we were able to get very close. They are still malting.
There is also a memorial to the HMS Sheffield there as it was only about 40 miles away that the battle ship was sunk by the Argentinians during the conflict in 1982.
We headed back via the Long Pond to the other side of the island where Jenny showed us Elephant Corner (because of the Elephant Seals) and North East Point where there are a lot of Gentoo penguins.
After returning to the lodge we decided to take a walk back down to North East Point.
Just outside the lodge there was a Juvenile Striated Caracara sitting on the fence. He was not afraid of us and we were able to get really close. This bird is one of the rarest birds of prey in the world. There are at least 10 breeding pairs on the island.
Upon arrival at the beach we sat and watched the Gentoo penguins porpoising in and making their landings on the beach. Some were more dainty than others.
As the sun went down it got quite cool so we headed back up to the lodge for a nice cuppa and dinner.

26th March
It was drizzly and windy this morning but we were not going to let that stop us. We had decided that we would walk up to Long Pond this morning.
We were hoping to see some Crested Ducks and Speckled Teal. The Speckled Teal are really cute little ducks with yellow beaks. About an hour into our walk the sun came out and it was a lovely morning. We arrived at the pond and sat down for a drink only to have an adult Striated Caracara sit right alongside us.
We could not see any birds but walked around past all the rushes and there they were sheltering from the wind.
Crested Ducks
Speckled Teal
We headed back to the lodge for lunch and then after lunch ventured to Elephant Corner. It has started raining again. There were quite a few elephant seals sleeping, swimming and play fighting.
There was also a family of Crested Ducks.
We also got to see some other varieties of birds.
Juvenile dolphin gull
Adult dolphin gull
Turkey vulture
Once again the sun came out and it was a lovely afternoon.

27th March
This morning we flew to Bleaker Island. It was only a 10 minute flight. Bleaker Island lies close to the south–east coast of the East Falkland, at the entrance to Adventure Sound. Together with its outlying islands, the Bleaker Island Group is internationally recognised as an Important Bird Area. The northern part of the island is a National Nature Reserve. The island is now privately owned and has been a sheep farm for over 100 years. It is now under organic sustainable management, it has 1000 sheep and 55 Hereford breeding cows. Wildlife and domestic animals happily co-exist. We landed on a little grass airstrip where Elaine and Robert were there to meet us. The airstrip is a little way from the settlement so they took us on an orientation drive so that we could see what there was to offer in the way of wildlife. There are lots of options and we have 3 nights here.
We arrived at the settlement and were led to our amazing accommodation. We are staying in Cassard House (named after the shipwreck of the same name). It was constructed in 2011 and has solar powered underfloor heating, triple glazing and a lovely warm conservatory. Luxury, and we are the only guests at present.
After lunch we had a wander around the settlement. We headed down to the old jetty as there are several sea birds mingling together. This included Rock Cormorants
Imperial Cormorants
and a Southern Crested Caracara
Elaine popped over to arrange dinner time and we got talking to her. Her son lives in Adelaide at the moment. It is such a small world.
We sat and ate dinner and watched a beautiful sunset.

28th March
We had use of the landrover today so that made it easy to get around the island. So off we headed to see what we could see.
Our first stop was at the cormorant nests. They were empty but it made a great photo.
We then headed to an area on the coast where the Rockhopper Penguins live. We sat for ages watching them. They were nested quite high up and would hop up and down the rocks to the water.
We then headed to Big Pond to see what water birds we could see. We were lucky enough to see a flock of Black-necked Swans.
We also saw them in flight
and some Silvery Grebe.
The weather once again came good and it was lovely and sunny. The good old Falkland winds were still about though and at times almost blew you off your feet.

29th March
Today we headed out in the land rover to part of the southern end of Bleaker. We had all day so took our time looking around. We first came to a little bay where I spotted a few Peale’s dolphins bobbing about. We got out of the land rover to have a look and found a huge male sea lion sunning on the beach. He got a bit cross when Shane tried to get close for a picture. He was very impressive as his big hairy mane was dry and really fluffy.
We then headed down to Ram Paddock Pond. This pond is really close to the ocean. There is only about a metre between the pond and the sea.
At the pond we were lucky enough to find the White-Tufted Grebe swimming around and there was also one on a nest. It was quite late in the season but she was sitting on an egg.
We were also able to see Silver Teals. Their blue beaks really stood out.
We stopped along the coast for lunch. We could not believe what a great spot we had stopped in. There were Southern Giant Petrels everywhere and they were flying really low right around us.
We were also able to watch lots more dolphins in the bay.
Later that day we also decided to head back down to Big Pond as the winds had calmed right down. We thought we would take another look at the Silvery Grebes and the Black-necked Swans.
We also took a walk along Sandy Bay beach and looked out to Ghost Island. There wasn’t much on the beach apart from Falkland Steamer Ducks and some Southern Giant Petrels bobbing about on the water.
We returned via Long Gulch where the Magallenic penguins were mixing with the sheep.
While I was shutting one of the gates a Long-tailed Meadow Lark landed on the fence. They call them Robins here for obvious reasons.
We returned to Rock Hopper Point to take one more look at Bleakers Rock Hoppers. It has been another lovely day.

Posted by shaneandnicola 08:20 Archived in Falkland Islands Comments (0)

Falkland Islands Pt 1

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21st March
We awoke early this morning as we were getting off the ship in the Falklands. We had left most of the packing till the last minute due to the rough seas. The ship went through the narrow neck to the harbour and there was Stanley. It is such a pretty town. The houses sit on the hill and it is very colourful.
The ship was docked in the harbour so we were transported by zodiac to the port.
It was overcast when we disembarked. Arlette (the lady who I arranged our Falklands trip with) was there at the dock to meet us. So she took us off the Malvina House Hotel where we settled in. By then the sun had come out and the weather was absolutely beautiful so we headed off for our walk around town. We visited the Christ Church Cathedral. This is the most southerly Anglican Cathedral in the world and was consecrated in 1892. Right along side is the Whalebone Arch. This was constructed in 1933 to commemorate a centenary of British Administration in the Islands. The arch consists of the jawbones of two blue whales.
We then walked along Ross Road which is right on the waterfront. We passed Government House. The building originates from the 1840’s and has had extensions added over the years.
We passed the Jhelum shipwreck. The Jhelum was launched in England in 1849, suffered damage rounding Cape Horn and limped into Stanley.
We finished off at the West Store. This is the biggest shop on the island. You can buy groceries and souvenirs. So we bought a few things and headed back to the hotel for dinner. We had a lovely dinner, Shane tried Toothfish.

22nd March
This morning we were picked up from our hotel by Derek. Derek and Trudi are wardens down at Volunteer Point where it is home to the largest king penguin colony in the Falklands. We are lucky enough to have the opportunity to stay with them in their home.
Volunteer Point was a three hour drive from Stanley. Two thirds is on a pretty good dirt road but the last part there was only a rough track through the peat. The scenery was lovely along the way. Parts were quite stark but the peat areas were lovely and green, however extremely boggy. We had never experienced peat before. Then we arrived at beautiful Volunteer Point. Once the couple of day trippers left we had the place to ourselves. We walked along the beach and watched Kings, Magallenics and Gentoos playing in the water and wandering the beach.
We then headed up to the rookery to see the King Penguins and their chicks. They were again at different ages. There were really newly born chicks and then really big fluffy brown chicks.
There were also lots of vultures trying to get something to eat and unfortunately they were tucking into quite a big chick.
There were also other various bird species.
This is a Crested Duck
This is a Dolphin Gull
It was a totally different experience from South Georgia. In South Georgia there was snow and here at Volunteer there was grass as well as sheep.
After dinner we had an amazing chat with Derek and Trudi. Derek has participated in a couple of Commonwealth Games in shooting representing the Falklands. He was also fighting the Argentinians when they arrived on the first evening of the conflict and is only one of about 30 people to have been awarded with a special medal. It was really interesting listening to them.

23rd March
This morning we set our alarm for just before sunrise to ensure that we were up and about to see the sunrise and the penguins on the beach. As I said, we had the entire place to ourselves it was fantastic. It also happened to be beautiful morning weather wise.
We returned to the house for a cooked breakfast where Shane tried a Gentoo penguin egg for breakfast. It covered the whole plate. Gentoos lay more than one egg and quite often the first egg is infertile so the warden collects a few at the beginning of the season for visitors to try. I wasn’t game thought. The egg white looked like jelly fish and he said the egg could taste fishy. Shane said it was good.
We then set out again to get one more fix of the King Penguin rookery. This time we were able to see penguins sitting on eggs and one baby that was really tiny. We had to drag ourselves away as Derek needed to drive us back to Stanley after lunch. It was another lovely drive back to Stanley where we once again settled into the Malvina House Hotel.

24th March
At 9am this morning a gentleman named Tony Smith came to pick us up. He was taking us out for the day for a battle tour and we had heard he was one of the best. In fact when the Duke of Kent was here he gave him a personal tour. After discussing it with him we decided that we would just do a general trip that took us to several spots which would give us an overview and a good picture of a lot to the conflict. The day was really overcast with quite a bit of wind and the odd drizzle. In a way this enhanced our experience as we could really feel for the soldiers on both sides. We first headed to an area just north of Mt Kent where there was wreckage of an Argentinian Chinook and Puma helicopter that had been shot down.
There are still around 20,000 land mines that were left behind by the Argentines. As this is a costly and timely program to remove them they have just fenced off several areas near Stanley. They are well sign posted.
We then headed towards Mt William and up to the top of Mt Tumbledown.
Tony gave us a really good picture of the three offensive manoeuvres that occurred in the area. On the night of 13 June – 14 June 1982, the British launched an assault on Mount Tumbledown, one of the highest points near the town of Stanley, and succeeded in driving Argentinian forces from the mountain.We took a walk to the top where there was a memorial to the Scots Guards who lost their lives there.
We then walked around the top of the hill where there are still remains of the old Argentinian field kitchens. They are slowly rusting away but are still in pretty good condition.
It was quite sheltered there so we stopped and ate our lunch where we had a lovely view of Stanley.
We then headed to Sapper Hill where there is a memorial to the Royal Engineers.
We then headed back into Stanley and followed the road out along the harbour to Wireless Ridge. The Battle of Wireless Ridge was an engagement which took place on the night of 13 June and 14 June 1982, between British and Argentine forces during the advance towards the Argentine-occupied capital of Stanley. Wireless Ridge was one of seven strategic hills within five miles of Stanley that had to be taken in order for the city to be approached. The attack was successful, and the entire Argentine force on the Islands surrendered later that day.There is still an old 105 recoilless gun sitting there and also the remnants of mortar pits.
You could tell that a lot of shells had been fired as there were big holes in the ground everywhere.
Our last stop was the other side of Stanley out near the airport. Tony wanted to show us the totem pole that was first started by the military during the conflict. We then drove over to the other side of the airport where he showed us a big hole in the ground that had occurred as a result of high altitude bombings by the Vulcans. The first surprise attack on the islands, on 30 April-1 May was aimed at the main runway at Port Stanley Airport. The mission was called Black Buck One. Carrying twenty-one 1,000 lbs general purpose bombs, the bomber was to fly across the line of the runway at about 35 degrees. The bomb release system was timed to drop sequentially from 10,000 ft so that at least one bomb would land on the runway, and it did.
We returned to the hotel having had an extremely informative and interesting day. We certainly learned a lot about the Falklands Conflict.

Posted by shaneandnicola 10:42 Archived in Falkland Islands Comments (0)

South Georgia

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12th March and 13th March
We sailed across the South Scotia Sea for 2 days. Some of the first day of the crossing was a bit rough so we stayed close to our cabin. Our second day at sea could be described as peaceful – both the expansive ocean around us and the contented mood on board. We returned to the lecture room for a mandatory briefing on South Georgia. This short film described the do’s and don’ts for our visit complete with examples of the stunning vistas we aim to see. The Scotia Sea continued to showcase it’s natural beauty through the day. With the sun beating strongly off the waters, dolphins played in the waves and we were able to spend a lot more time on deck watching the sea birds soaring in the thermals. It is really starting to hit us know that we are not far from realising one of our big dreams of getting to South Georgia.

14th March
A more perfect day we could not have imagined. The sun was out, the seas were still calm, and we bubbled with increasing excitement and anticipation for our first sighting of South Georgia. And then, there she was! Emerging out of the sea fog, immense snow covered cliffs projecting high about the sea.
As we turned into the mouth of King Haakon Bay, wonderful vistas of mountain, snow and sparkling water began to take shape before our eyes. This was the day when we would witness the scenes of the final journey of the “James Caird”.
Cape Rosa lies at the western extreme of the south shore of King Haakon Bay, sheltering the tiny cove which became known as ‘Cave Cove’.
The crew of the ‘James Caird’ found their way against the odds through the narrow channel to find their first landfall after 16 days at sea. Despite our sunlit arrival by zodiac in near perfect conditions, the surge against the storm beach was still impressive. Shackleton’s men, perilously lacking in food and fuel, would have been cheered to find several fur seals in the tussock above the beach, but we did our best not to disturb the one who appeared to be guarding the cave. Next to the cave, in fact little more than a recess in the rock – we imagined the six men huddled in reindeer sleeping bags in tight formation around their fire in a space 8 foot deep and little wider with their sail as a windbreak. We felt privileged to stand on that normally inaccessible famous spot where few others have stood before us.
We returned to the ship and headed to the head of King Haakon Bay for the afternoon’s activities. Shackleton and his companions were likewise in high spirits as they sailed inland in fine conditions. Our adventure this afternoon was to the northern shores of the bay.
We were able to spend a few relaxing hours exploring the beach and tussocks, a small lake and climbing the ridges.
Fur seals growled (and then they lay back down to snooze in the sun) and the elephant seals both disgusted and charmed us with their snuggling, belching and breaking wind.
We were also thrilled to come across our first King Penguin – with its orange, yellow, black, grey and white feathers resplendent in the sun.
We headed back to the ship and our first day in South Georgia was certainly memorable for the weather, scenery and history.

15th March
This morning we arrived in the Bay of Isles on the eastern side of South Georgia. We were woken from our slumber at 5.30am for the pre-dawn Prion Island extravaganza. A rocky channel guarded by giant kelp and flocks of kelp gulls led to a flurry of frolicking baby fur seals including the odd white variant (occurring naturally in 1 in 800 of the population). Weaned furry forerunners announced our arrival on a very busy beach.
A few king penguins regally regarded the circus as a chinstrap retaliated against its pecking skua irritation and the sleepier fur babes snuggled amongst the coiled seaweed.
The boardwalk platforms allowed us to gaze closely at incubating wandering albatrosses on nests and giant petrel chicks continually moved moss around their nest.
Overhead the sturdy bomber giant petrels contrasted with slender light sooted albatross.
Along the way we had to fight off the odd grumpy fur seal but we were always told don’t run and hold your ground. It seemed to work. At times they had even taken over the board walk so that was a challenge. We could not believe the number of fur seals on Prion Island. In fact they are taking over the tussocks higher up the hill each year and are taking over the nesting areas for the Wandering Albatross.
After returning to the ship we headed for the spectacle of the two kilometre stretch of Salisbury Plain. Submarine King Penguins streamed out from the massive rookery of 250,000 birds on shore with crèches reaching up the glacial outwash plain. The ship swirled in gusts of 40 knot winds. We were so close yet so far. After a spell of watchful anticipation, the decision was made to head to the reputedly sheltered arena of Prince Olav Harbour first explored in 1775 by Captain James Cook. A whaling and fur sealing bounty also probably bought the first rats to South Georgia and left a midden of rusting buildings of the whaling station.
Bashing through 20 knot winds and ensnaring kelp, we reached the three masted ship the ‘Brutus’, a nitrate transport vessel then coal hulk, now a kelp gull nesting wreck. Around Sheep’s Head we slunk into ‘elephant lagoon’ where again the cavorting fur seals stole the show. Our gusty trip back to a skilfully rotating ship was invigorating, energising and very wet. The wind had whipped up even further and it required great skill to disembark from the zodiac to the ship. Our most interesting adventure weather wise to date.
We had a nice hot shower and had Borscht for lunch. We then headed to Possession Bay but once again the weather was not favourable. Hopefully the weather gods will be with us tomorrow. We had a spectacular sunset to top off the day.

16th March
Overnight we headed for St Andrews Bay. What a sense of relief was felt when we opened our porthole to see a still sea and the blue sky desperately trying to push through the sweeping clouds above St Andrews Bay. The three kilometre long black sandy beach was encircled by the striking backdrop of the ice-clad and snow bespeckled mountains of the Allardyce Range, and the Cook, Buxton and Heaney glaciers. And once aided with binoculars, what looked like a simple moraine field to the naked eye, was an expansive mass of the colourful king penguin. We were going to visit the largest colony in South Georgia where there are hundreds of thousands of them.
The sheer scale and multitude of penguins was overwhelming, and indeed all we could in our now humbled state was to sit and attempt to absorb the scene with all of our senses.
We watched the penguins attempt group body surfs into the beach, whilst the younger fur seals charmed us with their quirky upside down snoozing, while the teenage versions growled menacingly and galloped at our ankles from all sides.
There were skuas stealing baby chicks and eating them right in front of us. Even the magnificent giant petrels got in on the act.
We approached the rookery and the noise was fantastic. We were able to see chicks of various ages. They are like ugly duckings and they transform into the most absolutely beautiful penguins. This is something that we will never forget.
Our afternoon excursion took us to Fortuna Bay, the start of the last leg of Shackleton, Crean and Worsley’s trek across South Georgia. Shane was part of the group that farewelled us to take on the trek to Stromness Bay. I watched from the boat as the colourful snake of Gortex wound it’s way slowly up the rocky ridges towards Crean Lake. The ship then headed around to Stromness Bay to collect the group later in the evening.
Shane’s recollection of the trek – After a steep, slippery and steady climb, we finally got to experience the magnificent view of Fortuna Bay. Up on the ridge we navigated around Crean Lake, and could then see Stromness Bay. I can imagine the surge of relief that Shackleton and his men felt upon seeing Stromness. Of course there was no whaling station whistle for us, just the high whistle of the strong winds speeding past our ears. In the fading light, we carefully picked our way down the pass and met the awaiting zodiacs. It was an experience that I am certainly glad that I took on.
We have now had the privilege of visiting some of the key locations of the Shackleton epic: the icy Weddell Sea, the ‘wild’ Point Wild, Cave Cove, and both the start and finish of his South Georgia crossing. And yet, we can only use our imagination to empathise with these men’s experiences and their sheer willpower to survive.
Once everyone was back on the boat, we had a delicious barbeque dinner, although we did need to enjoy it inside.

17th March
Happy St Patrick’s Day. This morning our first stop was at Hercules Bay. If we were going to see Macaroni Penguins today would be the day. We have been so lucky with the weather here at South Georgia, yet again the sun was beating strongly upon our faces and provided a golden light with which to photograph the coloured crests of the macaronis in full glory. Yes, we got to see them.
We headed out in the zodiacs in Hercules Bay which is a miniature fjord only 500 metres wide, but it was jam packed with delights for us. At the far end, a narrow waterfall cascaded from the dizzy heights of the rocky and tussocky cliffs, and down onto a small shingle beach on which elephant seals, fur seals, Gentoo penguins, king penguins and giant petrels all basked together in the sun. The rocky shoreline wore a beautiful skirt of kelp.
One unfortunate fur seal wore a tangled necklace of green fishing net which caught our attention.
To the rescue Nigel and Howard. Nigel is a naturalist and had done this a few times before but he usually had more tools to help him. So they managed to land on the beach and catch the seal by the tail, who swiftly became a writhing and flailing set of sharp, gnashing teeth. Thankfully the only casualties were the cuff of Howards glove, his watch, and Nigel’s excrement infused jacket. On releasing the distressed beast, it sat quietly, looked at his new human friends, and then lunged at Howard before it took off down the beach. Hurray for our heroic seal whisperers. We were all out on the zodiacs while this was unfolding having a good old laugh at the way it all unfolded. Shane was able to video the whole feat.
Look at the happy free fur seal. The net had started cutting into its body so it would have eventually died.
Once we returned to the boat we continued to enjoy the sunshine and the calm weather as we motored to Cumberland Bay. We were soon off to explore what was quite an unusual event – tabular icebergs from the Weddell Sea, now grounded in a South Georgian Bay! And spectacular they were. By using the zodiacs we were able to get extremely close to the bergs to examine every groove, dimple, crack and surface.
We even got to stand on one like proud penguins and marvelled at their sheer size and beauty.
After lunch we had an informative talk about the Habitation Restoration Project from South Georgian resident Sarah. At present they are in the second stage of the rat eradication project. During the whaling times, Norwegian brown rats made their way to South Georgia and they are taking over so quickly that they are killing off a lot of the bird life, they eat the eggs and little chicks. There were helicopters in the air as she spoke distributing pellets that are irresistible to these rats, they then take them into their burrows and die. Stage one was extremely successful. Over two years they are yet to sight a rat in that area. Due to the terrain and all the glaciers they are able to do this program in stages as the rats will not cross the glaciers. So, we were then off to experience Grytviken ourselves.
We had been cleared by the Government Officer with a once in a life time stamp in our passport. Our last landing in South Georgia offered a visit to their wonderful museum as well as the opportunity to indulge in some shopping. After all you are only likely to be here once.
Inside the museum there was an Albatross on display, I put Shane next to it so you can see how big they actually are.
We were also able to pay homage to Shackleton at his gravesite, and take a moment to reflect on his extraordinary achievements.
The opportunity to tour the lovely little church and old whaling station also gave us a chance to somberly consider the huge number of whales that were slaughtered in these waters.
The last bit of business here in Grytviken was to collect the little boat “The Alexandra Shakleton” which is a replica of “The James Caird” that had recently carried out a re-enactment of the Shackleton Expedition. It was lifted by crane onto the back of our ship where it is now tightly secured.

18th to 20th March
Now we had the longest open sea sailing for the entire trip. We had three days at sea, slowly making our way across the South Atlantic Ocean to the Falkland Islands. Some of the trip was quite smooth and we made good time but by the third day we had some bad weather and this slowed us back down. It was still nowhere near as bad as the storm we had last time. Shane and I were both suffering though. Last night Shane decided to venture down to dinner with me. Roast Beef and Roast Potatoes were on the menu. Well Shane really enjoyed his meal (for a short time anyway), within 5 minutes of wiping his plate clean he had his head in a sick bag the poor thing. So I put him to bed and Doctor Lesley gave him some more tablets. Another of adventures has come to an end.

Posted by shaneandnicola 04:46 Archived in Antarctica Comments (0)

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