Open up, Sealion!

One key to the post-holiday blues is a pre-emptive strike. After 6 weeks off the islands, we thought it might be worth reminding ourselves of some of the reasons why we love this place so much so, before we left, we sent a message to Micky at Sealion Island; one of the jewels in the Falklands’ crown. Last year we were staying at Sealion Island on the first weekend of their tourist season, so we thought we’d begin a new tradition and open up their season with them again on the long weekend that is lovingly created by Peat Cutting Monday (the first Monday in October is set aside for this Falklands unique holiday).

Sealion Island isn’t a cheap weekend away, what with the cost of a chartered FIGAS Islander flight (£168 return each) but for the experiences you get there and the excellent hospitality, it’s always worth it. If you’re into your bird life then all of the islands hold a great deal in store for you (almost all photos by Han on this post):

Interestingly, the Rockhopper penguins also return to the islands after their winter away on the same date each year and it coincided with our visit (the 29th September) so we did come across 2 of them. They steadily increase in number as the days go on.

Sealion Island is also home to a huge colony of one of the funniest and oddest animals here; the elephant seals. The Elephant Seal Research group have an annual presence on the island (it’s well worth following them on Facebook) and provide a lot of information about the habits of these monsters but this time of year they’re giving birth and the males and gathering them into harems waiting to repeat the (far from elegant) breeding cycle:

The elephant seal pups also attract the orca whales to the island, but we were visiting with our cursed friend Helene. Some people visit Sealion and see the orca every time. Some people visit and only see them some of the time. Our record currently stands at about 50% of our visits. Helene has been 6 times and not seen them once. In fact, they’ve even appeared on the same days as her visit; the morning before she arrived and the afternoon after she left. She’s cursed, so we knew we wouldn’t be seeing them this visit but our consolation was that it gets a little bit funnier every visit she makes. Still, there were other treats to see:

We look forward to returning to Sealion again some time (perhaps opening the season next year) but if you ever find yourself here, be sure to add it to your list.

Followers of the blog will know we’ve been to Sealion many a time now. We’ve been extremely lucky to see and do most of what we have wanted to in our time here. We have, however, still got a few more items to tick off the to-do list so watch this space and make sure you’re ticking things off your own to-do list.

Home?

It’s often stated that the Falklands are one of the most remote communities in the World. It’s not that we’re physically that difficult to get to as such – we have an airport with weekly flights, after all. We’re in comparative connected luxury if you speak to our overseas territory friends on Ascension Island at the moment, or Tristan da Cunha. The thing is, logistically speaking, getting here isn’t all that simple. You need to jump on an 18 hour RAF flight from Brize Norton at a cost of £1600 for residents, £2222 for non-residents. You can also fly for 2 days via South America but there is only one flight per week from Chile and that is usually booked up. That means that people here don’t often get off the islands. Even the journey itself is a little unusual, you don’t usually get this treatment at Heathrow:

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Typhoons waiting on the runway at RAF Mount Pleasant

As a result of this, we’ve only been back to our respective home countries twice in the last three years and avid followers of the blog will recall that both were for reasons that didn’t lend themselves to a relaxing time. This winter/summer (depending on your hemisphere), however, we booked an extended trip ‘home’ (with some other jaunts thrown in for good measure).

Naturally, I guess, trips off the islands involve catching up (read: binging) on those things that you simply don’t get or see for the time that you live remotely. This could be anything from M&S Percy Pigs to attending events or whatever might take your fancy. The same goes with how you might choose to spend your time away so I disappeared North for some Lake District scrambling with some good friends that I haven’t scrambled with since before we made the move, which was incredibly wet but both the company, the green landscape and the climbing made a good change from the white grass wilderness of the Falklands. Han stayed in London also catching up on missed opportunities: a girly weekend of pampering.

 

From there, we headed South to where I grew up to catch up with family in Kent for a few days before flying across to Ireland to meet up with Han’s family and throw a party at the scene of our wedding one year on. Thank you to everyone who made the effort to come along, it was great to see so many people travel to celebrate with us.

It would seem that our trip home was to be characterised by several things: a lot of miles, a lot of walking and a lot of friends and family. We, of course, took the opportunity to see some of Ireland’s treats while we were there including the Clare Glens river walks and the excellent Spike Island historic fort/prison:

Ireland was able to provide greenery, historic sites and loved ones but it wasn’t able to provide one other thing that we have been lacking a little: sunny, sunny weather. For that we headed off to wonderful Croatia! We were spending two nights in Pula in the North, before chartering a yacht to spend some time sailing around some of Croatia’s small islands for a touch of familiarity for us. Historic Pula was first on our list and it didn’t disappoint for this keen historian:

From Pula, the outer islands beckoned so we zipped out to Cres, Losinj, Unije, Ilovik and Susak. Coming from a small island nation, it was great to see the individual characteristics of the different islands and it was oddly familiar seeing the ways of life on each one. In particular, the island of Susak has grown without any cars on so the alleyway-streets and olde world charm were reminiscent of another era (something we’re used to from the Falklands but not to that extreme):

With our annual sun exposure topped up, we flew back to Ireland for a few days, taking in a few more sights and then zipped back across to the UK to continue the theme of ‘things we don’t get in the Falklands’. Namely; professional development. As well as doing some work in a hospital, Han had booked into a course as remote island living can mean that you’re a little out of the loop when it comes to your profession so it’s important to make the most of time off the islands in that sense. We then dropped down to London for a night out with our Falklands friend James before a last-minute trip to Berlin to see our friend Kyra (of Zuckerfee fame). As a historian, my (shockingly) first trip to Berlin was spent taking in as much as possible of the history of Berlin but also enjoying the fascinating juxtapositions that this has resulted in today – stunning period properties seen alongside Soviet concrete blocks and very modern developments all co-existing with an arts scene that rivals any capital in the World. I liked Berlin and, luckily, we left enough unseen to warrant a return trip:

Add into the mix a return trip to London for a few days, before heading to Salisbury for our traditional few days with my brother’s family and we ticked off a few more things we couldn’t do or get here in our remote island home before flying back South. All in all, both Han and I have many things that we miss about our respective ‘homes’ but the return to the islands and our welcome back from so many good friends has been a lovely reminder of the benefits of living in a small community and does make it difficult not to think of this remote outpost as home too.
At least 22,260 miles were covered in our trip, so you would have thought that that would keep us going for a while in terms of travel, but we’d already lined up something a little special for our return so stay tuned for that.

All quiet on the Southern Front

Apologies that the blog has been significantly quiet of late. Fear not, we’re still alive down here. Truthfully, I’ve been focused on finishing up my work and I’m sorry to say that we’ll shortly be flying out from the Falklands to spend 6 weeks catching up with friends and family in the UK and Ireland. That means that I’ll realistically not be logging onto the blog to update it until I return to the Falklands in late September.

On the plus side, I should have a significant increase in the amount of free time I have available as a result of stepping away from my current job (but remaining in the Falklands) so you can expect an increase in news and posts from September onward.

Thanks for logging on and keeping up with the blog, it’s good to know we’re keeping it for someone other than ourselves.

Just a nice day

This evening, when I finished work, I walked out to a stunning mix of light and rare stillness. A perfect evening for a walk near our house before the light dropped. These islands do provide:

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Across Three Oceans

I’ve always been an avid reader and it’s often the best way to learn about the history of a place. With that in mind, I’ve read a great deal of books relating to the Falklands. Partly, this is about learning more about the place I live. Partly, it is about being well-informed for my teaching. Partly, it is because so many people that find themselves here are outgoing and adventurous in their travels so their stories make for an inspiring narrative. From Captain Barnard’s marooning survival story to Shackleton’s short stint here after his epic journey in the James Caird, right through to Michael Palin’s recent visit tracking the Erebus, these passing travelers have all been able to offer their own thoughts on the Falklands with a global perspective too.

Lately, after attending an interesting public lecture at the Museum (something we’ve been making a habit here lately, and an enjoyable one at that), I picked up a copy of Conor O’Brien’s Across Three Oceans. I confess to not having heard of him before the lecture, but this plucky Irishman designed his own ship (the Saoirse) and sailed her around the World (collecting the accolade of being the first Irishman to do so but largely as a result of Ireland only recently becoming a country).

Conor O'Brien, sailor, Kelpie, Saoirse, Ilen, Ilen School, Ireland

(l-r) Conor O Brien and Tongan mate Kiao on the final leg of their circumnavigation | Saoirse departing Dun Laoghaire, Dublin, 1923

Written in 1924 language with a strong focus on the sailing aspects, a lot of the book has been lost on me but rather than stopping in at Uruguay on his way home, O’Brien pulled into the Falklands. As he put it: “after all Montevideo was very much like any other large city, and the Falklands very much unlike any other small country, I made an amusement of a necessity and carried on to the north-eastward [from the Cape]”.

 

Like us, (though other resemblances are scarce) he stayed a little longer than he initially intended but his account offers a wonderfully charming example of how little some things change over time. With that in mind, I thought I’d include some of the noteworthy quotes from an Irish 1920s POV:

“There is very little visible from the anchorage in Port William except stones and wind. There is no soil, no warmth in the sun, no trees will grow, and only the hardiest weeds; though it is true that a few enthusiasts have constructed gardens in the lee of a stout fence and are even reported to have raised potatoes therein”.I make no comment on the Irishman’s concern over potatoes. He goes on to state “the people live pecuniarily on wool and gastronomically on mutton”. O’Brien’s observations of the people here continue on the next page: “In a country with only 2000 inhabitants all told everybody knows everybody else”.

It is interesting that I made my own notes on weather and scenery when arriving here (as have so many travelling to these shores), but they differ somewhat to O’Brien’s: “the wind dies down at night; and it is never very cold, though never at all warm. It would be fine weather with us [Irishmen] but here it was mid-Summer. The only difference between summer and winter is in the length of days”. He continues his similarly mixed feelings on the scenery when he states “the scenery of East Falkland is not impressive, for the hills, though of bold outline, as is always the case with quartzite, are small and scattered, and the whole looks a desolation”. He does concede that “I was forcibly struck by the colouring of it all”.

Like many visitors to these islands, O’Brien admits that he was here to see the seals and penguins. His testimony brings a strange feeling of familiarity for those who have spent time with the colonies here and it is bizarre to consider that he, who is no longer with us, was writing this on board a ship that no longer exists: “I walked, it seemed, a prodigious way up the hill on this side, and a very short way down on the other; I do not know how many feet I was above the sea when I came to the edge of the cliff and found the penguins, of all places…there seemed to me to be here two hard questions: first, why do Rockhopper penguins make their rookery on the top of a cliff, and second, how do they get up there with the enormous weight of food necessary for their children?”. Good questions both.

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The rockies living up to their name

He collects other species on the ‘big five’: “I saw yet another kind of penguin, the Gentoo, whose rookeries are established on the slopes, or even summits of grassy hills…two files are continually marching, one up, one down; the birds at regular intervals, with their heads in the air and their flippers slightly thrown back for the sake of balance; a fine show indeed, but you must not hustle them or drive them into the rough for their legs are very short and their feet very big and they cannot see where they are going and trip up…and scuttle away on all fours in a most undignified manner”.

As with everything in life, it is always worth at least hearing other people’s opinions and deciding for yourself. As it stands, we don’t always agree with others who have been here (Darwin’s bleak opinion doesn’t ring true for us) but their thoughts are often still valid today. O’Brien’s adventure is inspiring in so many ways, as with so many who have visited this place. Here’s hoping our own written record is accurate and stands the test of time like his does.

Mass murder most foul

Before we get to mass murder, let’s start with everyone’s favourite kind of reading: a long-overdue but abridged Falklands history lesson!

Believe it or not, France established the first colony in the Falkland Islands. Louis-Antoine de Bougainville established a colony at a place called Port Louis in 1764. In fact, what many people don’t know is that the Spanish word for the islands (Islas Malvinas) comes from the FRENCH name as the first settlers came from St Malo and named the islands Iles Malouines after their home.

Unbeknownst to the French settlers, they were co-existing here with a British colony established at Port Egmont on Saunders Island a couple of years afterwards. There then followed a bit of old fashioned colonial back-and-forth where France sold the islands to Spain, who removed the British settlement. This brought Britain and Spain to the brink of war, before Spain disavowed the actions of the local commander and returned Port Egmont to the British. They re-established their old colony for a few years before they left it in 1774 due to economic reasons (while maintaining their claim to sovereignty). Shortly afterwards in 1811, Spain also left East Falkland (also maintaining their claim to sovereignty – see a pattern emerging?). By 1826, a private businessman (Louis Vernet, carefully walking a sovereignty tightrope between the UK and Argentina by then) had established a wild cattle business and colony but in 1831, after he confiscated some American sealing vessels for acting without authority, his settlement was destroyed by the USS Lexington in a reprisal and the colonists were removed.

Port Louis

The next major event to occur was the attempted establishment of a prison colony at Port Louis by a Captain Mestivier acting on orders from the Argentine government in 1832. Unfortunately, his men promptly mutinied and murdered him. They were rounded up by the ship that dropped them off, but then things got a little more complicated when Captain Onslow of HMS Clio turned up in 1833 with no way of contacting Britain for orders on what to do with this illegal (in their eyes, of course) Argentine prison colony. This is where the two claims to the Falklands divide. Records show that Captain Onslow removed the Argentine garrison and any other civilians who wished to return to South America (some returned to Uruguay and Brazil), while those that remained (some notable Argentines among them) were instructed that they now lived under British rule (which has been continuous ever since, bar a brief 74-day interlude in 1982). The Argentine claim repeated in the UN each year is that this was the forced removal of a population and that the British population now in existence (10 generations in) is an implanted one and therefore do not count as a nation. This is unlikely to be solved anytime soon, but it does mean 1833 is a key year in the Islands’ history.

1833 is also notable for a number of other occurrences. 1833 was the year that the Beagle, captained by Fitzroy and carrying Charles Darwin,  arrived for two visits in the Falklands. What drew me to the location of the original settlement at Port Louis on a recent school trip, however, was my knowledge of what went on between these visits: the Port Louis murders! I was asked by the Primary school if I could accompany their trip out to Port Louis with the daughter of the landowner to add what I could to their study of what happened there and I jumped at the chance as I’d been keen to have a proper explore of the original settlement since arriving. Everywhere you go in the Falklands, always take a historian!

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Port Louis today. The main house is the oldest stone house in the Falklands and is the remains of the British garrison building (complete with gun-slits).

Now that you’ve got the background (you did get it, right?), we know that Louis Vernet had established his business here, but with a mixed amount of governance throughout. As a result, some of the South American cattle workers (gauchos) had become accustomed to living in a state without the rule of law. Led by one Antonio Rivero, they raised their grievance over the issue of Vernet paying them with a currency only valid in his store on the Island. Vernet’s decision, made in his absence, prohibited them from trading with sailors and they took matters into their own hands. Vernet’s manager, Matthew Brisbane (who, poor man, had only recently returned to the islands having been arrested in the USS Lexington incident mentioned earlier and treated like a pirate until his eventual release) was promptly murdered by a group of 8 gauchos running wild, along with his Capitaz Juan Simon.

Another of Brisbane’s workers, Don Ventura, was shot through the neck, had his hand nearly cut off and his head cut open before being left for dead. He crawled through a window to a nearby house until the gauchos returned from murdering two other workers, where they noticed his body was gone and searched for him before shooting him dead as he tried to run away. Five murders in, the gauchos celebrated by dragging Matthew Brisbane’s body tied to a horse and ransacked the settlement. As a final insult, his corpse was left unburied and the settlement dogs fed on it.

Thirteen men, three women and two children were left in the settlement for a couple of days with the murderers running around before they were able to recover one of the boats cast free by the gauchos. They made their escape to a nearby barren island to survive for months living off wild eggs while they waited rescue. One survivor, Thomas Helsby, wrote his account of the murders and their escape. Tellingly, he makes reference to a resident known as ‘Black John’ who they leave behind in the settlement and makes no further reference to him afterwards. Take from that what you will about attitudes in the mid 19th century.

Brisbane and his companions were eventually buried when a British naval party restored order and rounded up the gauchos, before taking them to the UK. DSC_3505Alas, 19th century law wasn’t clear-cut and there was some political debate about trial for murders occurring outside Britain, so the murderers were returned to South America and released without charge. Antonio Rivero has since cropped up on a bank note in his home country and, in 1982, Argentina renamed Stanlety Puerto Rivero for a short time (before some Argentine historians pointed out that he was a mass murderer and they swiftly renamed it Puerto Argentino).

Thankfully, Port Louis today is a peaceful and pretty place that harks back to so many typical elements of Camp life, as you’d expect from the oldest settlement here:

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Sticking with typical aspects of life here, we had clear, sunny day out at Port Louis before two days later this weather hit on mid-Winter’s day:

As well as offering some boiler-suited fun in the snow, it doesn’t half make this place look pretty, so even the cold weather has its upsides:

There are, of course, a few people who don’t agree with the cold weather. There’s also one other by-product of it: turkey vultures need to gather together to keep warm and dry their wings on North-facing trees. Here’s a final fun game, zoom in and count the vultures outside Stanley House (the boarding house for the school):DSC_3561The inclement weather brought incredibly rough seas so the annual Mid-Winter Swim has been postponed. Watch this space.

Clear eyes, full hearts

We often dread Winter in the Falkland Islands, as I’m sure many people would understand looking at the map I posted a while back. The truth is, it’s never quite as bad as we’re expecting. Sometimes, I get the feeling that we’re waiting for Winter to ‘kick in’, and it never really does. Yes, it gets cold but I wouldn’t say it’s much worse than the UK. With things like Liberation Day and the upcoming Midwinter Swim coming up as the year goes on, there’s always things to do and I’ve alluded to the social aspects of life here before. Still, half term was last week and the extra bank holiday of Liberation Day gave way to an opportunity for a weekend away. We headed out to Johnsons Harbour, a settlement most often visited as the jumping off point for the trip to Volunteer Point.

It’s only about 45 minutes out of Stanley driving up the North Camp (gravel) road but it makes all the difference to get away from town and relax away from it all. This trip was unusual for us as we didn’t have specific plans (given that the peat soaks up too much water for most off-roading) so we were in for time spent with friends, likely doing some walking and relaxing in the evenings. Johnsons didn’t disappoint, especially as the accommodation is so nice. The coastline is sheltered and great for just walking the wilderness. As with so often here in these Islands, we stumbled on a little maritime history (there are, after all, 126 known shipwrecks here in the Islands).
Storytime (courtesy of some information in the self-catering, much of which I suspect needs revisiting): In 1833, the Magellan (a small, French whale catcher) wrecked on this beach. The crew stayed on the beach in tents made from their sails before the Beagle happened to stop by. You might know that name from the ship’s Captain (Fitzroy) and Charles Darwin on board. They picked up the crew and lifted as much of their things as they could (as well as buying a lot for firewood) before taking them onto South America (where the remaining cargo was sold with 20% going to Fitzroy, so it wasn’t all kindness). Sadly, Darwin’s clerk went missing and his rifle and some belongings were found on this beach. His body turned up not long after, seemingly having been caught in the kelp as he was trying to shoot and collect ducks for Darwin. He remains buried at nearby Port Louis, I understand. What you see below is all that appears to remain of the Magellan (you can just make out the outline of her at low tide). Still, an nice unexpected surprise for a History teacher.

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All that remains of the Magellan, 1833

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Stunning sunsets, as Falkland standard

Back on our story, we also enjoy Johnsons as they have my favourite farm animals and they’re brilliantly tame: 35760325_10155626913503106_7564223370091298816_nThat did make us feel a LITTLE bit bad about the evening barbecue:35530582_10100142123942377_6492945165102088192_nThe other exciting thing about visits to Camp is the opportunity to stargaze and improve on my photography by making use of the clear skies and lack of light pollution here:DSC_3457

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The main house, lit up

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Rob took this one of our self-catering

It’s so nice to have so many options for weekends away in different places. I’m also very pleased with how my photography is improving here. I was worried that I wouldn’t be gaining as many skills as Han seems to be but it’s just another example of the unexpected effects that moving here has had on both of us. Next up, learning to ride the motorbike I recently bought!!!

My bike Yam xt600

Liberating

This time last year, I wrote about Liberation Day.

There is little else I can say this year that isn’t already covered by that.

Somehow, the longer we spend here, the more this day seems to mean. We remembered, we celebrated and all within a community and among friends that we feel increasingly close to.

From the sea, freedom.

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The Royal Artillery Pipes and Drums Band lead the parade formed of RAF, Royal Navy, Army and FIDF

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The parade salute the Liberation Memorial. In the background to the right, the peak is Mt Longdon; site of one of the major battles for Stanley.

Looking differently

I’ll be quick as an unexpected computer error on my part ate up 80% of this month’s internet in one morning (Falklands problems – for another day). I just wanted to pop on to mention two things. One was this image that appeared online recently:

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Quite a different way of seeing the World and really putting some perspective on us. Interesting, then, that the only other thing I wanted to share before we get more internet next month is a huge congratulations to our friends on the INSV Tarini for completing their all-female circumnavigation!

You may remember the team stopped in for a brief visit on our previous post but we’ve been following the rest of their incredible journey since and, much as we were sad to see them depart, we were very happy to hear of their safe return to Goa. Well done all and thanks for the unforgettable gulabjamun delivery! We look forward to hearing more about what these inspiring women and their trusty  craft will be up to next. Perhaps it’s not such a large World after all!

More updates coming I’m sure, but with Winter fast shutting us out of daylight and Camp, you can expect them to be somewhat limited.

A Royal anchorage?

Fear not, this is not more overly-padded coverage of the birth of another Royal baby (congratulations William and Kate, if you’re reading). Although I can find no sure evidence of it, I’ve read in several places that the Royal family were due to be evacuated to the extremely isolated harbour of Port Edgar on West Falkland if the country had been successfully invaded during the Second World War. That raises several questions but if consideration is given to how hard it would have been to find them there then it might make some sense.

Here in the Falklands, in lieu of Easter Monday being a working day, the Queen’s Birthday brings a Bank Holiday Monday so we took the long weekend to head across to West Falkland and the stunning setting of Port Edgar (the first certified organic farm on the Falklands – although pretty much all other farms are in terms of chemicals/fertilisers, many use AI which you apparently can’t to be organic). As it transpired, there was a Wedding on that weekend and, not knowing the bethrothed, we seemed to be the only people on the West not attending the ceremony so we were due to be even more isolated than first thought.

As so often cited in life, the journey can be more than the destination. To get to West Falkland, you can either fly on the FIGAS Islanders or take the (1hr35mins) ferry with your car from Newhaven to Port Howard. We were only able to get on the 8am ferry so a 5am start (on both the outward and return leg) was a painful necessity. This did give us the benefit of sunrise on the ferry. Crossing Falkland Sound (the channel between East and West Falkland that gave the Islands their name) is always a pleasure as you’ll often see albatross, porpoising penguins and, if you’re lucky, whales on their feeding runs. Turns out, we were lucky:

West Falkland is very different to the East in terms of the landscape and also the nature of it. A smattering of very isolated, very small settlements (now) joined by a road network (of sorts) means that you can drive for hours and see very little sign of humanity aside from the road you’re on. The rolling nature of the landscape means you can often see extremely far and you get these ‘big skies’ that so many photographers talk of here (more on that story later). It also makes you realise how isolated each settlement really is from its neighbours:

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The drive down to Port Edgar AFTER turning off the ‘main’ road

We were staying in the small self-catering cottage at Port Edgar settlement, which sits in a beautiful bay next to the farm settlement:

The key appeal of coming out to this kind of place is the appeal of getting away – quite literally. With the Wedding going on, we were left alone on the Farm, so we’ll have been at the very least 20 miles from the nearest other human beings, as well as being far out of any form of phone or internet signal but still with a heated cottage to spend our time in. As always, the wildlife wasn’t far to be found and we enjoyed just relaxing, walking the extremely wild coastline and seeing what there was to be seen (and the occasional go on the zip-line set up next to the cottage). Make sure to click on the photos to see the full story (Credit to Han for the sealion fishing photo):

Perhaps having so much time with your own thoughts (an increasingly rare experience in the 21st century, I think), it’s easy to become quite contemplative. The sheer scale of the landscape was hard to get over:

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For scale, spot the car!

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As if the unrelenting ancient and wild coastline battering itself for hour upon hour for thousands of years wasn’t quite enough to get people thinking about their own insignificance in the World, the night brought further revelations:

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Stargazing next to the car

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Our solar system

Evidently, it doesn’t take that much to make a 6’5″ human feel small in the World.

Existential crises aside, we had another 5am start to get back to the ferry for the return trip. The obvious dangers of driving on dirt roads at night for many hours (and I mean REAL night: no lights of any form for dozens of miles) made it prudent to leave a little extra time. Even that (combined with our own compassion) brought its own Falklands problems for us trying to get to the ferry on time. Although we were far from a colony, the Falklands holds something like 70% of the World’s black-browed albatross population and this time of year the chicks from last year are fledging. They are SUPPOSED to leave their nests and not touch land again for approximately 5 years, but many drop down across the Falklands and need to re-launch, sometimes with the help of local charity Falklands Conservation (instigating mental images of albatross chicks dropping down out of the sky across the Falklands in some comedic sketch about the local version of raining cats and dogs).

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I had to put the brakes on as we approached Port Howard as a sizeable bird showed up in my headlights and I recognised its albatrossy features. I figured hitting a pigeon on a UK road is one thing, but letting an albatross chick be mown down wasn’t really on so we stopped to help it along. My attempts at trying to move the chick off the road by intimidation (flapping a coat, chasing it off etc) were met with what I can only imagine were an albatross’ look of dismay and the occasional sharp beak snapping. As we were close to the settlement, we had phone signal and got hold of a friend of ours who works at Falklands Conservation. With approved guidance from her (which genuinely included “you know how you pick up a chicken”), it was left to me to throw my coat over the chick and pick it up to move it off the road. Thus ended our trip with me carrying an albatross halfway across the field to a more sloping location. I’ve talked before about the surreal experiences this place has brought us, but picking up an albatross before the sun had even risen now ranks up there with the oddest of them.

All that was left were a few more whales and penguin sightings on the return ferry, but our sunny drive home was postponed with a stop for some pizza that was also bizarrely interrupted. You see, we stopped for pizza at RAF Mount Pleasant and the small cafe sits near the runway. Trying to enjoy our snack, we were deafened by the sonic boom from a take-off as a Typhoon shot up from behind the hangar into a sheer vertical climb directly up and out of sight within seconds. Amazing machines, if a little loud to those sitting in the window of cafes nearby. This place is odd sometimes.