Due to an intricate legal/migration standpoint, the Falkland Islands have an official unemployment rate of 0%. This is partly due to the small population, partly due to need for work permits to relocate here, partly due to the obligation of hiring local people before being allowed to look elsewhere and partly because all jobs here need to be advertised locally in the national press (the Penguin News: the local newspaper, not a newspaper about penguins). Last week two jobs appeared in the Penguin News that sparked my interest. I wouldn’t apply or be able to get them, but they highlighted a couple of reality checks on the limitations of our time here. One post was as a First Mate on board one of the local yachts run by the family of Polar Medal holder Jerome Poncet, providing charter sailing trips and expertise to film/research crews heading to destinations such as Steeple Jason, South Georgia and Antarctica. The other was a job with South Georgia Government (who are based here in the Stanley). It’s not particularly important what the job was, the point was that it offered a chance to get to South Georgia! As a Shackleton and remote island fan, this one was pretty tempting.
For some years visiting the Falkland Islands had been a pipe dream; one of those destinations you’d like to end up some day but realistically know you probably won’t do in your lifetime – I mean, who gets to visit the Falklands, really? Now that this has been well and truly achieved, a few other quasi-local destinations have bumped their way up the list: Steeple Jason, South Georgia, Antarctica to name just three. Knowing that South Georgia’s nearest neighbour was the Falklands, I had hoped that we’d be able to jaunt across there during our time here. That same ignorance was displayed toward Antarctica: I foolishly thought we’d be able to get hop South from here too. How wrong I was!
As it turns out, South Georgia IS accessible but mainly by one of the cruise ships that stops off here in Summer. They might give you a day to spend there (not nearly enough!) but would cost many thousands of pounds as they stop off on their way South and end up returning you to Argentina, where a week would be spent waiting for the next over-priced flight back to the Islands (sadly, not a feasible option for a working man). Alternatively, you can privately hire one of the Poncet family’s boats to make the 4-5 day turbulent sailing, before the 4-5 day return crossing. Also, sadly, not a realistic option on our budget.Before you say it, it’s bloody cold and 963 miles. I’m not swimming.
Antarctica presents similar difficulties. When you realise that Stanley is about the same longitude South as London is North you realise that the chances of ‘hopping’ to the polar regions are remote (excusing the pun). The cruises that do go down leave from South America (mainland) and are not pleasing to price up. Despite being so far South, so RELATIVELY close and so intrinsically linked to these places, it seems these destinations will continue to elude us.
I guess there will always be somewhere more remote, somewhere more extreme and somewhere more Southerly to visit. We’ll just have to settle for our time in the Falkland Islands, for now.